AdExchanger: GroupM’s Rob Norman alluded to Essence’s desire to grow. Can you expand on that?
CHRISTIAN JUHL: Geographically, we continue to get client pressure to expand further into APAC, further into EMEA as well as covering Latin America. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure to start supporting local regions of global clients.
How about expansion in terms of technical capabilities?
Essence has three big specialties around creating media, the data science practice, and the creative practice. Within the creative practice, we’ve taken great leaps forward in dynamic creative – API-driven container ads that can surface contextual formats in a variety of formats. That includes digital out-of-home, branded experiences, and display ads.
There’s tremendous scale behind that to have a group living between big idea creative and basic ad creation. Linking those areas together at full scale is a huge opportunity for us.
We have aspirations to be one of the truly digital first, digital native integrated global media networks within GroupM. We’ll need to invest in things like communications planners, media planners and people with a variety of experiences.
GroupM has a lot of data assets. Will that affect what Essence can do?
Essence already pulls terabytes of data every day and does a tremendous amount of data processing on behalf of our clients. We’ll certainly look at what GroupM has available, and there are probably some agreements and areas where we can provide further scale. But I consider us one of the leading agencies in that space already.
Essence obviously has a lot of Google expertise. To what extent will other GroupM agencies be able to tap into that?
The unique qualities that makes our agency what it is will continue to reside with us. As part of GroupM, we’ll lend our expertise where it’s required. Whether it’s our knowledge of GDN or YouTube, or our incredible data science department or the way we think about analytics.
What were the questions or concerns Essence had prior to agreeing to the acquisition?
We wanted to maintain an independent, digital-first culture. We had much more favorable attrition rates than what’s normally seen in the industry. I think that’s because of the people we recruit and how we mentor them. So we wanted someone who can really respect how unique our culture is. And we spent the last couple of years building a very mature global management team. So we wanted someone who’d allow us to operate every single global entity.
There were some real tactical things in terms of benefits, office space and IT packages. Those are all disruptive to day-to-day employees. We want to focus on the work and we don’t want to get bogged down in the minor details.
On the flip side, we were hoping to gain additional scale, which we clearly found. We wanted access to bigger data agreements and partnerships, and access to really great research.
How many other suitors did Essence have?
We talked to a wide variety of parties over the last year.
What was Google’s reaction when it heard you were looking to be acquired?
We’d been talking with Google through this, from the very beginning. Google supports our growth and has been an incredible partner. They continue to be supportive of our overall plans in how we’ll grow with them, lead in the digital marketplace, and use them as a reference case for what can and should be done in the Google environment.