VivaKi Aims to Simplify Targeting Across the Portals

Q&A: Publicis Media Groupe CEO Jack Klues

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NEW YORK ( -- Publicis Groupe's new umbrella operating unit, VivaKi, will combine the assets of Starcom MediaVest Group, Zenith Optimedia and Digitas, creating a powerful media negotiator with the scale to match up against technology giants like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. But Jack Klues, CEO of Publicis Media Groupe, insists VivaKi isn't just a scale play -- at least in the traditional sense of the word.
Jack Klues
Jack Klues

"This isn't about getting a better deal with Google," Mr. Klues said. "I think here scale takes on a lot of dimensions that are not top of mind when you are a media person." Scale in the case of VivaKi, said Mr. Klues, is about having the opportunity to fund new marketing technologies, forge relationships with media owners for better content and technology opportunities, and break down digital and analog silos.

One new tool that's already leveraging VivaKi's scale is the Audience on Demand Network, an open-source platform that will allow Publicis Groupe to buy a single campaign across Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL. The platform was introduced yesterday by the VivaKi Nerve Center, the data hub of the new operating unit led by Curt Hecht, previously the chief digital officer of GM Planworks. Through the network, Publicis will get access to the impressions and inventory available from Google, Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo in one interface rather than having to go through each company separately, which will greatly improve buying efficiency.

Mr. Klues spoke with MediaWorks about the new venture in an interview yesterday after VivaKi was announced.

MediaWorks: WPP Group head Martin Sorrell has frequently referred to Google as a "frenemy" to the agencies. How big an influence did Google, which is changing many agency processes, have on the decision to create VivaKi?

Mr. Klues: The first thing I'd say is that I don't see Google in the same competitive sense that maybe some of our true competitors do. Google is an impressive and formidable technology developer ... that is going to enable agency folks like ourselves to do things better, in terms of understanding consumer profiles better and giving us more efficient ways to execute online campaigns.

MediaWorks: But a big piece of VivaKi will be to try to leverage your assets to have some influence over the plans of giant technology players like Google and Microsoft, right?

Mr. Klues: [I don't know] whether you want to call it influence, but [VivaKi] will give us greater clarity, focus and emphasis on what we need and what our clients need from them as technology enablers. Right now we talk to them as a bunch of relatively smaller voices. With VivaKi, we are providing them with a louder voice and the clarity that I think the Yahoos, Googles and MSNs alike have been hungering for from the ad agencies and the media agencies. ... Sometimes [technology companies] are out there building tools, and we are not close enough to them at that point where we could make what they are building even more effective. Right now I feel like I am just always waiting, I am responding and reacting -- that's even with small technology developers.

MediaWorks: How will the Audience on Demand Network benefit clients?

Mr. Klues: There are a lot of ad exchanges and ad networks out there, but say you are trying to buy any given target audience, like pet lovers, for instance. Right now if you were out looking for pet lovers or [to be more specific] golden retriever lovers, it isn't like you can't find those people. But to go find enough of them to generate any kind of aggregated reach would take you a lot of time and effort. You'd have to go to multiple exchanges and ad networks. What I think Curt [Hecht, who has been tapped to head the VivaKi Nerve Center] is doing is [saying] to MSN, Google, AOL and Yahoo, "Let's put all those people together," and that allows him to buy for golden retriever lovers with one-stop shopping across all those platforms. And it's much easier for clients to buy an audience that way.

MediaWorks: Do you see a scenario where you'd be able to share data from the Audience on Demand Network across clients?

Mr. Klues: No, no data will ever be shared across clients. But this is almost like making ABC, NBC and CBS work together ... because in the old days, the three broadcast networks would sell you a certain audience -- albeit demographic -- and the rules of buying were all the same. So what Curt has done is pull competitors together, in many ways for the good of our clients and for the good of the industry. And that's why these guys at the end of the day participate. One, I'd like to believe because we are important to them and two, because they see a big part of their future growth is behavior that is going to require collaboration and cooperation and a lot more standardization.
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