Agency Holdcos Have Existential Crisis; Ad Tech Leaders Pull Further Ahead

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C-Suite Discontent

Advertising technology and media automation remain largely disconnected from the C-suites of many major businesses, even among CMOs, reports Marketing Week. “We have become experts on the top of a pinhead,” said Martin Cass, CEO of MDC Partners and Assembly, at an Advertising Week panel. Agencies have weathered plenty of apocalyptic forecasts, but there has been steady speculation that one or more of the big five holding companies – WPP, Publicis, Omnicom, IPG or Dentsu – could face acquisition or capitulation in the face of consultancies coming to see data and automation as core competencies for major enterprises. “Maybe three or four years ago, clients were starting to say ‘there is something going on, I don’t know what it is’,” Cass said. Now, that trend “is manifesting itself in clients marching with their feet.” More at Marketing Week.


A common refrain among ad tech executives from publicly traded companies is the investor metrics and Wall Street dictates that don’t seem informed by hands-on digital media knowledge. In some cases, though, digital media itself is a metric. Brian Wieser, senior analyst at Pivotal Research Group, released an update of his quarterly LinkedIn employee headcount tracking, an inexact metric (what isn’t?) that he says nonetheless functions as a barometer of revenue growth for companies under 5,000 employees. Wieser notes that “the average and the median has widened significantly” year over year for ad tech companies, an indicator of leaders pulling farther ahead of the pack. Some of the bigger overall headcount bumps came from Criteo (+27%), The Trade Desk (+45%) and HubSpot (+39%).

The Anti-Duopoly Drumbeat

News Corp. uses its media outlets as a weapon in its war against Google and Facebook, BuzzFeed reports. News Corp.-owned The Times of London broke the story about YouTube’s brand safety problem in February. During News Corp.’s investor call on the same day, CEO Robert Thomson called out the negative news and touted the launch of its own video ad network. Since then, it’s put another 18 negative stories about Facebook or Google on the newspaper’s cover. “Sources close to [Executive Chairman Rupert] Murdoch and Thomson characterize their position fairly simply: They want large tech platforms to pay them for their content, and they aren’t afraid to use their own media properties as weapons.” Read on.

Shopping For Data

Bluecore raised a $35 million Series C round on Wednesday led by Norwest Venture Partners, which will place Scott Beechuk, partner and former Salesforce Service Cloud SVP of product, on the startup’s board of directors. Bluecore offers an ecommerce and marketing platform designed for retailers and CPG brands. “Retail is facing a massive transformation driven by the emergence of strong, data-driven competitors, and fundamental changes in consumer buying behaviors and expectations,” Beechuk says in a release. The investment brings Bluecore’s total funding to $63 million over five rounds. It previously raised a $21 million Series B round in late 2015 [AdExchanger coverage].

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