The key to success in the agency business is winning pitches, no matter how big or small you are.
And when you’re the size of Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP the bigger pitches – the only ones the company is really interested in – are few and far between. WPP has a formidable record in recent years of winning these things; sometimes leaving it to individual agencies but, more often, fielding a team from across its various agencies and disciplines. In many cases this entails the formation of a bespoke agency focussed on just one client – WPP’s JWT-based Team Detroit for Ford being the trusted template.
Increasingly pitches depend on analysis rather than eye-catching creative work. WPP has made much of its data assets recently, with some new formation or unit appearing almost on a weekly basis. But the bedrock of it all seems to be something called the Data Alliance, which is built on WPP’s Kantar research operation.
TDA has just struck a deal with digital research giant eMarketer which gives it privileged access to eMarketer’s data/insights.
Nick Nyhan, CDO of Kantar and TDA CEO (sorry about the initials) says: “WPP is always looking to be smarter with data. This partnership enables all of WPP to quickly access eMarketer’s unique platform of digital data research, analysis, and visualizations across many regions of the world.”
eMarketer president Lisa Church says: “We have invested tremendously in developing the most reliable and relevant information available today about marketing in the digital world. It is gratifying to see such incredible demand for insights from so many diverse companies within WPP. This partnership goes a long way to deliver access to those insights directly to the thousands of employees who need it.”
So that’s all fine and good, WPP-ers are going to be better informed and eMarketer has a guaranteed outlet for its product (although other agency groups may not be so happy).
But the killer quote comes from JWT global director of brand intelligence Mark Truss (clearly a coming man to appear in this company). He says: “Having aggregated and summarized data that can help inform, validate, or refute our thinking is a huge value. eMarketer is one of our go-to sources for this kind of information, and while it’s very useful for existing business, it’s especially useful for new business.”
Ahah – so eMarketer’s data is a killer app for pitches! And indeed it may be, given clients’ current obsession with all things digital.
WPP CEO Sorrell has taken a bit of stick in recent years over his Kantar research operation; by and large it doesn’t deliver the margins other parts of the business – like good old-fashioned advertising or media buying – do. Kantar itself is based on Anglo/French research company TNS Sofres which WPP bought for a decidedly toppy £1.1bn just before the financial crisis struck.
But Sorrell would say that this huge investment in research (or data, as we’re now supposed to call it) gives all the bits of the empire a crucial advantage over their marcoms rivals and even allows WPP to look the likes of Google in the eye.
Interestingly WPP has also announced the formation of a new ‘horizontal’ (another current Sorrell favourite catch word) grouping of its various PR busineses – most notably Burson-Marsteller and Hill & Knowlton Strategies – called the Government and Public Sector Practice, aimed at helping governments and others communicate their policies better.
And this is to be headed by Michelle Harrison, not a PR person but the CEO of TNS BMRB, another WPP research business (back in the day BMRB was called the British Market Research Bureau and owned by JWT). More evidence that the company sees data-cum-analysis as the key to landing whopper accounts.