GroupM Acquires The Exchange Lab To Combat Digital Buying Fragmentation

ruudwanckimgGroupM’s purchase of The Exchange Lab, a provider of marketing services and technology that connects multiple DSPs, comes at a time when agencies must tackle digital media fragmentation.

While GroupM – WPP’s media-buying umbrella – faces walled gardens and siloed platforms, the Exchange Lab has a tool called Proteus, designed to provide a single interface through which media buyers can manage spending across DSPs.

GroupM intends to incorporate Proteus into Connect, a global group (including Catalyst, Quisma, Medialets and Greenhouse Group) formed to address real-time media investment. Connect has grown to more than 2,000 employees in the eight months since it was formed and plans further expansion in 2016.

GroupM isn’t the only agency group to realize the need to consolidate real-time buying. Havas, for instance, developed meta-DSP tech to help rationalize spending across exchanges, publishers and platforms.

Ruud Wanck, CEO of Connect, balks at the term “meta-DSP.”

“The word meta-DSP is a bit misleading,” he said, adding that Proteus is not in and of itself a DSP.

Despite the issues of digital media fragmentation, it’s not clear if aggregating those disparate sources is truly beneficial. Naysayers point to problems around user duplication, brands unintentionally bidding against themselves and some loss of control over frequency (i.e., the agency doesn’t know if it’s saturating individuals through multiple ad servers).

Other industry executives believe meta-DSPs (or solutions that offer similar results) add unnecessary scale and complication. Why combine shopping for Target and Walmart when they both have everything?

Wanck acknowledged these drawbacks, but said the benefits outweigh the costs and that DSPs are making strides in opening up their data to avoid some of those pitfalls. He compared having a single view across multiple exchanges to simultaneously accessing iPhone and Android app stores.

And if a single DSP has certain advantages over others, he added, The Exchange Lab’s technology will be able to expand that benefit across GroupM’s entire buying network.

While GroupM has history buying traditional media for its clients, Wanck said, “we’re keen to develop ourselves in real-time investment management as more buying moves in that direction.”

To this end, GroupM recently purchased Essence, a digital agency known for programmatic, and elevated former Xaxis CEO Brian Lesser to GroupM’s North America CEO.

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