New WPP Unit Shifts Focus From Madison To 10th Avenue, Combines Outdoor, Mobile, Content, Performance

Rupert Day

As far as streets go, New York City's Madison Avenue may still symbolize the ad industry as a whole, but the next generation of advertising and media services have moved, well, off the beaten path, from Varick Street to Hudson Street in Lower Manhattan, and to the outer borough of Brooklyn. Now, WPP is staking a claim on Manhattan's West Side with a new unit dubbed Tenth Avenue, a new organization that rolls up an array of media and marketing services shops that deal largely with, you guessed it, real estate.

Tenth Avenue, which is actually headquartered in Midtown on 40th Street, where WPP's Kinetic Worldwide out-of-home and experiential media unit is based. Kinetic, as you might have imagined, is one of the core elements of Tenth Avenue. It's also the largest out-of-home media planning and buying agency in the world, and is in fierce competition with the industry's second largest, Aegis Media's Posterscope. By combining Kinetic with some other important geographic-based media services - WPP's mobile marketing and media shop Joule (think geo location marketing), custom content publisher Spafax (think in-flight magazines), and online performance marketing agency Quisma (cyberspace) - into one new entity integrating $4.4 billion to start.



Interestingly, Tenth Avenue is not part of WPP's media services holding company unit, GroupM, but is a new holding company within the holding company reporting to Rupert Day, the former COO and one of the founders of GroupM. Proving that Tenth Avenue is more of a symbolic geographic reference, Day, it's CEO, is based in London, but spends a great deal of his time in the U.S.

The naming of the unit was a bit fanciful he says, but is not nearly as cryptic as the meaning behind Bruce Springsteen's "Tenth Avenue Freezeout," a song that describes the formation of his E Street Band, but which few people actually understand the Tenth Avenue reference to.

Day says the name was derived when the holding company's senior management team were having dinner in a restaurant on 10th Avenue in Manhattan, and were trying to come up with a name. He says they all through names into a champagne ice bucket, and drew out Tenth Avenue. Day says the name worked on several reasons. In addition to being fanciful, it had connotations of Manhattan real estate and geography that reinforced the meaning of the marketing services units it was built from.

The logic behind Tenth Avenue is similar to the way other big agency holding companies have rolled out disparate arrays of related, but somewhat lower profile marketing services in a way that gives them more synergy and impetus, and also greater digital and interactive connotation. Interpublic's Mediabrands did something similar when it combined all its "hyper-local" media units - newspaper rep NSA, Yellow Pages shop Wahlstrom, etc. - into a new, state-of-the-art hyper-local marketing agency Geomentum.

"Our logic was to focus on areas that other mainstream agencies weren't focusing on," Day explains noting that while all of the Tenth Avenue units are individually strong in their sectors, combining them into a whole creates a unified holding company structure focused on "reaching audiences in places" that are relevant to consumers and to marketers' brands.

Day calls the approach "tailored audiences," and that by combining agencies that can target audiences with messages and content in places where they might have a particular disposition toward a client's brand gives them the ability to communicate on a continuous basis.

As an example of this "follow the consumer" logic, Day cites a business traveler as an example, noting, "We are able to target and reach them when they are traveling to the airport for a business trip, while they're in the airport, when they are in-flight, while they are staying in a hotel abroad, and on their return trip home."

He says the tailored audience approach can be "multi device and multi environment" and can utilize the kind of "transmedia" story-telling that is au current on Madison Avenue these days.

Another reason for differentiating Tenth Avenue from GroupM is that a significant portion of its client base is other agencies, including "creative" or "full-service agencies" from other agency holding companies, such as Interpublic and Publicis, as well as independent agencies not currently aligned with a major holding company.

While Tenth Avenue also works directly with brand marketers, Day says other agencies are prone to outsource some of their work, because Tenth Avenue is expert in some areas those agencies may not focus on, and because Tenth Avenue can "white label" it for them, meaning the projects and services will appear as if they were created and managed from Tenth Avenue's agency clients.

That said, Day says he plans to make some noise around Tenth Avenue to give it more presence on Madison Avenue as a neighborhood other agencies and clients should keep in mind.

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