How ex-Havas head Dominique Delport is competing with ad agencies at Vice

Former adman Dominique Delport now leads revenue efforts at Vice

He may have left ad land for Viceland, but that hasn’t stopped Dominique Delport from plotting how to win advertising pitches.

The former global managing director at Havas called time on a stellar 17-year agency career in April to move into media as Vice’s chief revenue officer and international president.

Since then, he’s been gearing up the youth media brand to compete for the kind of brand business that would’ve once been the preserve of his old agency world.

Now it's seeing the results.

In a coup for Virtue, Vice’s own creative agency, it won the brief to create Google Chrome’s 10-year anniversary campaign released in September.

And in the last few days, Virtue is understood to have won the pan-European ad account for Foot Locker, a client that has previously worked with BBDO in the US.

On competing with agencies at their own game, Delport tells The Drum: “We all acknowledge the fact that boundaries have exploded. Consultants are doing production, publishers are doing agency stuff, agencies are turning into content producers.

“We’ve been able to go direct with Google to create that global campaign but we’ve also partnered with agencies, especially on the content side and for the biggest of their business, where they know they can't produce premium content at scale.”

Delport’s pitch to CMOs leans heavily on this argument. According to his figures, Vice employs some 900 content producers in 35 countries and operates out of 500 editing suites ranging from the US to India and China.

“Knowing very well the agency world, I can say without reservation that no agency holding company can deliver that firepower on content production. [I'm] not bragging about that – it's just a fact.

“That’s because you need different talent. You need producers, editors, you need script, you need cameramen. We have all of it.”

The Frenchman joined Vice with a dual remit – to grow the US-based media company outside its homeland as international head and, in the revenue role, to ramp up its advertising business. That gives him commercial oversight for the company’s four revenue streams – Vice Media, Vice News, Virtue and production division Vice Studios.

To sell this gamut of services to marketers, he has formed a global client team within Vice that consolidates its proposition when targeting major international business.

“Clients – especially the top 50 global brands – need global partners. They understand that they've been probably too siloed, and they need to find synergies and scale," he explains.

One of Delport’s introductions intended to offer this ‘synergy and scale’ is Vice Video Everywhere, an ad product that allows clients to buy space on multiple third-party platforms at once including YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Apple News.

This is sold to embattled CMOs as a way to reach mass young audiences on digital platforms without risking brand safety, because their ads will only be served against Vice-owned material.

Notwithstanding this offering, Delport knows there is still work to do to win round clients who have grown weary of measurement and unsavoury placement issues in digital advertising.

On the former, he says “we need to bring a new approach to measurement” and is planning to introduce a new content ROI metric in the coming months. He is working with partners including Nielsen, Comscore, Tubular Labs and other publishers on “the new measurement we want to provide to the market”.

On brand safety, he argues that mechanisms introduced by adtech vendors to allay clients’ concerns over their ad placement are in fact doing more harm than good for publishers.

“Basically, if you write anything talking about migrants or refugees, or any video talking about gay and lesbian people whatsoever, that will be skipped de facto by DSPs because they will consider these keywords unsafe.

“At the same time, the same algorithm won't filter the crap and garbage. We know there's still fake news and rubbish that has been produced by bots or trolls [whitelisted] while journalistic content produced to the highest ethical standard is blocked de facto because of its 'unsafe'. This is totally crazy.

"I really want to make it clear that this is wrong, and that the industry should look at it and should fix it. This is not filtering – it's censorship.”

Because Vice news and documentaries tackle such sensitive subjects with vigour, Delport acknowledges that clients sometimes need to be "pushed beyond their comfort zone" when partnering with Vice too.

"But this is what brands need. They need to take a stand and be really clear on their purpose. Brands need to be as bold and ambitious as we are."

Of Vice's four revenue streams, Delport says Virtue – which only launched in January 2017 – is already in the top two. Its bold and ambitious march on ad land is just getting started.

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