Here is how many messages started post the Publicis announcement. ‘Wow some big changes down at Publicis! Hope everything is OK??’ Interesting that people start with concern, lovely as that is, it gets me thinking about change and how it is perceived.
As regards our restructure, the first thing that strikes me about the amazing journey that Maurice has kicked off is that people have started talking about Publicis and not SMG, ZO etc. Very quickly the marketplace is referring to Publicis and to me that’s a positive, because it shows that this is not one agency, one country or discipline reorganising itself or ‘shifting the deck chairs around’ as one journo put it, this is a wholesale restructure and purposefully so. The spirit of Kaizen or in other words continuous improvement, does not do it justice. This is Kaizen supercharged, a reimagining the like of which the industry has not seen.
Disruption is something many talk about at length, it forms part of every presentation but in almost all circumstances the disruption is one company doing it to another. There are few examples of where a company disrupts itself. Apple is the highest profile example of one who has, but there not many others and thats what is so exciting about the Publicis strategy. Publicis have recognised that the world has been disrupted by technology, people are disrupting the industry with this technology and the advertisers in particular who are looking to their partners and partnerships are asking for change. The trouble is many are not listening.
Publicis is listening and Maurice has taken steps that are unheard of in a group of this size, tens of thousands of employees across all disciplines being aligned to the benefit of the advertisers, importantly being encouraged to embrace change and have a different dialogue with our advertisers. A dialogue not driven by silos, P&Ls and other self made boundaries. Of course there are challenges with this but the momentum in the business is tangible. At its heart is is reviewing relationships with a fresh set of eyes and thinking to themselves, how could we do this differently? We hope that for our advertisers this becomes an exciting opportunity.
As someone who started out in digital, a founder of programmatic media in an agency group, part of a few iterations of VivaKi restructures, change has been part of my DNA and for sure will focus heavily in my memoirs! It creates opportunity for those who go with it, it’s a mindset that where one embraces it, supports it, good things come, perhaps not today, next month, but they come. As someone who mentors at UCL and loves doing the speakers for schools programme, my number one piece of advice is to embrace change as it will keep coming!
Publicis Groupe is a huge group, it contains so many smart people and Maurice has unleashed those talented people from top to bottom, the dialogue can be different both internally and with our clients and I am seeing it happen already. It can be destabilising for some but its empowering for many and the next 12 months are going to see great things for the Groupe as we start to socialise the plans with clients, as the strategy lights up, we will see the emails saying ‘wow! Great win.’ The news that Asda chose a Publicis duo of media and creative seems to be a huge validation of the plan, even if we are at the earliest stages of that plan.
My own role is changing and we are excited about the fact that we are creating a single Publics performance operation, Performics. I am confident that we will see great things both from Performics and the wider Publicis Media and I look forward to my part in that! As Bowie once said ch-ch-changes..
In 12 months the Ad tech market place has gone totally crazy, impossible to keep track of it all and the money invested is off the scale, but below I highlighted a few stories and events in the last 11 months that I noted. I will have missed others for sure!
There has been some negativity around the space with transparency being a hot topic and whether advertisers want to take this all in house, but those headlines have distracted from some incredible market changing investments, purchases and alignments. Enjoy the reminisce!
The Partridge in a Pear tree for Yahoo was Enrique Decastro, bringing him in on a huge salary and being presented as a saviour for the organisation, driving sales and value for the business. Unfortunately January saw that particular partridge being shot. Quick acting by Marissa to be fair to her, but an unlikely choice in the first place according to many. More recent news has seen Lisa Utzschneider fill that space, coming in from Amazon.
In other news Turn receive their belated Christmas present raising $80m as they march on as a leading DSP in the market and looking to expand beyond that descriptor and moving more towards a wider DMP, services model, some might call agency model.
Holy F*** February
February was IPO crazy month with Pubmatic rumours, Rubicon filing, Rocketfuel all taking the plunge – some big valuations were banded around and it was the month everyone realised that the good times were back and the VCs were starting to spend all that cash they had been hoarding through the bad times – the bubble is inflating. Google buys another company, on the back of Deepmind in January, a London based machine learning company, called Vungle. We have seen the signs but Oracle buying Bluekai was a big flag being waved to show that the digital media business was being taken seriously by the cloud and consultancy companies. We also saw round one of TV disruption being won by the old school with Comcast getting Netflix to pay them for streaming services, the upstart being slapped into place.
