Ketchum plans to invest millions in a digital-media buying group and ad-tech contracts to boost earned and social content, the Omnicom PR shop told Ad Age.
The new group, dubbed Agile Amplification, will house dedicated planners and buyers. It will also run new contracts with ad-tech companies like Kenshoo, a company that supports automated buying across various social-media platforms, as well as demand-side platform software groups like DataXu and digital media companies like YouTube and Facebook.
The group is benefiting from master contracts between many of these vendors and parent Omnicom, as well as Annalect, the digital media and data hub that sits in Omnicom's media agency network. Working through a holding company's large contract is cheaper than going it alone with a smaller contract.
"We don't want to be a media-buying partner with a $100 million budget," said Paul Rand, chief digital officer of Ketchum and CEO of Ketchum subsidiary Zocalo Group. "But if you don't get content boosted or targeted in 24 hours you'll lose virality. Putting our community leaders in charge of [that task] increases the success rate."
Although Ketchum and subsidiary Zocalo Group have dabbled in this kind of targeted-audience buying for a couple years, the new effort expands the shop's capability in the U.S. and scales it globally. The agency is currently rolling out the buying hubs in New York, London, Rio, Shanghai, Dusseldorf and Moscow, and plans on spending millions in the next few years on new talent, redistribution, training of current talent and ad-tech partnerships, said Mr. Rand.
The shop will work with companies like Kenshoo to gather data and insights -- largely from search and social behavioral data -- on the people they should be targeting and where those people are, and then serve ads to those specific audiences in various forms. That might mean serving a display or video ad to someone on YouTube or on a gaming site, for example.
Digital audience buying is similar to what media-buying agencies' digital media groups have been doing for years. But it's a departure from the manual and more time-consuming way in which PR shops have typically bought digital media.
Early tests prove that automated digital buying is already paying off, said Mr. Rand. The shop bought ads through its new system as part of a social-couponing campaign for a food company. "We were targeting diabetics who wanted information and we were getting content in front of them," he said. The effort resulted in 50% coupon conversion rate.
Additional ad tech companies supporting Ketchum's Agile Amplification include DSP software company Turn, ad server DoubleClick and digital and social media companies like Twitter, as well as blogger networks.