Over the past month, Interpublic Group’s Mediabrands unit made two high-profile moves designed to signal to clients that the media buying “innovations” division was serious about updating the traditional agency structure from the inside. So, following the hiring of agency vet Tim Hanlon as CEO of investment arm Velociter (fka Greenhaus), and the promoting Initative’s global digital communications president Bant Breen to Worldwide CEO of the ad holding company’s search and social media specialist Reprise Media, Mediabrands head Matt Freeman is going to announce some additional promotions both in the U.S. and abroad that will signal a change in the traditionally “siloed” agency culture. I recently spoke with Freeman about his vision for the agency as he nears his one year anniversary at the helm of Mediabrands.
Freeman was chosen by IPG to run its interactive media unit last January. That came two months after Freeman gave up the CEO post at OTCBB-traded kids/mom-focused ad network Betawave, which last week closed up shop.
Since arriving at the company about 10 months ago, Freeman has worked to sharpen the IPG entity’s direction a bit. “Mediabrands ventures represents trading desks like Cadreon and Reprise, and Geomentum. They’re all reflective of the fact that the advertising industry requires much greater specialization across a broader set of services. At the same time, our clients want us to deliver these services seamlessly as a bespoke solution that best suits their particular business.” Here’s a rundown of some of the changes Freeman is embarking on:
New promotions: As much as Mediabrands says it can help its clients market their own business, it is equally important that it tries to get more attention for its own businesses. PR vet Joe Benarroch will assume the role as Chief Marketing Officer for Mediabrands Ventures Worldwide. While Benarroch will continue to oversee Global Corporate Affairs for Mediabrands, this will role will include core responsibility to now incorporate business development.
On top of Benarroch’s promotion, Anand Verma has been named President of Mediabrands Ventures in EMEA, focused on the strategic development and evolution of the Venture businesses in this region. Verma joins Mediabrands from Sapient Nitro Europe, where he was a main member of the Global Platform Leadership.
M&A strategy: Over the past few months, IPG has added to Mediabrands with the acquisition of Cubocc in Brazil and is developing a majority-owned joint-venture with India-based Interactive Avenues. “The ability to create and audience instead of just buying an audience,” Freeman said. “Audience creation is a crucial weapon in the arsenal to create ad effectiveness. Advertisers need to manage their investment across content providers. Brazil’s Cubocc does an incredible job of creating audiences. They create content and apps that people want to use voluntarily and on their own.”
Asked about the deal with Sequoia on a joint venture with Interactive Avenues in India, Reprise India, Freeman mentioned the reason he was hired. “The basic brief I had was scale what have and buy or build what we don’t,” he said. “[The India JV] is an example of scaling an existing brand on a worldwide basis.”
Silos Every agency has been acknowledging the need to break down disciplines among its holdings the past few years. But Freeman insists he’s not just paying the notion lip service. “We believe that silos create structural impediments, which is why we have a single P&L at Mediabrands,” Freeman says. “There’s a matter of combining talent, and then there’s a matter of how to share resources. When you look at each of these separate business units, you come in thinking of a specialist focus, but overlapping that is a generalist mindet that tries to mix the disciplines together. Things like data integration is something that we find might further connect the brands together, or looking at it from marketing support function. Once you start from that point, you establish the notion that these brands have to work together.”