After buying London-based Walker Media in late 2013, Publicis Groupe is rebranding the agency as the first office of Blue 449, a new international media network.
Blue 449 will sit within Publicis Groupe's ZenithOptimedia network, and plans to set up 17 hubs around the world through startups and acquisitions by the end of the year. Miami, for instance, will be the hub city for Latin America.
Sébastien Danet, the president of ZenithOptimedia France and chairman of VivaKi France, will lead the rollout of Blue 449, which aims to provide a more flexible and more digital alternative to existing networks.
Steve King, worldwide CEO of ZenithOptimedia Group, said, "The world doesn't need yet another global media agency network. What it needs is a new force of energy for clients looking to break with traditions. Blue 449 is a realization of visionary attitudes and thinking set to disrupt the market."
Publicis describes its as an "open source" model, because it will pursue collaborative working practices with clients and partners, referencing the sharing economy of Airbnb and entertainment platforms like Spotify.
Walker Media's clients, which include KFC, the Independent newspaper, the Mandarin Oriental hotel group and Carphone Warehouse, will become Blue 449 clients.
Starcom MediaVest Group, also owned by Publicis Groupe, announced plans two years ago to grow Spark, a small U.S. media shop, into a third SMG media agency. Such offerings as Spark and Blue 449 can help agencies navigate conflicts and achieve greater scale.
Why Blue 449? That's the name of the color wavelength that exists between the purple branding of Walker Media and the blue branding of ZenithOptimedia.
Phil Georgiadis, a founder of Walker Media in 1998, and U.K. chairman of Blue 449, said, "Our absolute ambition is to be a vibrant, challenging media agency brand that will suit some clients – we are not a division of ZenithOptimedia."
Publicis Groupe bought the 75% of London-based Walker Media that was previously owned by M&C Saatchi in December 2013. The deal was thought to be worth around $55 million.