VivaKi's restructure, Thursday, 22 November 2012 08:00AM

How is the newly reconstituted network different, Alasdair Reid wonders

Klues…will remain at VivaKi as a consultant to oversee its transformation

Klues…will remain at VivaKi as a consultant to oversee its transformation

    What it means for...
  • Publicis Groupe agencies

    Initially, at least, this may amount to a rather small earthquake. Publicis sources have been at great pains to emphasise that there will be no arm-twisting involved here. VivaKi will now be offered to creative agencies as a resource that they can plug into. Those agencies won’t be coerced into
    changing their practices or their outlook. If, on the other hand, they are looking to acquire new skills or technologies, they will very clearly be asked to consider what VivaKi has to offer before exploring other possible avenues.

    And, actually, from the perspective of the “founder agencies” (Digitas, Razorfish, Starcom MediaVest Group and ZenithOptimedia), VivaKi may become even less of a structural and formal presence than it has been to date. Each of their chef executives will now report directly to Maurice Lévy, Publicis Groupe’s chairman and chief executive.

    The less formal structure is one of the implications of Klues’ statement about streamlining. VivaKi might now evolve into something even more unlike Group M or Omnicom Media Group than it was before.
  • Rival agency groups

    If VivaKi wants to attract new clients, how exactly does it intend to go about achieving that? Klues says that new business is not a priority at this stage. But, still – he has laid down a marker here. Will VivaKi be seeking to join pitchlists? Will it, in effect, have to begin positioning itself, de facto, as a new digital agency network? Or does it have something more sneaky in mind?

    Either way, the fallout might be rather interesting indeed

Some Publicis Groupe sources were apparently disappointed that a recent announcement about VivaKi’s proposed "transformation" didn’t make more of a splash. Having immersed ourselves in the company’s official statement on the matter, we now think we know why.

This was a dense document of gnomic inscrutability. It’s a lesson in what can be achieved when you get a multilingual committee to devise a communiqué written in pretentious business-school French and then translate it into a stilted form of pidgin English.

For instance, its headline quote from Maurice Lévy, the chairman and chief executive of Publicis Groupe, states that "the achievements of VivaKi have been extremely profitable to our clients". Well… quite.

What we did manage to extract from the Publicis statement is the fact that Jack Klues, VivaKi’s founding chief executive, is to retire at the end of the year – except he isn’t, not really, because he is staying on as a consultant to oversee the creation of a new "strategically focused" VivaKi mark two.

Klues will be succeeded as chief executive by the chief financial officer, Frank Voris; and Rishad Tobaccowala will remain the chief innovation and strategy officer.

The newly reconstituted VivaKi will be more expansive in two subtle yet distinctive ways. VivaKi was launched four years ago as an overarching structure for Publicis Groupe’s digital and media agencies – Digitas, Razorfish, Starcom MediaVest Group and Zenith-Optimedia. Now, its scope will be extended to embrace the group’s creative agencies too. Second, VivaKi will be offering its services to companies outside the group.

1 VivaKi means "life’s energy flow". It was formed as an umbrella structure for the founder shops listed above; yet it differs from rival agency structures such as WPP’s Group M or Omnicom Media Group in that its structural role is less formalised or clearly defined. However, the bosses of the member agency networks did previously report to Klues.

2 They also serve on the VivaKi board. In addition to Klues, Voris and Tobaccowala, this board includes SMG’s worldwide chief executive, Laura Desmond; her counterpart at ZenithOptimedia, Steve King; the chief executive of Razorfish, Bob Lord; the chief talent and transformation officer, Kathy Dyer; and the director of global communications, Cheri Carpenter. Thirteen regional chairpersons report to the board. The UK chairperson is Adrian Sayliss. VivaKi’s UK chief operating officer is Derek Morris.

3 To date, VivaKi has (and will continue to have) two main roles. In some markets, it
acts as a centralised negotiating resource to leverage the media buying power of its constituent agencies. This function was formally established in the UK in 2008 – it’s headed by Chris Locke, the UK trading director of SMG, and Chris Hayward, the head of investment at ZenithOptimedia.

4 Less formally, VivaKi acts as a research and development resource and as a structure for the transfer of best practice across its agencies. Central to this is the VivaKi Nerve Center, which has two main offerings: The Pool, which works with media owners to develop new digital display ad models, and Audience On Demand, the centralised trading desk.

5 Some observers believe (though this is unconfirmed) that the "transformation" signals the group’s determination to develop the AOD as the market’s dominant (perhaps even generic) digital media trading platform.

6 On this side of the Atlantic, the Nerve Center is headed by Marco Bertozzi, its managing director, EMEA.

7 As an adjunct to its R&D role, VivaKi has developed relationships, often extending to formal agreements, with technology companies, platform developers and digital content creators, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft. The goal here is to "create first-mover opportunities, new products and preferred pricing".

8 Last week, Klues told Campaign that the revamp might also result in a "streamlining" of operations. He added: "Internally, we managed to create some VivaKi strictures within Publicis that were not [initially] intended. We want to avoid the notion of a holding company within a holding company."

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