But all the IPO business paled into insignificance when the world collectively went ‘what the f*** app’ as Facebook put down a multi billion dollar offer for the social messaging app. Cue the hand wringing about lack of revenue, too high a price from the digerati turned incredible commercial strategists. Facebook are clear on this, show us something growing fast and taking share and I will show you my cheque book (or should it be Visa Debit Card). Scale is everything in a world where data and the identification of people and what they are doing and where they are doing it becomes the most valuable asset. Or perhaps Mark is hoping to achieve the same status as Steve Jobs who was approved to appear on a US stamp that very same month.
March saw a number of moves for the future by different companies. Comcast bought Freewheel, a clear indication they are gearing up for a programmatic, data led future and could not resist the tide any longer. At the same time AOL One launched to much fanfare – the Game of Stacks now well underway with AOL taking a big step forward, We are but pawns in this incredible battle of supremacy between AOL, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and Google and there is much more to go as we see this play out. The single view of the customer across screens is a vital offering and these teams are throwing everything at it, whilst Microsoft seems to be frozen to the spot at the moment. Perhaps they need to remove their whole sales team and start again? Oh..
Finally in modernisation March we saw Conde Nast take the stage and announce proudly, albeit a few years late that they had decided that yes programmatic was something to pay attention to and they would be getting involved. Thanks for that.
The first signs of trouble for the IPOs of the previous months – the city falling out of love with a number of them, seeing prices fall significantly and some below opening day. There was some scepticism at IPO but recent press questioning whether these companies were right to value themselves on the hard work of bot traffic came into play. As the curtain lifts on the methods of many RTB companies this may be a theme for the future, perhaps even hitting the FT one day…oh it did.
RadiumOne saw some ‘Rocky’ waters as their CEO was eventually prosecuted for beating his wife up. It took some time and a fair amount of industry Twitter rejection to get him ousted but it happened and then everyone moved on as he set up Gravity8 three minutes later.
As if to demonstrate two different strategies Facebook and Google both made a play for the future with Facebook launching an…. Ad Network..meanwhile in other news Google bought a drone company – was it an April Fool? well after Nest in January and now a drone maker it appears not – Internet of Everything anyone?
Merger May, Maybe not
Publicis and Omnicom call off merger. Must be something else they can buy sooner or later surely?
Millenial and Rocketfuel taking an absolute beating on the stock market as increased speculation on their businesses and whether or not they are complimentary or in conflict with agencies rage. Google and AOL keep buying companies to further enhance their operations, Google getting into attribution and AOL into cross channel allocation, interesting that both are now toe to toe on making the stack work. It was a month where everyone appeared to be tooling up with Axium buying and Liveramp to help with data onboarding.
What is the worst brand name in Adtech? Qriously of course. Apparently that was not all bad and brought some pre Cannes exposure coupled with their expensive tablet card asking for a meeting. Memorable but expensive I would say, some might say a qrious decision.
June was the month GroupM announced a withdrawl from open exchanges and that it would be done by Christmas, big claim for sure. Could someone check for me? pretty sure they are still there but there is still time. As with every year Cannes came around and the Adtech world took it by storm – the rose looked and tasted the same, the beaches were packed with hard working media folk but the names were different, everyone had upgraded this year and the place now resembled an Exchangewire event at scale. It was a good time to be in Cannes as the money continued to flow and pay for those expensive tents and lunches. Mediamath picked up a massive 170m dollars, Twitter bought Tap commerce for 100m, Facebook bought slingshot and WPP ploughed 25m into a DMP strategy.
Buy buy July
Enough said, the boom continued and at pace. Facebook buys Liverail as its next move in Stack Wars, Yahoo buys Flurry to continue its successful push into mobile revenues, a battle it appears to be winning as we are seeing now as it overtakes Twitter in mobile revenues. Linkedin bought Bizo, a natural fit for both and makes us wonder if the sleeping giant is starting to wake up and join the fight.
