GroupM Reorg Puts Platform Advertising Front And Center

groupmmanagementGroupM is refocusing investments around addressable and data-driven media.

WPP’s media investment management arm will be split into two pillars, Media Investment and Platform Solutions, the company said Monday. The Media Investment arm will refocus GroupM’s investment strategies around data and platforms, while the new Platform Solutions division will centralize and scale GroupM technology used by its six agencies.

Phil Cowdell, formerly North American CEO of GroupM’s MediaCom, will lead the Platform Services division, which encompasses all data-driven solutions such as programmatic, search, social, digital and analytics. Lyle Schwartz, credited with building out GroupM’s research and analytics division, will lead Investment Management.

Both divisions will report to Brian Lesser, CEO of GroupM North America.

As part of the reshuffle, Rino Scanzoni, GroupM’s longtime chief investment officer, will become CEO and executive chairman of WPP’s corporate barter arm, The Midas Exchange, as well as its advanced TV unit, Modi Media. Modi will remain a boutique standalone media buyer in the addressable TV space.

“Clients expect to get the best of GroupM, and I didn’t think we were organized appropriately to deliver on that promise,” Lesser told AdExchanger. “We were too fractioned internally and weren’t necessarily sharing information across organizations with similar functions in the group.”

Under Cowdell, data-driven practices within GroupM’s agencies (Maxus, MediaCom, Midshare, MEC, Essence and m/SIX) will report to a central structure that scales access to tools offered through GroupM Connect, GroupM’s transparent media buying practice. The agencies’ access to Xaxis, GroupM’s programmatic trading desk, will not change.

“We have six agencies in North America,” Lesser said. “If we have six different programmatic platforms and six sets of operating principles of programmatic, then we’re not taking advantage of the scale of the group, which is what our clients hire us to do. This allows those functions within GroupM to dock more elegantly into the agency so that the agency has better and more unified access to all of our resources.”

Schwartz is the first executive with a research and analytics background to head up investment at a major media-buying agency. Under his leadership, GroupM will continue investing in performance-oriented products for Xaxis as well as technologies to support the Platform Services division.

“Our investments more than ever are dependent on data and use of systems,” Lesser said. “Who better to run investments than someone who has already revolutionized the industry in terms of how data is properly used, allocated and measured?”

As for Scanzoni, who’s had a major hand in growing GroupM into the media-buying behemoth it is today, becoming the CEO of Modi Media underscores the group’s commitment to data-driven and addressable media in the TV arena.

“There is much more data available to us, even in traditional channels like TV, then there has been in the past,” Lesser said. “We think [the addressable TV] business and marketplace will grow considerably in the next three to five years.”

Scanzoni’s other job as CEO of The Midas Exchange indicates opportunities to grow in the area of media barter.

The Association of National Advertisers’ transparency report, released in June, left a gray area around media barter, which allows marketers to trade products for media space at nondisclosed prices. Yet both barter businesses such as The Midas Exchange as well as principal-based buying through trading desks such as Xaxis continue to grow.

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