Xaxis Under [m]Platform: New Global President Nicolas Bidon Details What’s Changing And What’s Not

nicolas-bidon-xaxisA few weeks ago, WPP initiated [m]Platform, a unit designed to consolidate data and tech expertise throughout the GroupM media agency families. Most of [m]Platforms’ executive leadership came from Xaxis.

But where does that leave Xaxis? With global CEO Brian Gleason leaving to oversee [m]Platform, EMEA CEO Nicolas Bidon became Xaxis’ top dog – as its global president, reporting to Gleason.

Clearly, some organizational changes are afoot. Bidon spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What’s the difference between a global CEO and a global president?

NICOLAS BIDON: Before I came to Xaxis four years ago, I was at Yahoo where we had one CEO. I was surprised how many CEOs agencies have. WPP wanted to clarify our structures and titles, and to be more rigorous in terms of how many CEOs we have in the business.

Xaxis is a very important part of the new [m]Platform media network, but the decision was to have one global CEO, Brian Gleason, and to have a global president at Xaxis.

Will your responsibilities at Xaxis differ from what Brian Gleason was doing?

No, they won’t differ. Xaxis is still trying to grow our offering, client base and international presence. Those were the same priorities with Brian.

How is Xaxis positioned in GroupM, given the rise of [m]Platform and the matriculation of many Xaxis execs?

Not very differently than how it was before. We still want to be the center of excellence when it comes to data, tech and programmatic. Over the next few years, Xaxis will try to become more of a guaranteed outcome provider. Clients care about the value we deliver to their marketing objectives and what impact we have on sales, client acquisition or brand recognition. Xaxis wants to package assets in a way that takes away risk from clients.

Isn’t that the same value prop Xaxis has always had? Is the advent of [m]Platform changing anything at Xaxis?

It’s not a radical change. You’re right in that respect. We’re still leveraging the ingredients I mentioned: data, technology, unique access to supply and our employees to deliver the results. There will be more focus on delivering those results and pricing on the delivery of those results, as opposed to breaking down the components.

Will most of the changes be in Xaxis’ technology business versus its media-buying and selling business?

It’s around how we package our solutions in a way that drives results for our advertisers. We’ve always taken risks in terms of securing the best inventory and being the media principle. We want to go even further and guarantee viewability, completion rate, price on a cost-per-acquisition or whatever the relevant objectives are.

Will Xaxis be developing tech for itself, for [m]Platform or both? And how will you decide which tech is for Xaxis versus which tech can be shared?

Look at audience planning and buying, which is the core of what Xaxis does. Five years ago, few could do that at scale. Today, that’s table stakes. So now we’re happy to open that technology to all of the agencies, as that’s no longer the secret sauce.

What is the secret sauce? For the last 18 months, we’ve been working on a project that leverages machine learning to modify algorithms and support trading and KPI delivery. That’s a common technology that Xaxis will continue to develop and will be, for the foreseeable future, only powering the Xaxis product.

A bunch of Xaxis execs joined Brian at [m]Platform: COO Nicolle Pangis, CTO Bob Hammond, LATAM CEO Lucas Mentasti, APAC CEO Michel de Rijk. Have those roles been replaced, or will they be replaced?

The regional leads for Xaxis – Lucas Mentasti and Michel de Rijk and my role – will absolutely be replaced. When it comes to Bob or Nicolle, we won’t replace those roles because [m]Platform is an attempt to unify our road map and have people in charge with full visibility of data and tech across GroupM. Bob and Nicolle will manage way more engineers than what we have at Xaxis.

We will have dedicated teams of engineers at Xaxis and they will be part of Nicolle’s and Bob’s operation, to ensure we don’t duplicate efforts and use the same frameworks

Is Xaxis’ employee headcount different?

We just signed 600 employees with Triad, which closed a few weeks ago. So it’s hard to keep track. But besides the leaders you mentioned, the only employees from Xaxis who will become [m]Platform employees are engineers and platform teams. Everyone else, when it comes to servicing or creating products or analysts or traders or optimizers, will all stay 100% focused on Xaxis.

Are you replacing the engineering or platform teams?

Just to be clear, we’re not replacing them because we’re not losing them. Their scope is just getting bigger. Xaxis is part of [m]Platform from an organizational perspective. We’re not dissolving Xaxis into [m]Platform by any means, but the engineering side will all follow an [m]Platform reporting line, even if some of them work 100% for Xaxis technology and products.

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