In the not too distant future advertisers and tech companies will be forced to share the revenues they reap from personal data that will increasingly be owned by its subjects, predicts Publicis Groupe chief Maurice Levy.
He described this transition as the “new golden age” for advertising, a reference to what some see as a massive opportunity to build deeper and more worthwhile relationships with consumers in the wake of data reforms. From 2018, data protection regulations will be harmonised under a single legal framework, giving the likes of Publicis Groupe a chance to reassess the data value exchange between businesses and users.
Speaking at an IAA event this month, Levy told CNN anchor Nina dos Santos: “Data will become the new ‘golden age’but the big question is who owns the data? Is it each individual or all the people gathering the data and selling it on? I am advocating that the revenue should be shared. There will be rules. In a few years’ time there will be so much money people will raise their hands and ask where their money is.”
This emergence of this so-called Me2B economy is one that some brands are already preparing for. Unilever is one of those companies, with it already looking to overhaul the way it collects data in order to be less reliant on the limited amounts its already gathering.
Publicis Groupe is all too aware that this view, while consigned to its more forward thinking clients currently, will invariably become more commonplace and is positioning itself through Sapient as the go-to place to map that strategy. It wants to pitch itself as the intersection between chief marketing officer and chief information officer at a time when the roles are becoming more entwined. Publicis has been testing parts of the offering since it acquired Sapient last year, with some past the stage of curiosity to being interested, Levy said on a conference call last year.
A greater focus on data from Publicis and its peers is a response to what are vast creative powerhouses being amassed by the likes of Apple and Facebook. Apple has over 1,500 people in its in-house agency, while Facebook has got a huge very successful in-house agency. Despite the uneasy tensions, Levy said he considers these technology behemoths as “partners”, though stressed the importance of them not displacing media agencies.
“They [technology companies] should not only have a direct relationship with the client,” he warned. “The issue is when they believe that they can have management of the media account, this is something that goes against the interest of the client, there will clearly be a conflict on how to distribute the money. You need a neutral partner which is the agency.
Levy’s thoughts on the questionable ‘neutrality’ of both Facebook and Google echo those of his arch-rival and vociferous industry pundit WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell who argues that the pair – two of the three biggest media companies his agency network spends money with – are essentially convicted.
Speaking at last month’s FT Summit hosted in London, he told attendees that Google (whom his outfit spent $4bn with in media budgets last year) and Facebook (which he spent $1bn with) are often mistaken for tech companies, when they are in fact media owners.
This troubles Sorrell, who has often publicly vocalised his concerns around the lack of trust in the ‘walled garden’ ecosystems of Facebook and Google, when it comes to the measurement of how effective money spent with the pair is at driving sales – as well as the ‘closed’ nature of their offerings.
He clarified his stance at another event earlier this year: “We’re increasingly looking at data and measurement. And measurement is going to become absolutely critical. Our frenemies in technology – the new media owners – are going to have to spend more-and-more time thinking about how they can refine [proof of] ROI for our clients.”
To rival this offering, WPP’s media investment arm Group M has gone about setting up its own offering in the guise of Xaxis. Speaking separately at the aforementioned FT-hosted event Sorrell again told attendees that this unit (formerly referred to as an agency trading desk) was one of the main tools in its armoury to counter the dominance of the online giants.
Additional reporting by Jessica Goodfellow and Ronan Shields.
Photo credit: Esslinger Photo