Vivaki Overhauls Its Trading Desk

Publicis' Programmatic Arm Sends Traders to Individual Agencies

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Publicis' programmatic arm Vivaki no longer wants to buy ads.

The organization has completed a major reassignment of its ad traders, sending 120 employees out to individual Publicis agencies, and taking them off its own books. Vivaki CEO Stephan Beringer confirmed the moves.

"If you're a marketer, do you want your programmatic decisions siloed and balkanized from everything else that you're doing? No. You want it integrated," said Laura Desmond ‎CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group, which shares stewardship of Vivaki with ZenithOptimedia, all part of Publicis Groupe.

The restructuring, meant to bring Publicis' advertising technology jockeys closer to its clients, is also an admission that the traditional trading desk model no longer works for Publicis. Those who remain at Vivaki will now focus on training, research and development, data management and analytics, Mr. Beringer said. Vivaki will retain a small group of traders to help with testing.

"Scale and agility, if you want to achieve both, you cannot centralize too much," Mr. Beringer said. He does not want to end up with a "monster organization" that cannot respond to the needs of each market and agency, he explained.

Bob Rupczynski, VP-media, data and CRM at Kraft Foods, said the new structure helped bring Publicis' programmatic ad buying more in line with Kraft's data and day-to-day operations. "What they're doing moving programmatic down to the agency level is brilliant," he said.

Mr. Beringer likened programmatic today to the early days of social media, where expertise centers were built within agencies and then farmed out as social became more integrated across campaigns. "As you move forward, things mature and they become a given," Mr. Beringer said. "After this first phase, in every area, you have to look at the second wave and how you drive scale and how you integrate it in your endeavor."

A new arrangement recently put Vivaki under the control of Starcom MediaVest group Global CEO Laura Desmond and ZenithOptimedia Group CEO Steve King, with each getting a year at the helm on a rotating basis. Ms. Desmond, currently in control, is overseeing big changes to a lucractive area during her first turn at the helm. Shifting trading to individual agencies will give client teams, and ultimately clients, more access to the digital buying activities. It's unclear how it will impact the agencies' bottom lines.

The arrangement will likely diminish Vivaki's revenue, but Mr. Beringer said the move was made with the entire holding group's interests in mind, not just Vivaki's. "Normally in every business, the revenue follows the resource," he said. "We are looking at all this today from a group perspective."

The move comes as more clients move their trading desk operations in-house or ask individual media agencies to set up custom desks that aren't tied to central holding company trading operations. Driving the trend has been marketers' desire for more insight into agency fee, pricing and data privacy issues.

"There's no reason why a client who has an agency team would not use the team," said Mr. Beringer, disputing the notion that clients will pick between a more insight and less insight model. "That's completely counterintuitive because these people know the business of the client best, and that's why we are doing this."

Contributing: Alexandra Bruell

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said Starcom MediaVest Group owns Vivaki. Vivaki is owned by Publicis Groupe.

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