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GroupM unveils [m]Platform with former Xaxis chief Brian Gleason as global CEO of new unit


By Ronan Shields, Digital Editor

November 29, 2016 | 7 min read

WPP’s GroupM has today (29 November) announced the global launch of [m]Platform, representing a major overhaul of the agency network's media investment unit. The new adtech platform promises an open ‘universal ID’ that will provide clients with measurement capabilities across all sources of online media.

Brain Gleason is now CEo of [m]Platform

Brian Gleason is now CEO of [m]Platform

The move represents a major overhaul of GroupM’s digital offering, effectively combining all of its previous adtech offerings, and will see former Xaxis chief executive Brian Gleason take charge of the outfit as global chief executive of [m]Platform.

The overhaul is the result of a 10-year effort on behalf of GroupM, according to Gleason, adding that effectively this is the culmination of more than $7bn worth of investment, which began as far back as 2007 when WPP agreed to buy 24/7 Real Media, through to its more recent partnership with AppNexus (which saw it take a 15% stake in the adtech outfit).

Kelly Clark, GroupM global chief executive, said: “Marketers are under tremendous pressure to deliver results from media investments. This flexible platform approach enables us to focus $7bn worth of investments we’ve made in data and technology over 10 years to help them realize a marketplace advantage.

"This will accelerate our momentum with unrivaled consumer insights and give our agencies the most robust technology in the market."

Speaking with The Drum, Gleason said that at the core of the offering is helping clients solve the problems of fragmentation when targeting online audiences, as well as assessing the effectiveness of ad campaigns that span a multitude of web environments.

"What we’re trying to do is solve the problem of clients trying to build [universal campaign reporting]; it’s still less than 10% of clients have a singular view of their customer, so that’s a challenge," he said.

"If you look at the market place, certain publishers have tremendous data sets on consumers – whether it be Google, or Apple - and fantastic relationships, and for us the challenge is how do we do that for our clients?"

With the new overhaul, GroupM is essentially introducing the concept of an "M-ID", which will effectively act as a GroupM identifier that can link together all the data sets at the network's disposal, acting as its foundation layer, according to Gleason. "This will be the driving force for our platform,” he added.

One team

Under the new framework GroupM will bring together all of its technology into one organization, which will include technology from Xaxis, along with its data and analytics platform and GroupM Connect, all of which will come under one leadership team.

“The way it was set up in the past, quite frankly, it didn’t allow us to benefit from the synergies … we’d be developing two or three reporting tools, so now we have one structure, and then we’ll have a proper team with a product manager and an engineering team to match,” he said, describing the rationale behind the overhaul.

"From the service side, we’re going to bring together the service organisation, so into the group will be GroupM Connect, Xaxis will fall under the platform - but it will be the only standalone offering), the sole purpose will be to empower GroupM agencies," Gleason said.

"The underpinning of it will be the technology infrastructure, and a service layer that will typically be made up of data scientists, programmatic experts and analysts all functioning together."

Gleason said that this new set up will make it easier for GroupM agency staff in the process of campaign planning as the new structure will mean that they will all have access to an insights tool, by way of a unified dashboard, that will give them access to audience data, etc, to implement campaigns, which will be available to them from this structure.

An open offering

When asked how the latest platform will help GroupM’s newly unveiled offering standout from other adtech platforms, Gleason said that accountability would be key to winning clients over. In particular, the "open" nature of the offering, which will be open to third-party verification in terms of media performance.

The analytics portion of the offering will bring with it accountability, according to Gleason, emphasising that [m]Platform is an open offering – unlike the ‘walled gardens’ of some of the internet’s largest media inventory sources.

“This is the only possible way to have an ID that unifies the data sets, that was the foundation layer (behind the decision to reorganise). What we had was Turbine, and now we’re opening up that technology to the larger organisation,” explained Gleason.

He added: “The tool set of the agencies will be massive, the good thing about it is that it’s an open architecture, and we fully expect our clients to work with their own DMPs (data management platforms), whether it’s Adobe or Oracle, but we have to make sure we have seamless integration with those platforms. So if they want to use their data to match, then absolutely.

“Not only do we want to target our audiences, but we want to be able to measure back in the most appropriate way to make sure we all have the same definition of viewability, and way of saying how inventory can be evaluated.”

Under the new set up, four regional presidents will report to Gleason. Recently named president of platform services in North America, Phil Cowdell is now president of [m]Platform in the region. Presidents for EMEA and APAC will be named shortly, with Lucas Mentasti, now president, [m]Platform, in LATAM.

Also on the leadership team is Nicolle Pangis, chief operating officer; Jack Smith, chief strategy officer and Bob Hammond, chief technology officer.

The newly unveiled unit will also be able to combine data sources from across WPP, these include: Kantar; Wunderman; Millward Brown, as well as GroupM’s own data from unique agreements with global media partners.

This will allow the creation of "the most complete consumer profiles within a brand’s target audience," according to GroupM. Included in this offering are demographic data, technology usage, behavioral insights, purchase history, location data, etc.

Below are some of the central tenets of the [m]Platform offering:

  • [m]Core is the first full-stack audience intelligence platform combining cross-platform data (display, mobile, video, offline CRM, apps, etc.) for a singular consumer identifier, [m]ID.
  • [m]Insights is the largest audience-centric media planning tool with cross-channel planning, creative workflow management, unified audience frequency capping and location-based and in-demo reach management.
  • [m]Analytics marries online and offline campaign-level data to [m]ID to enable analytics, attribution and optimisation
  • [m]Report merges data into a single, intuitive visualisation dashboard with actionable intelligence.

The Drum's Programmatic Punch event hosted in London next week will feature a panel with participants from GroupM and Publicis Media, moderated by agency veteran Wayne Blodwell on different networks' approaches to the challenges posed by the emergence of adtech. Click here for more details

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