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Publicis Agrees to Buy Run, an Ad Tech Firm

Agency holding company Publicis Groupe announced Tuesday it will acquire data-driven digital ad firm Run. The purchase is designed to help Publicis agencies target and track online advertising more effectively, specifically in mobile.

Run’s technology specializes in tying together data collected from multiple mobile-related sources, including internet service providers and cellular carriers. The company has a deal in place with Verizon, for example, through which it can access information about the behavior of some of the telecom company’s subscribers. That information is then used to inform marketers’ ad activities.

“This acquisition will accelerate Publicis Groupe’s digital capabilities in the mobile space. The role of the agency has changed. We are no longer negotiating on traditional currencies. We’re negotiating on data and technologies, ” said Laura Desmond, global CEO of Publicis-owned Starcom MediaVest Group.

“We believe the world is going cookieless, so we want to build out our capabilities there. Facebook is saying that with the launch of Atlas. The idea of thinking about location and behavior as the new cookie is a reality, and we believe that organizing data around people and their behavior is without a doubt what will happen, ” Ms. Desmond added.

Post-acquisition, Run will sit within Starcom MediaVest Group, as opposed to being aligned with its digital ad technology division VivaKi. Run will be available to all agencies in the Publicis Groupe network, however, including ZenithOptimedia, Digitas and Razorfish. Its tech and expertise will also be used to enhance Audience on Demand, the programmatic ad buying operation that already sits within VivaKi.

According to Run CEO Seth Hittman, this structure is designed to get his company’s technology as close as possible to the brands that will be using it.

“We don’t think of this as much about where we’ll be sitting as much as how we can get closer to the brands directly. For us, it’s not about replacing technologies, it’s about connecting the dots, ” Mr. Hittman said.

As far as Run’s revenue model is concerned, Ms. Desmond said she and Publicis will continue to champion being “neutral and transparent” when it comes to buying programmatic or data-informed advertising. In other words, it won’t be operated as a “black box” into which clients have little visibility.

“VivaKi has taken a strong stance — and we think it’s a stance our clients respect and appreciate — of not conducting arbitrage to the benefit of other goals than trying to grow clients’ brands, ” Ms. Desmond said in reference to the practices of some other online advertising firms and agency holding companies, which may purchase ad space and resell it at an inflated cost to their clients.

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