Xaxis CEO Lesser Discusses New Audience Buying Company And Partnership With GroupM

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XaxisBrian Lesser is CEO of Xaxis, a digital partner of GroupM agencies, and WPP Group company. To learn more, visit the new company website here.

Lesser, previously GM of WPP's Media Innovation Group, discussed Xaxis and its implications.

AdExchanger.com: What is Xaxis? And how will it differentiate itself within the marketplace?

BL: Xaxis is a new, global audience buying company that enables GroupM clients to deliver targeted advertising with a degree of precision and reach that hasn’t been available before. And does so at scale, at a lower cost, and across multiple digital platforms.

Broadly speaking, there are two major factors that set us apart.  The first is our proprietary database, which houses the world’s largest pool of audience profiles, including information across multiple online and offline channels. This allows us to create extremely detailed audience portraits and more effectively reach highly-targeted audience segments wherever they access media. The second factor is the scope of our technology platform, which hits more touchpoints across the universe of addressable media than any other industry solution.

In forming Xaxis, the goal was to bring together the audience buying resources of WPP and the trading leverage of the GroupM agencies into a single, integrated entity, where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. So while Xaxis is new, the technologies and expertise we bring to the table have an already proven track record of success. Among the businesses that have been combined into Xaxis are B3, targ.ad, the MEC Audience Buying and Planning Team, GoldNetwork, GroupM DSP and the GroupM Marketplace. Xaxis has a presence in 11 countries and services North America, the UK, Europe and Australia.

How does Xaxis help clients?

Working in partnership with the GroupM agencies, Xaxis helps advertisers improve the results of their media buying programs by enabling them to better target the most relevant audiences.  Xaxis eliminates the expense of wasted ads served to extraneous audiences, delivering a more cost-effective media spend and significantly improved campaign performance.

We’re also the first agency solution to allow advertisers to buy targeted audiences across multiple platforms at the same time – display ads, mobile ads, paid social media and video ads.  This is a particularly crucial capability for reaching desirable audiences that are spending more time with their mobile devices than online. Not only can Xaxis reach these audiences, it can segment out only the most relevant for any particular marketing message.

Additionally, as a proprietary platform, Xaxis is able to better protect client data, more effectively integrate real-time bidding with search and more seamlessly integrate campaigns across multiple media owners.

How does Xaxis work with the GroupM agencies? What is the division of labor?

Xaxis is the central audience-buying company for GroupM. The company does not work directly with clients, but services them through Maxus, MEC, Mediacom and Mindshare. Our agencies will determine how Xaxis products are implemented and delivered to clients on a market-by-market basis.

What is the connection between the Zeus Advertising Platform (ZAP) and the new entity?

Xaxis will still leverage ZAP as well as other platforms like targ.ad, but our focus is on creating products that speak to client benefits, rather than particular technologies.

What's your role in the new company? And what does the rest of the management team look like?

I’m the CEO of Xaxis and our management team consists of 16 people across North America, the UK, Europe and Australia. We have over 100 employees globally. Dr. Mark Grether, the architect of targ.ad (Europe’s leading audience platform) is the chief operating officer. Every one of the GroupM agencies is represented on one of our management boards.

I report to a board of directors selected from across WPP and GroupM, including Mark Read, Irwin Gotlieb, Rob Norman, and David Moore. We have pulled together the brightest media and technology minds across WPP to form Xaxis.

Will there be a mandate for media buyers across GroupM member agencies to buy through Xaxis?

No. We have developed a better audience buying product based on the specific needs of our agency partners. The idea in forming Xaxis is to provide the GroupM agencies with an audience buying solution that they will want to use because it is tailored their clients’ needs, not because of any arm twisting.

How does GroupM work today in terms of digital media buying?  In your opinion, with Xaxis, will GroupM as its own entity be able to leverage its buying power in the digital space (such as display) across agencies?  Or is digital too complex?

Digital is becoming more complex because traditional leverage means little in a real-time environment. However, we can benefit our clients by helping them take control of their data, which does add tremendous leverage in real-time markets. Also, unlike some trading desks, Xaxis is about more than just RTB. Xaxis Premium, for example, uses reserve media from GroupM’s top media partners. Only Xaxis could offer this product because of GroupM’s trading relationships. All of this creates better pricing and performance for advertisers.

What should be the takeaway for marketers with this announcement?

Xaxis allows advertisers and marketers to reach their key audiences precisely and effectively, regardless of content or context. This eliminates the expense of wasted ads delivered to the wrong audiences. All of this leads to more cost effective media spend and significantly improved campaign performance. What makes us different is proprietary technology, multiple channels, a unifying data management platform and a team of operators that have been running successful audience buying businesses for the last several years.

It’s also important to point out that we don’t operate in a vacuum. We actively engage the marketplace to find the best media, data, and technology partners in the business. We rely on our partnerships for things like premium inventory, ad verification, OBA regulation, third-party data, and important technology applications that we seamlessly integrate into our platform.

What ad formats will be you be addressing with this audience buying group? Any channels of particular interest?

Xaxis is launching with 11 products that help advertisers generate brand awareness, engage with customers and deliver actions all with measurable return on investment. Our video product, Xaxis TV, will allow advertisers to accurately extend the reach of television audiences through digital media with zero waste. As mentioned above, Xaxis Premium will allow advertisers to target audiences in premium contextual environments comprised of GroupM’s top media partners. All of our media products will be supported by insights and analysis made possible by our data management and technology platform. We’ve designed our products to focus on advertiser benefits, not necessarily formats or channels.

Follow Brian Lesser (@blesser), Xaxis (@xaxistweets), and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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7 Responses to “Xaxis CEO Lesser Discusses New Audience Buying Company And Partnership With GroupM”


  1. Ben says:

    ..."the world's largest pool of audience profiles" - that's quite a statement. I'm curious to know what sort of data that is and where it comes from - is it retargeting segments based on past campaigns (what I would assume), client registration / email data, publisher-sourced data from e-commerce sites (much the way most data exchanges get their data today), something else?

    Also, does Xaxis leverage an existing technology, much the way DSPs tend to power agency trading desks?

  2. The MIG and XAXIS are two separate WPP companies with distinct offerings. The MIG is focused on the continued development of WPP’s digital marketing technology platform: the ZEUS Advertising Platform (“ZAP”) and providing consulting, insights and media services to WPP agencies outside of GroupM, most notably NEO@Ogilvy, which I mentioned in MediaPost two weeks ago. http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=152383

    As Brian mentioned, Xaxis will continue to leverage ZAP as will other MIG agency clients such as Dentsu and Neo@Ogilvy.

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