WPP launches new global data consultancy

WPP Choreograph will pull data and technology resources from across the holding company to create privacy-focused solutions for clients.

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Publicis has Epsilon. IPG has Acxiom. Omnicom has Omni. Dentsu has Merkle.

Now WPP is joining the party with its own data and technology solution for the cookieless future: WPP Choreograph.

The group, announced Tuesday, pulls together 700 data and technology experts from across WPP’s global network, including 450 people from GroupM’s data and technology organization and Wunderman Thompson’s data management team. The division will be led by GroupM North America CEO Kirk McDonald. 

WPP Choreograph will help clients create and manage their first-party data assets and activate them for media buys as third-party trackers phase out. Accessible to clients through WPP's agencies, Choreograph will offer data and identity management consulting, audience and insight-driven media planning, AI-driven media optimization and predictive analytics. The group will also help clients with strategies around premium media supply, ad verification and data ethics.  

“We have a host of products and tools across WPP that we need to simplify, rationalize and make investments in, in order to help clients own their first-party data,” said GroupM global CEO Christian Juhl. 

Agencies can access Choreograph tools through WPP Open, a common platform housing the applications, best practices and frameworks across the holding company. The group is “another important step in our simplification strategy,” WPP CEO Mark Read said in a statement.

“We are at an inflection point in the industry, where brands have an imperative to leverage their own first-party data to make advertising more relevant, effective and personal while fully respecting consumer privacy,” he said. “We must also use data to gain insights, shape our creative work and measure results – and this requires a holistic approach that this integrated offering brings by enabling data to flow across client, agency and media owners.”

WPP will continue to build out Choreograph through acquisitions and partnerships, and has “almost unlimited investment budget to do what we need to do for clients,” Juhl said. The group will also look to hire talent from data and technology organizations, as opposed to agencies. 

Rent vs. buy

While Choreograph is trying to achieve many of the same goals as other holding companies, WPP is taking a more agnostic approach, Juhl explained.  

“Philosophically, it’s about helping the client with their data,” he said. “We just don't see a world where we're going to own data in a material way. We need to help clients earn and manage their own data and then be the best at moving it into different media environments.”

This approach helped WPP clinch Walgreens Boots Alliance’s $600 million account late last year, beating out other holding companies which have “spent billions of dollars buying data assets that clearly have some challenges in a privacy-compliant future,” Juhl added. 

“When you spend billions, you have to recoup your investment,” he said. “They are telling clients: ‘Give us your data, we'll put it into our systems and make it better for you.’ That's a strategy we don't think has a strong future.”  

Instead, systems and guidance versus an outsourced ownership is “a cornerstone of our approach,” he said. 

“I feel like our competitors have boxed themselves into a bit of a conflict,” he added. “They have companies they bought and have to support. Their answer generally is more of that. We represent choice, letting [clients] work in their own systems.”

WPP’s data journey

Choreograph is not the first iteration of a WPP central data strategy, including data and analytics group mPlatform. But this time around is different, because the holding company is not just trying to get clients and agencies to embrace programmatic platforms.

“Prior efforts were focused on the ongoing digitization of media,” Juhl explained. “This is about data- and tech-informed marketing.”

As online advertising evolves to support consumer privacy, GroupM’s investment strategies are also likely to shift. Inevitably, more investment will be pushed into walled gardens such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, which can still offer the kind of attribution and targeting marketers are used to across their scaled audiences. 

“Those that can invest in big data infrastructure, make audience targeting available and lead the way in a privacy-compliant world will benefit,” Juhl said. “We’re seeing Google and Facebook make massive steps toward that.” 

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