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WPP invests $200m in a new data ‘centre of excellence’

WPP is getting its data act together to create a new more centralised offering that will combine the capabilities of GroupM and Wunderman Thompson.

Data resources are currently scattered throughout WPP, mostly in its media agencies. The ideas is to align them in one place, and possibly add on some acquisitions in disciplines like artificial intelligence and analytics.

A WPP spokesperson said: “We are investing in a scaled offering that will help clients manage, use and integrate first-party data with other data, in particular in relation to their media activity. This new offering will bring together media, data and identity solutions, products and consultancy from GroupM and Wunderman Thompson, and will act as a centre of excellence supporting the data and technology capabilities across WPP and our agencies.”

WPP’s decision to focus more strategically on data is overdue. Rival holding companies are already doing this – Publicis bought Epsilon in 2019, Interpublic Group acquired Acxiom in 2018, Dentsu bought Merkle in 2016, and Omnicom has been building its Omni platform for a number of years.

Data resources are becoming more important for holding companies, especially given the pivotal role that is opening up for them as a result of the major changes planned by Google (restricting cookie use) and Apple (putting up consent barriers in its apps).

The general move towards tighter privacy regulations comes as internet use continues to expand, boosted by the popularity of streaming and the spread of 5G. With fewer programmatic options, advertisers will need to invest more in data and its uses if they want to reach the right people.

More details will follow, but it is thought that GroupM’s North American CEO, Kirk McDonald, who joined from AT&T last year, will oversee the new data group initially.

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