DNA From Xaxis, But A Different Business Model
Xaxis’ influence on [m]Platform is palpable. In addition to Gleason, Xaxis alumni will fill three key roles. Nicolle Pangis will join as global COO, Bob Hammond will come on as its CTO and Lucas Mentasti will become its LatAm president. And, of course, GroupM's North America CEO, Brian Lesser, previously founded and ran Xaxis as CEO.
Xaxis’ tech development staff will also move into the new unit, and will have GroupM [m]Platform titles. Picture a Venn diagram with [m]Platform and GroupM, and Xaxis is the overlap.
Naturally, [m]Platform incorporates some of Xaxis’ tech. Those technologies – like DMP Turbine and first-party data capture mechanism Xanadu – will be available to clients that don’t buy media through Xaxis.
But the new structure is not simply a case of remaking GroupM in Xaxis' image. For one thing, [m]Platform, described by GroupM as a tech/data shop, doesn’t adopt Xaxis’ business model or its use of undisclosed media costs.
“It’s not a profit center,” Gleason said. “[m]Platform is a tool set.” The language describing [m]Platform’s role in GroupM, however, is similar to that describing Xaxis: GroupM agencies will have access to its tech, but won’t be compelled to use it.
“If they feel we provide the best tools in the marketplace, they should use us,” Gleason said. “If there are better tools than what we have to offer, they should offer that to their clients.”
And [m]Platform's C-suite is not just a landing pad for Xaxis talent. MediaCom North America CEO Phil Cowdell will be North American president. (Last week’s announcement that he’d head up GroupM’s Platform Services division was just a placeholder.) And Connect CTO Jack Smith will be [m]Platform’s chief strategy officer.
Indeed, [m]Platform is way bigger than Xaxis. It will have 5,000 employees and will completely absorb GroupM Connect and GroupM Data and Analytics. (GroupM Connect was set up last year to house all real-time ad buying across search, mobile social and programmatic. Its sudden assimilation may reflect the pressure holding companies face to continually respond to data-driven changes in advertising.)
Xaxis will live on, continuing to develop technology and buy and sell media. Several of its technology and business components – like AI decision engine Copilot, native ad platform plista, mobile performance marketing platform Light Reaction and ecom media seller Triad – will remain squarely under the Xaxis umbrella.
WPP hasn’t announced Xaxis succession plans yet, though it won’t replace Gleason’s global CEO role. It will instead appoint a global president reporting to Gleason.
While Gleason is banking on [m]Platform being live by early next year, the development road map will continue. His team is still working on a universal dashboard tool designed to provide that 360-degree view and an insights tool that can plan campaigns from search to linear TV.
By the end of 2017, he hopes to have rolled out [m]Platform globally to all the markets where GroupM participates, and across all its media-buying agencies.
“[m]Platform is a significant move because we’re empowering the agency with the best of everything,” Gleason said. “You take our data science team, engineers, the technologies we’re building and [m]ID at the scale we can provide, and you’ll have a huge impact."