Four years after acquiring search and social media specialty shop Reprise Media, Interpublic is executing a plan to transform it into a major global agency network and to build out its service offering around its core expertise of "consumer intent." To oversee the effort, Interpublic has named Bant Breen as worldwide CEO of Reprise Media. Breen, who had been president-worldwide digital communications for Interpublic's Initiative network, has long been one of Interpublic's key digital strategists, and initiated many of Interpublic's biggest digital investments over the past several years, including its equity stake in Facebook, and its 2006 acquisition of Reprise.
Interpublic has already begun the global expansion of Reprise, acquiring Brazil's CUBO, and developing a majority-owned joint venture with India's Interactive Avenues, as part of the effort. Under Breen's helm, Reprise is expected to accelerate both acquisitions and organic growth, as well as the development of new digital marketing services that expand on its search and social media base.
"This is about making Reprise into a major global independent agency network," says Matt Freeman, CEO of Interpublic's Mediabrands' Ventures unit, to whom Breen reports.
Freeman says the goal is to position Reprise as a distinct offering within Mediabrands' portfolio of digital marketing and media services networks, alongside full-service media groups like Initiative and Universal McCann, as well as specialty groups like hyper-local media unit Geomentum, in what he describes as a "constellation approach" to servicing clients.
Clients who are more focused on "consumer intent" marketing strategies leveraging search, social and what Freeman calls "experience shop," or digital marketing services that use platforms such as search and social media to "find the hand-raisers and expedite their path to sale."
It's all part of Mediabrands' portfolio approach to client services, Freeman says, noting that the mix of agencies and services may vary by client based on how they "triangulate" their consumer behavior. For a client like Verizon, he says, the mix might emphasize a combination of Reprise, audience-buying unit Cadreon, and hyper-local agency Geomentum, operating alongside digital design agency R/GA and media shop Universal McCann.
"For another client like Microsoft, the constellation might look very different," Freeman says.
And while search and social media expertise and capabilities will continue to exist within each of Interpublic's agency operations, Freeman says the differentiating element for Reprise will be the "depth of expertise."
He described the strategic as "the opposite of re-integration," and the approach by major agency holding companies to mash-up their service offerings so that each agency network has a balanced, full-service approach. Under the Mediabrands approach, Freeman says, each unit will retain a core expertise that differentiates how they do business.
It will be Breen's job to help develop that point of differentiation for Reprise, even as he expands its global footprint.
The restructuring follows the recent departure of Reprise's founding partners, Peter Hershberg and Joshua Stylman, who have cashed out, and the arrival of some other new faces into the Mediabrands organization, including Tim Hanlon, the long-time digital guru at Publicis, and more recently Catalyst SF, who joined to help Freeman develop new ventures.
"The most amazing part of all this is that we've been able to keep this very broad team together, and we've been able to broaden our talent base," Breen says of Interpublic's ability to incubate new service offerings, which have created new management opportunities for that team. Recently, for example, Interpublic launched a new "Shopper Science" unit to develop shopper-centric marketing and media strategies that focus on retail outlets that is being run by John Ross, the former CMO of Home Depot, who had been running Interpublic's Emerging Media Lab. That created an opportunity for Brian Monahan to take over the lab.