WPP's Possible Bets on Mobile Apps in Its Latest Acquisition

Wanted App Development Capabilities to Help Meet Demand for Relationship Marketing

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Shane Atchison
Shane Atchison

Possible Worldwide has acquired mobile app shop Double Encore to complement its growing customer relationship marketing and direct marketing capability.

"We're buying deep technical capabilities," said Possible CEO Shane Atchison. "We believe having those in-house versus farming those out makes us smarter on creative and strategic user-experience."

Double Encore develops mobile apps for iOS and Android operating systems. Unaudited revenues for last year were $8 million, with gross assets of $2.6 million, according to a spokeswoman for Possible.

The move reflects growing demand for CRM and direct marketing expertise as marketers look to reach customers directly through "native" products like apps, and ultimately push offers and "value ads" through those same devices.

Once a marketer has an app, they often have permission to talk to the consumers who download it, Mr. Atchison said. "The word CRM is in over half the RFPs we're getting," he said. "We assume when we're talking about social strategy we'll have a CRM lens."

Double Encore has created apps for the PGA Tour, Jet Blue and Major League Soccer, among others. That experience with sports brands and service businesses, given the type of data and engagement they generate, also appealed to Possible, part of WPP Group.

"Apps are great for sports," Mr. Atchison said. "There are crazy fans; the data is dynamic; and people hit refresh. As brands have come back to the app world, we're ahead of the game."

Brands are finally coming back from app hiatus as they find more opportunities to integrate them into larger social and digital programs, he said. Rapidly increasing use of mobile devices is also creating opportunities despite marketers' hesitancy to spend much as much on ads there.

Consumers spend 23.8% of their time with media on mobile devices each day, according to eMarketer, compared with 37.2% with TV. But ad spending is almost the mirror image: Advertisers spend 17 cents on TV for every hour of U.S. adult consumption of the medium, and pour 83¢ into each hour spent with print. For mobile, according to eMarketer, the figure is 7 cents.

Double Encore Chairman Dan Burcaw was previously at Apple, supporting the tech giant's retail operations before leaving to start the agency in 2008.

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