Home Agencies VivaKi’s David Kenny On The Agency Challenge, Creative And Automation

VivaKi’s David Kenny On The Agency Challenge, Creative And Automation


David Kenny is Managing Partner of VivaKi, which combines the media and digital assets of the Publicis Groupe including Starcom, Zenith, Mediavest, Optimedia, Digitas, Razorfish and Denuo.

David Kenny of VivaKiAdExchanger.com:  Everyone is talking about how agencies need to evolve media buying. Every major holding company has announced a media trading desk strategy. What areas of the workflow have not been addressed?  What is the “not obvious” stuff?”

DK: When the industry talks about media trading, they generally talk about negotiating clout and leveraging investment strength to drive lower prices on inventory.  The ability to do this is, of course, more important than ever given the economic crisis from which our clients are only just beginning to recover. But it’s really the price-of-entry.

What we need to do more aggressively is leverage our scale to achieve advantages beyond price. For example, VivaKi faces the media owners and the networks to find new ways to add value to our agency brands and their clients. To aggregate data. To target people more accurately and effectively. We are building a smarter service model as an aggregator of scaled audiences that are identified for their passions, and we are building the pipelines like Audience on Demand that connect clients to those audiences in meaningful, relevant ways.

“Trading” for VivaKi is as much about data solutions, marketplace intelligence and digital hubs as it is about aggregating investment dollars to get the best price. We want to become the world’s best at leveraging our scale and clout to deliver performance marketing, search, mobile, new connections in an ever changing, digital world.

Trading clout can also be leveraged to open new content opportunities. Our Microsoft Agreement, for example, includes the creation, production and distribution of new programming ideas across the digital palette. By working with partners to co-create new content and experiences, we can secure more opportunities to make brands an authentic part of the entertainment consumers seek.

AdExchanger.com:   Following up on my first question, how do you see the creative agency evolving in the future given the continued integration of technology in media?

DK: The industry is mesmerized by technology and gadgets, as well we should be because the consumer is also mesmerized.  And clearly the process of finding and reaching people has shifted with the advent of devices and platforms that cater to consumer choice and control.  The old, linear process of conceiving an idea, producing content and then pushing it across touchpoints is no longer relevant.

But that doesn’t make the idea or the creative content less important.  In fact, the new realities demand higher levels of creativity, and every agency on earth should be stretching those muscles.  The high-tech, multiple screen, time shifted, consumer-in-control world we live in is a call to action for more brilliant content, as well as ideas and experiences that capture the imagination of people.

The best agencies understand this new paradigm.  They recognize that ideas are still essential, but that now those ideas have to be understood in context.  Knowing where a consumer might intersect with a message is as important as the message itself.  Sometimes the platform across which a message is delivered – a social network, for example – generates more energy than the words or images.

Smart agencies are reinventing the production process to deliver addressable content fast but still flawlessly.  They are finding ways to accommodate the reality that ideas have to resonate across third, fourth, multiple screens.


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We need to make our creative content accessible, searchable, manipulatable, etc. for today’s consumer. The creative agencies that can re-imagine the very important contributions they make will be a huge part of their clients’ competitive advantage because they are still keepers of ideas that build iconic brands.  That said, the “creative” agencies also have to understand that ideas are not their exclusive domain. Content creators are everywhere: media agencies, media owners, technology companies–they are all getting involved and generating big ideas, content and entertainment.

Like the rest of us, however, the creative agencies have to rid themselves of the arrogance that they can somehow solve for all of the new realities on their own.  At VivaKi, we took lessons from the software and other industries.  We considered how the Windows platform beat the Apple platform.  And how VHS did away with Betamax.  Through open source development.  Collaboration and partnership.  We operate with the understanding that as fast as we are moving, we can move even faster if we collaborate with other stakeholders who are trying to accomplish what we are.  We partner, exchange information, combine resources to maximize investments. We build on each other’s progress. We think it is a smarter service model to be an aggregator of scaled audiences identified for their passions, and a builder of the pipelines that connect companies to those audiences in meaningful, relevant ways.

AdExchanger.com:   Where are the pain points today for holding companies looking to add and grow “digital” in traditional media agencies?   Is it better/easier to build a cross-channel media agency from the ground-up?

DK: Inside most holding companies the pain points are talent gaps and silos.

The talent gap exists to some degree because we have a lot of brilliant talent that is highly skilled at jobs which we should probably automate at this point in time.  Plus we are vying for new talent which is in short supply and high demand, inside and outside of our industry.

We need to invest in training, and we need to provide an employee value proposition that resonates with tomorrow’s talent.  One of the primary constructs of VivaKi is the Talent and Transformation practice.  It is built on the concept of aggregated scale.  Much like we combine our investment clout to leverage preferred pricing, we also combine our training budgets, employee development practices and benefits to create a new proposition for talent.  Through agency collaboration we are facilitating fluid talent which gives people greater mobility and global dexterity.  We are building training modules and giving people more diverse experiences that give them more skills ahead of the market.  At the same time, we are also working to automate those parts of our business that can be done more efficiently, so that we can repurpose talent to focus on innovation and invention.

Silos are also the nemesis of digital acceleration. Transformation is hard work, and it’s made harder when agencies compete for resources and dominance. Our approach has been to tear down the silos and facilitate collaboration.  With more people running in the same direction, we pick up speed and momentum.  This is a huge challenge for companies that have grown up competing for market share, new business and the right to lead.  We have had to change our behavior as well as our structure.  We are sorting this out, and the faster we can move, the faster our clients can move.  We all need the benefits of reinvention.

Once the barriers for collaboration, holistic thinking and integration are addressed and weakened, it is much easier to bring together successful teams and capabilities than it would be to build something from scratch.

Follow VivaKi (@vivaki) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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