VivaKi Nerve Center's Unkel Discusses Integration Of Razorfish, Growth Of Audience On Demand Trading Desk

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VivaKiAdExchanger.com spoke to Kurt Unkel, SVP of Publicis' VivaKi Nerve Center, about recent events at the company as well as the integration of Razorfish and Atom Systems, Razorfish's media trading unit.

AdExchanger.com: What's the difference between Vivaki, the VivaKi Nerve Center, and Audience On Demand?

KU: Vivaki is the strategic entity created by Publicis Groupe to leverage the combined scale of its media and digital operations, which represent nearly $60 billion dollars in global ad spend and influence. VivaKi aggregates the marketplace influence of five autonomous brands, including: two global media agencies, Starcom MediaVest Group and ZenithOptimedia; two leading digital marketing agencies, Digitas and Razorfish; and a premiere futures practice, Denuo.

On behalf of its agency brands and their clients, VivaKi faces the market to help identify and build technology, message distribution, audience aggregation and content solutions for the future. VivaKi also includes a “Talent & Transformation Practice”, which leverages the scale of the VivaKi brands to develop and deliver tools and approaches designed to attract, develop, train, motivate and reward the world’s best people.

Sitting at the core of VivaKi is the VivaKi Nerve Center, which serves as a think tank, R&D center and testing ground to activate new pathways for clients to connect with consumers in an increasingly digital world.

The key objective of the VivaKi Nerve Center is to help deliver better solutions for our clients as the marketing landscape continues to evolve and accelerate at a fast pace.  Collaboration within the VivaKi family, and across the Groupe, is essential.

To succeed in our mission, the Nerve Center will focus on some key areas to empower our VivaKi agency teams and clients:

  • Global Platforms & Products: Developing global platforms and proprietary products that help our agencies differentiate and compete in the marketplace. Products will be supported by an advanced underlying technology and data infrastructure that delivers speed and scale.
  • Industry-Leading Partnerships: Creating strategic global partnerships that provide tangible value for our clients and partners, while differentiating against the competition.
  • Innovation & Thought Leadership: Investing in innovation and next generation emerging opportunities, like The Pool, which will validate our leadership position in the marketplace.

Our "trading desk" solution is called Audience on Demand and is therefore a key strand in the global platforms and products category above and indeed innovation. It’s one of the most exciting areas to touch all agency groups in recent years. Vivaki Nerve Center has worked very collaboratively with the Vivaki brands in delivering the Audience on Demand platform to their clients.

How has VivaKi integrated Razorfish's ATOM Systems into the company's trading desk strategy, the VivaKi Nerve Center?

We have combined the teams, technologies, and techniques into a single, cohesive AOD business unit.  It's been a very positive and successful transition, with a lot of synergistic upside for our clients, our agencies, and our expanding team.  Much of what ATOM was focused on was DR-client oriented and much of the existing AOD client base was audience oriented, so it really was a perfect compliment strategically.  We have also been able to dedicate specialty resources towards areas such as data & inventory partnerships, advanced analytics, client education, and platform technologies.  This is allowing us to deliver to our agencies and their clients what we would argue to be one of the most seasoned, savvy teams in this young space.

What can you share regarding scale of VivaKi's trading desk strategy today? Where do you think you'll be by the end of the year?

We've had over 55 clients running on AOD to date in 2010, with well over 1250 campaigns and over 1 billion impressions a month (and rising).  And that's pure exchange-based buying, executed by the AOD team directly, which is a key aspect of our approach.  We're very focused on developing the talent internally and helping grow the ecosystem by being active, first party participants.  This is entirely about buying the right audience, at the right time, for the right price across the widest media footprints possible for our clients.  Our goal is to continue to educate and grow adoption of AOD throughout the rest of the year, building on successes and taking advantage of learning opportunities.

We've also recently launched 3 clients in the UK, so scaling those opportunities, as well as helping to develop marketplaces abroad that will support the AOD model, play into this goal as well.

How important to the trading desk strategy's success are the companies represented by investments made by VivaKi Ventures? -such as "Buddy Media, Adap.tv, Aggregate Knowledge, and Tumri, among others" as noted here.

We've enjoyed great working relationships across Vivaki with our Ventures partners, and where a partner is applicable to AOD, we've connected the dots.  But not every aspect of Ventures is AOD, and not every part of AOD can work within Ventures.

Discuss the AOD/VNC (??) team. How big is it? What percentage of VivaKi media agencies are being serviced by the group?  Does all non-guaranteed display buying go through the AOD/VNC group?

The AOD team works in conjunction with our agency media & strategy teams, so the core team is 20+ strong and growing (see job board), but that's truly an understatement.  We may be the engine that executes, but our agency teams help make us successful with really brilliant strategies and helping clients understand the opportunities within this ever changing space.

If you had it do over again from scratch, what one change would you make to your strategic steps to-date?

There's always been a great silver lining to challenges we've encountered in the past 2 years of running AOD, and we've learned a lot from those. If I had to pick one topic, I would say that education around attribution is an area that continues to be complex.  Understanding of the topic varies widely across clients and agencies, and so navigating that and bringing everyone up to equal footing continues to be a big part of our education process.  Can't say there's a mulligan we need on it, though.

Will Publicis buy its own DSP at some point, do you have one already, or will you continue to license from third-parties/partners?

Our technology strategy is focused on owning the IP around campaign management, optimization, and analytics.   As Vivaki,, we have had a great deal of success to date in building on top of existing solutions so that our workflow, our view of the data, and our ability to activate our insights are points of differentiation.  We've developed portfolio management solutions to support some of our largest clients who have overlapping lines of business, we've built search solutions that allow us to move faster and with greater insights than our competition, and we've created data management & dashboard solutions that are structured to develop actionable insights.  Continuing with that successful strategy tends to be our focus.

But never say never..

By John Ebbert

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