Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee
A view from Jeremy Lee

Jeremy Lee: Expect more badly named spin-offs as the data race starts

There are two traditions that must be upheld at all costs when a holding company launches a new sub-brand, particularly one that will operate in the digital space.

First, it appears essential to give it a brand name worthy of being made up by one of the more deluded team leaders from The Apprentice. And second, the announcement should ideally be written in the most impenetrable manner, having been signed-off by the dead hand of some corporate PR wonk in New York.

This ensures that any clear explanation of what the company will offer advertisers, or what differentiates it from its rivals, is carefully hidden by terms that look dynamic but are, in fact, bland and meaningless.

While Publicis was the first off the block with the launch of its digital specialist, Vivaki, years ago, this week WPP has launched a global online buying company called Xaxis (see what they did there?). Sadly, it's quite difficult, having now read the press release multiple times, to ascertain Y.

While its name is not quite as laboured as Publicis' earlier offering, which presumably took advantage of its prime-mover position, and (we are told) combines the two words "viva", meaning "life", and "ki", which apparently translates as "energy flow", Xaxis is still pretty hammy.

And, we are informed, Xaxis will house "the world's largest pool of audience profiles in its proprietary database ... reaching more touchpoints than any other solution in the industry". A winner of a Plain English Award, this is not.

At this point, it's easy to think that the smoke and mirrors are there just to obscure the bullshit, but having found someone kind enough to decipher the press release, Xaxis is actually a pretty interesting offering (and is the brainchild of, among others, the rather clever Rob Norman, the chief executive of Group M Interaction).

While other agency groups have partnered with media owners, Group M has taken the view that it wanted to create its own data pool. Xaxis combines several businesses that used to operate separately and that last year executed nearly 4,000 campaigns for more than 400 Group M clients.

The theory is that with its own conglomerated global audience database, Xaxis will be able to target these audiences directly, independent of website or media platform and on a larger scale than previously.

The whole issue of ad exchanges is explored elsewhere in this issue (see page 18), and the launch of Xaxis is an interesting and sophisticated reaction on the demand-side of the equation. For agencies, the competition appears to be moving from who has got the biggest buying clout to who has got the biggest data pool, so expect more badly named companies to launch in this area soon.