The media industry must ‘look itself in the mirror’ and find its role in the value chain, argues GroupM Connect global CEO Ruud Wanck.
WPP last week capped off an acquisitive year with the news it is buying programmatic company The Exchange Lab, and integrating the business into its GroupM Connect division.
GroupM launched Connect in May this year, replacing GroupM Interaction as the home for acquisitions in the real-time media investment management space – though excluding WPP’s trading desk Xaxis. Its brands include mobile ad measurement company Medialets, digital marketing services provider Greenhouse Group, and now The Exchange Lab.
Speaking to M&M Global, Ruud Wanck, chief executive of GroupM Connect, says the addition of The Exchange Lab and its Proteus programmatic technology will assist with its ambition to bring together a single, comprehensive offering for real-time media.
“Our ambition is to bring together all biddable media and, on a meta-level, connect programmatic and real-time media into a single platform. It was around the launch date [of GroupM Connect] we started having conversations with The Exchange Lab,” says Wanck.
“They weren’t even considering selling, it wasn’t a selling process. It came through strategy discussions and discovery. The reason we started the conversations is they have developed a strong team, with 130 specialists, and a very strong technology. Their offer and technology works extremely well in the programmatic space, so in that sense it ticks a large box,” he adds.
The Exchange Lab’s chief executive and co-founder James Aitken is to leave the firm, with executive chairman Chris Dobson taking over as CEO.
Wanck expresses his pleasure at Dobson’s decision to take on the top job, and believes he is the right man to “push [The Exchange Lab] to the next level” from an “entrepreneurial” brand to a more “intrapreneurial development role”.
Connect operates a two-pillar model, helping GroupM’s agencies to offer clients real-time media solutions, as well as servicing a number of clients directly – primarily those gained via acquisition.
Around 2,000 employees work across its various companies, and Wanck confirmed we can expect further acquisitions in 2016.
“We’re going to see a shake-out and a consolidation going into 2016 and 2017,” said Wanck. “If you look around, there is such an amount of small- to medium-sized initiatives. Everybody is betting on the programmatic and real-time world right now, so the next couple of years will be about consolidation and people trying to find their spot in the value chain again.”
He is forthright about the need for a major “reset” across the industry, with agencies and tech providers needing to refine what they offer clients, and argues the days of technology being viewed primarily as a cost-saver are over.
“If you look at the companies in there, you can see there will be a big reset, and everybody – including ourselves – needs to look themselves in the mirror to work out how we can add value to what clients have got, and what that position needs to look like,” he says.
“Also this premonition that programmatic and automated trading means no human being involved is a false notion. If anything, you see that there are more people and more labour involved, and everybody who works in the industry needs to look at how they can best service their clients.”