A Database You Want To Be In: How GroupM Is Taking Charge Of Vendor Fatigue

DigitechThe technology landscape is a quickly evolving beast – and in some cases, that can feel quite literal.

“The volume of vendors is expanding so fast, it’s a bit like the movie ‘Gremlins,’” said Rachel Pasqua, practice lead for mobile and emerging technology at MEC Global, North America, a GroupM agency.

But while clients expect their agencies to keep a proverbial finger on the fast-flowing tech pulse, “you can only serve as a human Rolodex for so long,” said GroupM Chief Innovation Officer Cary Tilds.

About two years ago, Tilds started working on a pet project to help agencies within the GroupM family find the signals in the noise. The result is DigiTech, an internal repository of highly detailed, searchable information on any tech company, publisher, exchange, network or app worth its salt.

Solving For The Solutions

Each record in DigiTech is meant to provide a comprehensive snapshot of a particular vendor’s offerings, everything from elevator pitch to specific client list.

Approved partners are also given secure login credentials so that they can maintain their own profile, keeping it up-to-date with info on new products, rollouts, case studies, customer wins and the like.

The whole shebang adheres to a hierarchical taxonomy curated by digital librarian and recent Syracuse University grad Dorotea Szkolar.

Information is sorted into three main categories: channel, strategy and function. From there, Szkolar created a system of subcategories that drill into the product details. While most startups are housed as a single record, many larger enterprise partners can create separate records for each of their distinctly purchasable products.

In advance of introductory meetings, vendors can access the system to upload their most recent pitch decks, which their agency contacts can review before they all get together for the face to face. Not only does that cut down on the need to share large and unwieldy files via email, it helps the actual meetings run more productively.

There’s also a ratings and review function where agency people can talk about how a particular piece of technology did, or didn’t, work for them.

“We don’t have to spend the entire meeting trying to figure out what the heck they do,” Pasqua said. “Instead, we can get right down to talking about what we could do together.”

But the larger vision for DigiTech is as a living storehouse. Rather than multiple practice groups reinventing the wheel through duplicative introductory meetings with the same vendors, agency stakeholders can benefit from the experience of others.

It’s a pain point encountered throughout the agency world. As Interpublic Group CEO Michael Roth observed to AdExchanger at Cannes, tech vendors have a somewhat frustrating practice of appealing to individual agencies for business, rather than reaching out at the Mediabrands level.

“It’s a foolish play, because you need to find out who’s allocating the money,” Roth said.

Also in Cannes, Miles Young, world chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, vented a bit of spleen to Campaign, noting his distaste for what he called “the selling side” of the festival.

“Media has always been here and media is a fundamental part of creativity, but the media revolution has spawned a vast number of companies in the new media space, often with very confusing positioning” that operate “in gray areas as yet not quite defined, and all selling like crazy,” Young said.

CaryTildsBut that’s why it’s important to get a handle on what all of these companies do and how they can be useful.

“DigiTech is a way for us to operationalize innovation,” Tilds said. “If we don’t speed up how we capture and apply what’s happening in the space, then we won’t be able to keep up with the pace of technology innovation.”

In fact, Tilds and Szkolar are always on the hunt for interesting new companies that might prove valuable to the GroupM family. Big industry events like Advertising Week, Cannes and others are good opportunities for that. For example, the duo hit SXSW in March with that in mind, reaching out to startups that seemed to have potential, a practice Tilds jokingly referred to as “capturing butterflies.”

But the goal is quality over quantity. Any vendor can’t just sign up. The company either has to be invited, be part of one of GroupM’s periodic structured technology reviews or have an imminent meeting with someone at GroupM.

Although Tilds declined to share the number of records housed within DigiTech, she said the system is gaining traction inside GroupM.

“We don’t want thousands and thousands of listings, that’s not the point,” Tilds said. “The point is a highly curated system of accurate, high-quality listings that help us make sense of the chaotic landscape of technology innovation.”

As Pasqua noted, echoing the sentiment of many an agency exec: “There are only so many hours in the day.”

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1 Comment

  1. It’s a great idea in concept but sometimes the problem with these lists is that they just become an unusable database that makes it difficult to find what you’re looking for quickly. Then smaller lists get created, which makes for too many lists, and so on.