IPG Launches The Data Services Brand Kinesso, Its First Acxiom-Based Business

IPG threw its hat in the crowded ring of tech and data service hybrids Monday with the debut of Kinesso. The new business will encompass the agency ad tech unit Cadreon, the internal data hub AMP and the Mediabrands Data and Technology group.

With between 500 and 600 employees in the new business, Kinesso will be a substantial subsidiary. The purview of Arun Kumar will also expand: Kumar will lead Kinesso while also continuing to serve as IPG’s chief data and technology officer and overseeing Acxiom Marketing Solutions.

Kinesso is the first new major launch based on Acxiom’s data and technology since IPG acquired the company last year for $2.3 billion. The new subsidiary “marks an evolution” for IPG, said Chad Engelgau, Kinesso’s chief data strategist and head of client management, who joined the company with the acquisition.

But the bench of tech and data hybrids owned by agency holding companies is already deep.

Three years ago, Dentsu started an agency run on data suppliers when it acquired Merkle, and it eventually created the M1 platform. WPP and Omnicom have pursued similar goals with their mPlatform and Annalect units, respectively. And Publicis acquired Epsilon in April for $4.4 billion.

There will be questions in the marketplace about whether Kinesso is fully distinguished from Acxiom, a data services company that practically everyone already works with, said Forrester principal analyst Jay Pattisall, who covers agency data platforms.

Engelgau said the Kinesso group goes well beyond Acxiom, with 16 other outside suppliers incorporated into its data set. The company also builds applications to build, buy or measure audiences that extend from, but aren’t offered by, Acxiom.

Kinesso, like other holding company data hubs, will focus on internal use cases. It is the “hands-on-keyboards” group within the company that operates addressable campaigns, Engelgau said. Execs from across IPG agencies will tap Kinesso for expertise in areas such as media-mix modeling, multitouch attribution, online marketplaces or first-party data services.

Having an internal data services group like Kinesso has quickly become a must-have in major brand media account pitches, Pattisall said. And he noted that holding companies are investing heavily in those businesses because they expect them to become more powerful tools to also win creative reviews.

But Kinesso’s early gains likely won’t come from splashy account wins.

Engelgau said IPG has “already seen real traction” in the past year converting Acxiom’s customer base – a huge pool of companies, many of which haven’t worked extensively with agencies before – with tech and services that are now centralized within Kinesso.

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