GroupM took two major steps toward its digitial future last week. Most notable was the appointment of Brian Lesser, former head of programmatic platform Xaxis, as its new CEO. Earlier in the week, the WPP Group company acquired a majority stake in Essence, one of the largest independent digital media-buying agencies in the world.
Essence, which is based in London, touts a transparent approach to custom planning and buying that’s built to support media buying for Google, its largest client. Its other clients include the Financial Times, HP, Viber and Tesco Mobile. The firm will retain its own brand but collaborate with the other GroupM agencies, Mindshare, MEC, MediaCom and Maxus, executives said.
Campaign talked to Essence CEO Christian Juhl about the future of his company, and what it means for GroupM.
Why was WPP interested in acquiring Essence?
WPP has had a strategic focus on digital growth for some time now. They have continued to invest in data partnerships and R&D to remain above the market. GroupM in particular is playing a pivotal role in the space by taking bold positions on pressing issues like viewability and measurement.
Similarly, Essence has maintained their transparent approach to media buying since inception. This unique point of view that Essence has brought to market will be supported and accelerated by GroupM. GroupM agencies are global leaders in their own right, and WPP is notorious for integrating brands into their group without stripping away their identity.
What advantage does Essence and your technology, Olive, add to the firm’s business when compared to all the current GroupM agencies?
Olive is our in-house technology that was built to serve as our exclusive tool for global campaign management and planning. This groundbreaking tool supports GroupM's mission to be the biggest and best in the industry by investing in proprietary data and technology.
How does Essence’s buying model differ from other GroupM agencies?
Essence has always had a transparent approach to media buying. Unlike other agencies, we don't have a trading-desk model. While GroupM houses Xaxis, a trading platform that buys and sells media on behalf of GroupM clients, Essence will continue solely buying media.
How will this acquisition impact GroupM's expansion into Asia-Pacific?
With over 60 people in Asia across our Singapore and Tokyo offices, the global reach of GroupM will absolutely fuel the growth and expansion of Essence in APAC. This won't just impact the increased support we can provide our global clients on the ground, it will better position us to take on APAC-based businesses, which we're really excited about.
WPP has reportedly been in talks with Essence for two years. What took the deal so long?
Given our rapid growth, there were many companies that expressed interest in Essence. We took our time evaluating our options to make sure whatever move we made was the best for us.
This article first appeared on campaignasia.com.