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Publicis' Answer to Digital-Media Mastery: VivaKi

New Silo-Busting Umbrella Unit to Be Headed By David Kenny and Jack Klues

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Publicis Groupe has unveiled its latest attempt to master the digital-media universe, an umbrella operating unit called VivaKi that will aim to combine the market muscle and resources of Starcom, MediaVest, Zenith Optimedia and Digitas, to create a more powerful media negotiator and fund new marketing technologies.
David Kenny
David Kenny Credit: Richard Kalvar/Magnum Photos

To some extent VivaKi seems to mirror WPP Group's Group M, the umbrella unit over that holding company's media agencies, except that VivaKi also encompasses Publicis' biggest digital agency, Digitas. Looking beyond the addition of another strange name to the marketplace -- it's pronounced "vee-VAH-kee" and claims to have something to do with life and "energy flow" -- this unit has big aspirations and a big-name leadership crew. It will be fronted by David Kenny, who hands over his role as CEO of Digitas to Laura Lang, and Jack Klues, the chairman of the Starcom MediaVest Group. Both take the title managing partner.

Renetta McCann
Messrs. Kenny and Klues will be joined by Renetta McCann, until recently the CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group, who will be in charge of talent development for the new operation; and Curt Hecht, the chief digital officer of Starcom MediaVest and GM Planworks, who will run what's called the VivaKi Nerve Center.

Publicis Groupe clients will still work with the individual agencies -- "We'll still have multiple faces for clients," said Mr Kenny -- but VivaKi will aim to create a unit agencies can tap into to put together the kind of large-scale integrated media deals that some marketers look for today, and to build the right technologies and tools for a world in which, to quote Mr. Kenny, "we'll buy audiences, not media."

Mr. Klues dismissed the notion that VivaKi's creation is simply about amalgamating dollars to have more negotiating clout, saying that having scale is about more than being able to drive down the price of media. "I want a preferred relationship with media owners in terms of content opportunities and new technology opportunities. I want first-mover rights," he said.

He added that VivaKi would help break down silos between digital and the various analog media. "It used to be that media owners would come to media agencies with an integrated marketing solution and get really pissy, because they'd say there was nowhere for them to go with it, and that we didn't even really know how to evaluate such programs. Now we've simplified access for them."
Jack Klues
Jack Klues

Influence over tech giants
Finally, Mr. Klues hoped that having the potential to negotiate on behalf of all the agencies would allow him to have a little more influence over the plans of media and technology giants such as Google and Microsoft. "I'm tired of our industry being on the backfoot and reacting to what they do. They need to see us a voice on leadership."

The VivaKi Nerve Center, under Mr. Hecht, which initially will tap into about 30 full-timers situated within Publicis Groupe agencies around the world, will be the data analytics hub of the operation, pooling consumer and media data from all the agencies and developing new ways of analyzing and using it. It'll also develop new tools, such as the the Audience on Demand Network, announced this morning, that claims to be an open-source solution allowing Publicis Groupe clients a single point of access to plan and buy a single campaign across Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and AOL.

VivaKi will also be aiming to attract talent to Publicis Groupe, by offering new working arrangements for potential employees. "We tell our clients to see consumers as people with different needs and habits, but we don't always work that way ourselves," said Mr. Klues. "The same salary and bonus package doesn't necessarily fit for all 5,000 people in an agency."

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