Vivaki prompts mixed response

Vivaki, the umbrella digital unit launched by Publicis last week, has attracted praise for its attempt to simplify the online ad marketplace for clients.

But others have declared its plans a belated attempt to bring the French media network into the digital age.

Vivaki will centralise the way Publicis' subsidiaries such as Starcom MediaVest buy digital campaigns. Already, it has struck deals with Google, Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft to develop a "one-stop shop" to allow its agencies to buy large-scale digital campaigns more easily.

The vision of Publicis Groupe Media chairman Jack Klues, Publicis chief Maurice Levy and Digitas head David Kenny is for Vivaki to pool the knowledge of its various agencies to create a powerful media negotiator to match technology giants Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. At the same time as negotiating with these media owners, Publicis also plans to partner with them through Vivaki's new Audience on Demand Network, a trading exchange that will allow Publicis to buy single campaigns across Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL.

Linda Smith, chief executive of Starcom MediaVest, remains confident that the platform will be "up and running by autumn for a strong 2009" and that the management structure - including the appointment of a UK manager for the division - will be announced "within 60 days".

BT's head of media Stephen Huddleston, a client of Starcom, Zed and MEC, said: "We believe the combining of the ad serving and analytic resources will deliver huge value to BT."

However, some believe the creation of Vivaki is little more than a restructure of Publicis' existing digital activities to even out discrepancies between agencies strong in digital expertise - such as Digitas and Zed - with agencies such as Starcom that, it is claimed, have been slower to embrace digital.

Nigel Gwilliam, head of digital at the IPA, believes that Vivaki's partnership with the likes of Yahoo and Microsoft makes sense, although he questions whether the industry needs another ad trading platform.

"There are so many disparate ways in which advertising is planned and traded online," he says, referring to Google's recent launch of Ad Planner for media agencies. "The difficulty is to understand the number-crunching and research and the type of planning on which they are based."

Paul Frampton, head of digital at Havas-owned agency Media Contacts, said Vivaki's Audience on Demand Network was not yet fully developed and Yahoo's Right Media exchange was the only fully functioning ad platform at present. "Most of the other big players' exchanges will not be fully developed until next year," he added.

What does the Vivaki umbrella stand for?

MARK CREIGHTON, managing director, I-Level

The traditional media sector has a huge problem dealing with the complexity of the digital landscape, where the scale of one's company and clients doesn't really matter. Publicis claims Vivaki will allow it to be a powerful media negotiator with scale. It's just another network claiming to put digital at the heart of its business. It is playing catch-up on a platform it has ignored until now.

BRENDAN CONDON, head of AOL Platform A's global operations

Publishing groups have global networks and now our partners are looking to do the same to centralise their buying. In the past, we needed lots of agencies and media owners, which made buying and measuring the effectiveness of ads very challenging. Vivaki will enable clients to reach global audiences with scale, in a targeted way, across any platform.

NIGEL GWILLIAM, head of digital, IPA

It's a positive move to marry advertising with technology. The most advanced platform within Vivaki appears to be Yahoo's Right Media, but how that will work with Google's DoubleClick and AOL's Platform A is less clear. If Vivaki can apply that with trading partners, then it is a pretty interesting concept.

JACK KLUES, chairman, Publicis Groupe Media

Say you are trying to buy any given target audience, such as pet lovers, for instance. Right now, it isn't that you can't find them. But to find enough of them to generate a sufficiently aggregated reach would require a lot of time and effort, going to multiple exchanges and ad networks. We are saying to MSN, Google, Yahoo and AOL: "Let's put all those people together."

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