NEW MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON WPP'S TEMPUS TAKEOVER - WPP faces difficult decisions over Tempus' web operations. What does WPP plan to do now it has Tempus' digital divisions?

It's taking more than a couple of quick meetings and the liberal

use of a rubber stamp for WPP to accommodate its new Tempus

properties.



Understandable, perhaps. But if you believed everything you'd read,

you'd be labouring under the misapprehension that this was

straightforward stuff - the main Tempus media brand, CIA, is merging

with WPP's The Media Edge to create a second world-class media network

for WPP called Media Edge CIA.



The Media Edge people would pick up a couple of decent jobs, but CIA's

superior operational culture would be dominant in relevant markets.

Ditto the Tempus digital properties, most notably Outrider, which would

basically implement a reverse takeover of the relatively weak culture of

The Digital Edge. Other bits of Tempus (such as Added Value) would

retain operational independence within a larger WPP family that already

owns a host of diverse marketing services operations.



It isn't quite working out that way, at least where the digital

properties are concerned. Not so far at least. And it doesn't take a

rocket scientist (or a nethead) to work out that if WPP gets this wrong,

it will lose assets (also known as the talented people) it spent so much

money acquiring in the first place. It has, after all, been talking for

more than a month.



Of course, WPP sources don't exactly agree that there's cause for

concern at this stage. Eric Salama, the chief executive of WPP.com,

cautions against impatience. He states: "There are good capabilities and

people in Outrider and we have a good working relationship with the

people there. We will look to see how best to deal with everything. We

will make the right decision and we will make those decisions as early

as we can."



But the danger is two-fold. First, according to some sources, digital

has been bumped way down the agenda. Discussions have focused (as often

happens post takeover) on who sits exactly where at The Media Edge's

reconstituted top table and how many chairs there will be there. And the

agenda is focused on conventional media.



Second, the merger came at a delicate time for Outrider. Way before the

whole WPP business began, Outrider evolved beyond its early role as a

UK-focused online planning and buying agency. It had not only become the

hub of an evolving international digital network but it was the umbrella

company for a handful of other digital brands, such as the Good

Technology web design business; and Incline, the game development and

digital creative agency; and Planet Interactive.



But before the WPP takeover, Outrider's planning and buying operation

was proving so successful as a grown-up business that moves were already

underway to integrate it into the mainstream CIA media planning and

buying business. Which, of course, are now about to be integrated into

The Media Edge. Could Outrider's core values be lost in the mix?



Absolutely not, Rob Norman, Outrider's chief executive, insists.

"Outrider has a good team and some really good clients and we're now

looking to play on the biggest stage we can," he says. "There is

certainly an opportunity to do that within WPP. It has a network of

assets that we can leverage for our clients. We have a lot of time for

the people at mdigital (a division of MindShare) and we know some of

them very well. I'm sure there will also be things that can come

together at a group level. Our primary concern, after all, is to deliver

at the sharp edge of digital."



The possibility of cross-group co-operation is something that Jed

Glanville, a managing partner in mdigital, also points to. "Nothing is

decided but I don't think it's any secret that the issue is how CIA

works with Media Edge and how the various organisations that are part of

the Tempus-Media Edge group work together. MindShare is the lead media

agency within WPP and mdigital is very much a part of its offer," he

says.



But this also raises another issue. Doesn't WPP have too many digital

brands? WPP has always been a diverse family but in such a young market,

shouldn't it now focus its efforts? A source at a rival agency group

comments: "I don't think Outrider ever really got the credit it deserved

in the past - but now that the WPP deal has gone through, people are

assessing the value of the various bits of Tempus and I think they're

realising what a little gem it is. It's probably down to the vision of

Rob Norman, who realised that while the market remains relatively

fragmented, it makes sense for a digital media specialist to offer

creative. Many clients obviously want a specialist in this area but they

don't want to have to appoint two specialists - digital media and

digital creative. Managing that becomes a nightmare. So Outrider got it

pretty right."



The source adds: "On the other hand, mdigital is really only about

servicing MindShare's existing clients. It's a completely different

culture. But if they structure it properly, the two units can complement

each other effectively. I can't see any reason for the two operations to

think about merging for the foreseeable future."



But at internal meetings, WPP's group chief executive, Sir Martin

Sorrell, is believed to have floated the idea of co-ordinating the whole

portfolio to create an integrated digital offering. Norman, according to

inside sources, would be the man most likely to lead this.



One observer at a rival agency says he hopes WPP won't even contemplate

this sort of a move. The market, he suggests, will always be more

comfortable with a WPP digital offering that is barely the sum of its

individual parts.



The conclusion is that WPP has backed loads of horses in the expectation

that it will find a couple of winners. At some stage this offering will

have to be rationalised.



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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).