WPP is unifying its data efforts into a new global data company that is designed to help clients get more out of their first-party data, with an eye towards ethics.
Dubbed Choreograph, it brings together specialist data units of GroupM and Wunderman Thompson into a single company that’s accessible to all WPP clients and companies. This comes as the ad world grapples with a privacy crackdown from the likes of Google and Apple that will impact the way they can collect and apply consumer data.
The new organization will look to help clients realize the value of their first-party data, consult on and implement their data and technology strategies, and advise on privacy-first approaches, all while being respectful of privacy and with consumer permission.
“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. 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,” Mark Read, CEO of WPP said in a statement.
Choreograph will operate as part of GroupM, with Kirk McDonald, GroupM North America CEO, leading the new company. He will oversee a team of more than 700 technologists, product developers and data scientists who work with agency-embedded data and platform technology experts across WPP.
While much of Choreography’s capabilities were available to WPP clients previously, they were done through separate groups that weren’t necessarily working in unison to service clients needs.
“The reality is our clients need a simpler solution,” McDonald says.
The goal of Choreograph isn’t to just guide clients on how they can best utilize and apply data to maintain and grow consumer relationships, but how they can do this in an ethical way, he says. “We should not just use data because we have it. The difference between us and our competitive set is that we believe marketers own their first-party data and relationship with the consumer, and the consumer has given their permission, whether passively or explicitly, to use it. It is up to us to help the clients use that first-party data ethically. It is not just about what you can [do], and have legal permission to do, it needs to be much more thoughtful than that. Customers have so much choice, you are fighting for relevance. You will lose relevance by exploiting your relationship with the consumer.”
McDonald emphasizes with the upcoming demise of the cookie—which stores user data to help advertisers better target and follow consumers around the web—there is an urgency to get this right.
Choreograph will offer four product categories—audience insights and planning; private identity solutions; machine learning optimizers; and growth forecasts through population simulations—along with services including strategy consultancy, custom software development and operations.
As WPP looks to build out the data unit, McDonald says acquisitions could be part of the strategy.
The agency behemoth has taken a different approach to data in the last few years, following the sale of Kantar to Bain Capital in 2019.
“We benefit from not having bought a company that has one particular philosophy to building its own data graph or brokering other data assets or storing data; we’ve built it much more organically,” McDonald says.
Over the past five years, other holding companies have doubled down on their investments in data: Publicis Groupe bought Epsilon in 2019; IPG acquired data firm Acxiom in 2018; and Dentsu bought data-marketing firm Merkle in 2016. Omnicom, meanwhile, has been building its people-based precision-marketing platform, Omni.