Publicis Forms 'Open Source' Ad Network; Partners With AOL, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft

David Kaplan
Wednesday, June 25, 2008; 12:07 PM

Paris-based ad holding company Publicis Groupe has formed an ad network relying on all four of the major ad serving systems run by Microsoft ( NSDQ: MSFT), Google/DoubleClick, Yahoo ( NSDQ: YHOO) and AOL's Platform-A ( NYSE: TWX). While not that unusual, since most agencies work with those systems anyway, Publicis wants to formally identify the relationships it has with these companies and how it plans to tightly coordinate its campaigns across these platforms.

-- New digital hub: VivaKi: The "open source ad network," as Publicis describes it, will work out of its new VivaKi Nerve Center, which is grouping together services from Publicis' interactive shop Digitas, along with its traditional agency units Starcom MediaVest, Denuo and ZenithOptimedia. VivaKi will be headed up by managing partners Jack Klues and David Kenny, both members of Publicis Groupe's Management Board. Starcom MediaVest Group's Chief Digital Officer Curt Hecht will also serve as president of VivaKi.Lots more about the deal after the jump.

-- No "frenemys" or "froes" here: In the announcement, Publicis offers more of a conciliatory assessment of tech companies who have moved into the ad space, as opposed to the increasingly jaundiced view WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell has of Google ( NSDQ: GOOG). Publicis' Kenny, who came over as CEO of Digitas and was named Publicis' chief digital strategy officer last year: " We don't believe that digital media companies are aiming to disintermediate, we believe they are providing the industry with the technology to help us plan and execute campaigns more efficiently." The move also formalizes some of the reorganization moves that has been going on within Publicis' interactive area over the past few months. For example, with Kenny's new role as managing partner of VivaKi, Laura Lang is fully recognized as CEO of Digitas now.

-- Getting to 25 percent digital: When the ad company set up its initial global ad network last year around Digitas, Publicis said its goal was for digital to make up 25 percent of revenues by 2010 (as an immediate result of the $1.3 billion purchase of Digitas in December 2006, 15 percent of Publicis' revs came from digital). It has also promised its clients that audience targeting would be a particular focus in getting to the 25 percent level within the next two years. As for the arrangements Publicis is touting with its four partners, here's how the company plans to satisfy its digital goals:

-- Publicis gets mobile with Yahoo: Publicis' deal with Yahoo not only involves Right Media Exchange, which recently signed a deal with Publicis rival WPP's GroupM, the two will also work on tying together campaigns across the PC and cell phones. Phonevalley, Publicis' mobile marketing agency, claims to be the first global agency to tap into Blueprint, Yahoo's mobile developer platform language. The use of the Yahoo mobile tool is meant to help Publicis scale brand messages globally, and more easily, while lowering costs to marketers who have previously held back from mobile ads. Yahoo's Smart Ads audience targeting program will also be adapted for Publicis' mobile efforts. On the PC side, VivaKi has already signed up for Yahoo's forthcoming targeting platform AMP, which is due out in Q3.More details about the Yahoo arrangement in this release.

-- Reaching across GOOG, MSFT, AOL: The plans Publicis has with Google/DoubleClick, Microsoft and AOL's Platform-A appear to be much more basic. In addition to connecting to the DoubleClick exchange, Publicis will also avail itself of DoubleClick Studio, the company's web design unit. Microsoft will bring the 500 publisher sites it covers via its ad network, DRIVEpm, as well as advertising reach across its own sites including MSN, Windows Live, Microsoft Office Live and Xbox LIVE. Lastly, Platform-A's, which claims to reach 90 percent of the US online market, will also share its services with Publicis. Platform-A has been pursuing a European expansion. The relationship with Publicis, the world's number four ad holding firm, could help AOL with those efforts. Release


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