Rocketfuel bought the very transparent X+1 as it starts the long road away from the darkness and into the incredibly difficult world of running a business transparently. In the spirit of transparency Turn took a turn in July and went on the offensive, taking aim at Tubemogul amongst others, it felt like an email you send late at night when slightly under the influence – stand away from the send button. Oh no, you did again..in August.
Everyone went to the beach. Google bought some more companies.
Facebook me September!
Millenial fights back and buys Nexage to grow out its programmatic credentials and build credibility in the data and RTB space. At the same time WPP drop their adserving business and buy into the DSP business, out with the old in with the new.
The Alibaba IPO put Yahoo into a very interesting position, as perhaps a buyer or maybe a seller? There is a strong belief that Yahoo and AOL are on a collision course and so having their P&L filled to the rafters with the Alibaba IPO cash will put them in a great position either way.
But really all everyone wanted to talk about was Atlas and the launch of their new adserving platform and soon to be launched DSP. Facebook had now made its biggest move in the Stack wars. Combining improved adserving tech with their data and soon to be launched DSP. With this move we see ever more clearly that there are likely to be some large islands of tech and everyone of those is ring fencing owned and operated inventory and how you access it. We have moved a long way from the utopia of one access point to the web and are now focused on how can we join these islands up with DMP and other technology.
Publicis buys RUN and invests in Matomy – something to expect as we progress and competition comes not just from other agency groups but also the very aggressive managed service offerings and RTB networks. Agency groups will need to tool up more and more and so I think we can expect more down the road. Mediamath go to prove the point and buy Upcast showing how they need to tool up as well and keep delivering new products and services cross channel and cross device. Meanwhile Videology launch a programmatic TV offering to follow Turn but go a step further in teaming up with major US TV partner.
Stack Wars is back in October with Yahoo buying Brightroll, a sensible move as you consider the purchase of Adapt by AOL and Facebook of Liverail a couple of months earlier. We now see them all with video offerings, display offerings, adserving and performance products and suites of data. I think we are about at the right time to see them kick off. Atlas has hired a key guy in Damian Burns to lead their offering, once he has his feet under the table I think we will see some real movement.
Publics buys Sapient a huge acquisition and another one under the radar taking the advertising world by storm. An incredible team of people joining the Publicis.Sapient platform.
Channel 4 after years of resistance to programmatic have announced they are getting into the market place and will no doubt leave ITV where to go next. Either way it is clear the TV marketplace is hotting up and now we are seeing a hockey stick of activity and partnerships. Exciting times all around.
Rubicon buys two companies to help build out its direct deal automation tech..yawn. Yes you got it, we are going to take all those buys you used to do over the phone and now do it on a platform without any cherry picking or data insights. Just back to buying impressions. Back to the future.
I am sure I missed a number of big deals – list them below so we get the full picture of the comings and goings of Adtech and its sheer scale. Thanks
What a weekend of news. An incredible, history making moment when you realise you are part of an incredible piece of business. These two incredible men have done the impossible. They have created the largest Ad group in the world by some way and with no-one finding out! Hands up who wants to work in a stagnant, stale business that does not evolve or change? Not me. That is why I joined VivaKi and it has been a roller coaster ever since. Now this. Publicis Omnicom Group. It was one of those announcements where the descriptor WOW worked.
I think the coverage has been intriguing, some sensible, most negative but to be expected I guess as this merger touches so many, some utterly small minded, ludicrous and opportunistic.
As regards the coverage the one thing I have seen time and time is the discussion on scale and how many commentators comment ‘ advertisers will not benefit from this increased scale.’ I find this fascinating for a couple of reasons. The first is that advertisers, media auditors, pitch consultants and every agency pitch document starts with how big they are, at least if you are in the top 10. It has always been so and will be for some time but all of a sudden we have everyone saying scale does not matter. I just don’t buy it and most advertisers don’t either. Scale as I have written in a previous post is not just about buying, it is about resource, depth of pockets, it can be many things, but lets stick with media buying, it will count. Anyone saying otherwise has an angle.
