Bryan Wiener, CEO of Dentsu unit 360i, is taking a step back to become the agency's chairman, and he's also taking on a new role as chairman of Expion, a Raleigh, N.C.-based social media management and analytics software company.
Expion has been 360i's preferred social platform partner since 2011, and it's used by clients like Coca-Cola, Oreo and Univision, which have independent deals with the software company. One major use case is for big brands to assign out the right levels of access to social accounts to people across their global organization. Other customers include IBM, H&R Block and Clear Channel.
Dentsu took a minority investment in Expion in March 2012 and Mr. Wiener joined its board then. He recently led a seven-figure investment with funds contributed by himself and some undisclosed executives.
Expion was an under-the-radar competitor of better-known Buddy Media and Vitrue, which were purchased for large sums in 2012 by Salesforce and Oracle respectively and integrated into their technology stacks. There are still some independent competitors left standing, like Spredfast and Sprinklr.
Mr. Wiener thinks Buddy Media and Vitrue missed an opportunity.
"From a marketer perspective, those companies got acquired too soon, and there's plenty of room for innovation from a content optimization and analytics perspective," he said.
As Expion's chairman, Mr. Wiener said he'll focus on helping to build up the currently 70-person company's sales and marketing organizations. He'll also work on strategic partnerships -- with a social advertising company to complement Expion's offering, for example.
There's a past precedent of an agency executive taking a personal stake in a vendor and questions about a conflict being raised. Starcom MediaVest Group's Laura Desmond received hundreds of thousands in stock options for sitting on Tremor Video's board last year, and her agency was revealed to be a major customer of the company.
But Mr. Wiener says he's satisfied that there are no conflicts in his case for a couple of reasons. First, 360i chose Expion as its preferred partner -- an arrangement that calls for them to co-develop features togetther -- prior to Dentsu's investment and the start of Mr. Wiener's involvement with the company. And second, he has relinquished day-to-day operational control at 360i.
360i's U.S. CEO Sarah Hofstetter will now step into the global role, which Mr. Wiener called "a natural progression." The U.S. accounts for 95% of 360i's revenue, he said.
Hear a take on the future of marketing from Mr. Weiner when he presents his version of "The Future in Five Minutes" at Ad Age's Digital Conference April 1-2 in New York City.