That's larger -- in terms of payroll at least -- than WPP Group's Xaxis, heretofore the 800-pound gorilla in the space, which employs 300 and has annual billings of $400 million. Since Omnicom has not disclosed revenue we don't know whether Xaxis or a combined AOD/Accuen is doing more in billings. Also, it should be mentioned the headcount numbers can be fudged to some extent, since trading desks increasingly share resources with their agency partners.
In some respects Accuen is ahead, despite its smaller size. It has, for instance, made more progress than AOD at embedding within agencies -- a key trend in the trading desk arena and an answer to widespread client concerns about undisclosed arbitrage and the lack of transparency. Last month in Cannes, Unkel said, "Everyone is based in an office space I pay for." By contrast Accuen's Jacobs said at the same event, "One hundred percent of our US business is serviced by people who are sitting in-office at the media agency."
The general rule at most trading desks today is, ad operations are centralized and account teams are embedded. It may be that Accuens and AOD's existing account teams remain in place, while ad ops teams find some of their positions are "made redundant."
There are other differences in approaches, and some commonalities. Accuen prides itself on its analytics chops and its DSP agnosticism (AOD was until recently largely dependent on Google's DoubleClick Bid Manager, a strategic error in light of the Facebook Exchange), and both companies boast significant local market flexibility.
According to Jacobs, "We're seeing a tremendous amount of individual countries that have really vibrant technology systems." Both companies say they are strong in Northern Europe -- Accuen in the Netherlands and AOD, no surprise, in France.
Can they combine the best of all these worlds? Time will tell. Meanwhile a key challenge for Jacobs and Unkel/Paul will be to retain talent in the midst of the bureaucratic and political drudgery that accompany any big integration project. As we detailed last week, Publicis has struggled to hold onto CEOs at its key digital agencies. For the best and brightest at both Accuen and AOD, there will be no shortage of offers in the startup world.