It’s been six months since GroupM launched mPlatform to unify its agencies’ access to data and technology.
Since its inception, the organization has rolled out a data repository containing insights tied to known consumer IDs and now agencies across GroupM and WPP are “building it into the fabric of their networks,” said mPlatform CEO Brian Gleason.
“Each agency has a different center of gravity,” Gleason said. “[MPlatform is building] practices [around] ecommerce, digital operations, search, social and programmatic. Rather than concentrating in that in one place, they live across each agency.”
While the agencies figure out how to use mPlatform’s data to the best advantage of their clients, Gleason focuses on normalizing best practices, training and learning systems across the organization. So far, GroupM has named global leadership, trained 1,000 people and onboarded at least five clients on the platform.
The goal is to have all 31,000 employees across GroupM trained on mPlatform’s tech and methodologies, Gleason said.
He spoke with AdExchanger.
AdExchanger: Now that you’ve rolled out mPlatform, what’s different at GroupM’s agencies?
BRIAN GLEASON: The agencies own the client relationship. Having a centralized resource that doesn’t have access to clients negates the entire purpose of what we’re trying to do.
We have to make sure individuals are up to speed with the best practices, most advanced technology, best case studies and have the tools at their disposal to deliver to clients. When they’re solving a problem or seeing something they’ve never seen before, they have a community of 7,000 people to rely on. MPlatform individuals work across the network to make sure their frameworks are the same.
How do clients use mPlatform?
In one country, a large CPG brand had very little data available. They’re leveraging the mCore data set to bring greater insight into the market.
A large auto manufacturer is utilizing mPlatform across EMEA to normalize the data across multiple markets, because data assets from different markets are under different taxonomies.
How is are the agencies’ relationships with mPlatform different from their relationships with Xaxis?
The agencies evaluate Xaxis on the same level they would anyone else in the space, whether it’s Criteo or Quantcast. MPlatform is a foundational layer for the agencies. We have mPlatform employees with Mindshare, Maxus, MediaCom and MEC business cards because they’re part of the agency.
What are some of the biggest surprises now that Xaxis tech is available across GroupM?
The agencies sit on a lot of rich data. When they match that against the mPlatform data set, it’s almost like learning you thought you knew someone.
Let’s say you know someone’s purchase habits. Bump it up against mPlatform and you learn where they’ve gone online, what they’re passionate about and what they’re looking for now. They didn’t have nearly as complete of a picture before. The agencies will have different levels of fluency in the language, but it will be one common understanding.
Which GroupM agency is the most fluent?
Xaxis is by far the most fluent with these tools and they’re able to take forward commitments on data assets. They can do an all-you-can-eat data deal with MasterCard or with Kantar to acquire data.
What piece of legacy Xaxis tech is being used the most across GroupM?
We’ve democratized Turbine. Xaxis has the ability to go out, just as any of the agencies do, and acquire unique data sets to build on that asset.
How have you invested the savings from the MEC-Maxus merger into mPlatform? What’s on the road map?
One area is data ingestion. To open a new market, [we have to create] new data partnerships. When you have data coming in from ad servers, demand-side platforms, clients, campaigns and third parties, it’s like speaking different languages. If Grey is looking at the same data as Mindshare, you have the same view of the client from a creative and media standpoint.
The second is in people. There’s a need for systems integration and data strategy. The third is around education and learning.
How are creative agencies working with mPlatform?
They want to know as much as they can about the consumer because they’re looking to inspire and engage with them. The more you know about an individual, the better your ability to create an emotional contact.
There are pockets [of expertise] within the agencies, like the data strategy team at Grey. We’re enabling them with a different toolset. Their interpretation of the tool is going to be very different than a media agency. But at the center will be the consumer, which is what the brand wants.
Does mPlatform diminish the importance of the agency brand?
I think it strengthens it. It’s important to be associated with a brand and have an identity. We’re trying to modernize the tools agencies have. We have advantages in leveraging best practices, a global recruiting team and a learning system. If you only work with one account, it’s very easy to get isolated.
Is the goal to eventually have all of GroupM employees be part of mPlatform?
The market will continue to evolve and we’re always going to need a group at the forefront, but the people who feel associated with mPlatform will continue to grow as digital and audience planning grow.
GroupM has restructured a lot recently. Why is this necessary? Can you quantify the impact it's had on business?
If an agency doesn’t move with the market, it’s obsolete. We have to evolve and stay ahead of the market, not just to say we’ve changed, but to bring benefit back to the organization and clients.
I think some folks are just changing to change. We need to pivot in a way that’s modular and can fit every client’s needs. Clients are different in the way they want to use agencies.
This interview has been edited.
Correction: This interview previously stated that a GroupM agency may know a consumer's name. GroupM agencies do not have access to PII.