Over the weekend it was announced that Publicis is buying Epsilon, a leading data and technology company. Is this acquisition to combat’s IPG’s purchase of Axciom? Or is it to better situate themselves against the growing threat to agencies from consultancies? Or maybe it’s a response to client’s in-housing some of the work, particularly media buying, historically done by agencies.
The answer is yes. This acquisition is in response to all three. Publicis passed on the Axciom deal last year. Maybe they didn’t want to be an early mover, but whatever their concerns were then have been dispelled by this new step. Although it is likely that Publicis operates Epsilon as a separate entity and doesn’t try to merge it into an agency. Does that defeat the purpose of linking data/technology to the core business?
I often say advertising today is as much about data and technology as it is about words and pictures. This is one of the reasons I stepped out on my own and built an agency around data and tech. It’s time that others have figured this out. Owning data, especially client first party data, makes you more valuable to a client and less disposable. But the data and tech play should be front and center, not a side business. It needs to be integrated into the process as part of the core service offering otherwise marketers can still work with an outside company to manage it.
Lastly, embracing data and technology needs to happen at the account management level of these agencies. I’ve worked at some of the biggest holding companies and the people who work on client business are typically too busy doing the day-to-day work to add more to their plate. The jury is out, in my opinion, about whether the Publicis/Epsilon or IPG/Axciom deals will be beneficial.
The question now is who’s/what’s next?