Connected to this is the fact I have grown up by an industry telling me about Group M scale. Media owners, my own agencies in other markets, middle men, pitch consultants – ‘Group M scale counts and is a big deal’ year after year this has been the message, so I am intrigued that suddenly I read that this is not the case and there will be little to gain from this merger in that sense. You can’t have it both ways – either it does count or it does not, because that is not the message we have been giving or receiving for the last 20 years.
I am hugely excited about this merger, we are a small part of history and whatever the future holds, I love being in it rather than looking in on it.
Oh yes there will be those who start to pick away and question this partnership, some ask what this partnership is about, but you need to start at the start. Maurice Levy set out a strategy for the Groupe to be the leading digital group in the marketplace. He has achieved that ambition, but how do you get a huge organisation to move in one direction? Well firstly you show them you mean business and invest. Look back at what he has done. Maurice bought up Phonevalley in mobile, Performics in search and SEO, the big one was Razorfish and others, this has created no doubt about his intentions. So what else would a digital organisation of this size do?
Well you should have some close friends that are themselves giants of the digital business. Enter Google partnership in 2008 and Microsoft a little later on, both significant relationships, both the first partnerships of their kind and both giving an insight and opportunity to the clients of Vivaki that noone else could offer. This approach make so much sense and cannot be open to criticism.
Now the thing with friendships, the longer they are the more fruitful they are, the partnership with Google is now into its second term and third year. The senior teams in the VNC and digital teams of the group have been working with product and commercial guys from Google in a more integrated and collaborative way for some time and it’s this that drives the value and the reason, you cant undo a long friendship.
The announcement today of the renewal is significant a) because it has been renewed! We have worked well together and we want that relationship to continue and b) our renewal comes at a time when others are just creating their first deals and they are basing them on very spend related terms rather than strategic and product led. These deals are designed to create opportunity for the clients, not deliver a low cpm. Its an exciting space and the VNC will be working closely with Google on creating some of the most advanced strategies around exchange technology in video and mobile so this can only be a good thing.
Read the announcement here
I look forward to working with Google over the next two years and can proudly say that Vivaki really does have a couple of great BFs.
After a break of three months I have very recently secured a new role at Vivaki Nerve Center. I set out to find a role that was at the heart of the world of digital and I am pleased to say this role 100% achieves that. I am also excited about the fact that we are still at the formative stages for the Vivaki Nerve Center and that I will be part of the definition and growth of the unit.
In the last three months I have spoken to many agency folk around the market and its been a fascinating view on the market. All the major agency groups are investing in their parent group offerings, seeing the benefits of aggregation of skills, knowledge, technology and of course media investment. I hope that as part of the VNC I will be working in what will be the future for Publicis Groupe and help lead the change.
As I have written about previously I believe that the one thing that is for certain is that technology and changing trading methods will alter the way agency groups structure around digital planning and buying. The role of the ‘media schedule’ will be less relevant when in fact we should be buying audiences regardless of their location or site they are visiting. Trading will be about buying at the best price to deliver the relevant ROI not about the fact you bought 10million impressions at a set price earlier in the month and that will combine search and display in all its formats.
On top of that we are of course dealing with the huge changes coming from mobile, social and video, three huge topics that we have to make a success of in our marketing solutions. I am constantly on my iPhone and Nexus one, I surf, blog, update and find information and there are many like me so our solutions need to be making the most of that audience. I believe we have a way to go in that arena as an industry, I look forward to working with Phonevalley and others in implementing these new strategies.
Whether it be social media, mobile or straight forward impression buying we also need cutting edge tracking and reporting solutions and I look forward to working with our partners and Groupe companies in helping us to deliver intuitive, useful and accurate reporting suites to help us across Search, display, video and social.
Having just spent a few days in San Francisco its clear there is an enormous amount to be getting on with, some tasks more straight forward than others but all equally exciting. Our strategic partnerships are going to really create some amazing opportunities for our clients and there will no doubt be more to come. I work in a group of amazingly talented companies including Razorfish, Digitas, Performics and many others so this should be an exciting times and I cant wait to start.