Publicis Launches Denuo, Creates Media Anew

Following months of speculation, Paris-based ad giant Publicis Groupe Wednesday unveiled a new digital media unit headed by long-time visionary Rishad Tobaccowala, and it promises to be unlike any agency media practice created before it. The new unit, dubbed Denuo, is derived from a Latin word that means to create something "anew," or "afresh."

In making the announcement, Publicis said the new, standalone business unit is "not based on any pre-existing industry model," and is built around three distinct media services that will operate simultaneously: strategic consulting, inventing media solutions, and investing in promising media ventures and partnerships.

That last component has gotten the most attention to date, as word leaked out in recent months that the corporate-level Publicis unit would include a ventures group headed by former Starcom MediaVest Group emerging media guru Tim Hanlon. Hanlon, in fact, has been quite busy striking deals and alliances with a wide range of new media ventures that have been hard to keep under wraps. One of those deals included a commitment to Brightcove, an Internet TV start-up that also happened to recruit one of Hanlon's SMG counterparts, former MediaVest new media chief Adam Gerber.



MediaDailyNews, meanwhile, has learned that Denuo also is backing a new Internet-based video service that will give online users many of the same capabilities as digital video recorder users, allowing them to search not just for online broadband content, but to access conventional TV programming directly via the Web and to utilize DVR features such as pause, rewind, fast-forward and slow-motion modes.

The new service, dubbed, was created by Joachim Kim, an inventor who launched, Shadow TV, one of the first online TV search engines in the late 1990s. But unlike ShadowTV, which was built on a business-to-business research model, Groundhog.TV is designed to give consumers new levels of control over TV programming distributed via the Internet. In fact, the service has features that enable consumers to edit TV clips and redistribute them over the Internet, creating new possibilities for consumer generated content.

Groundhog.TV was soft launched on Groundhog Day, and so far has relatively little content, but some NBC stations have agreed to provide their entire broadcast news streams via the service. The reference to Groundhog is an allusion to the popular Bill Murray movie "Groundhog Day," in which his character keeps reliving the same day over and over again until he gets it perfect.

Hanlon would not describe the nature of Publicis' relationship with Groundhog.TV, but he described it as one of several "interesting" ventures the new unit is involved in that promise to change the way consumers use media.

While the ventures aspect of Denuo may be most intriguing, its two other units - strategic consulting and invention - promise to be equally as profound for its clients and for the industry at large.

Specifically, the strategic consulting unit will work with media owners, new media companies, tech firms and content creators to help them develop products and applications that will appeal to Publicis clients.

The invention unit, dubbed Catalyst and Activation, will leverage the expertise of Publicis media executives to create new forms of media technology, distribution, and content to help Publicis clients get their brand messages out. Early iterations of this concept can be found in SMG's Play (an advergaming practice) and Reverb (a word-of-mouth consultancy) units.

But the real strength of Denuo is not its new business concepts, but the team it has assembled to execute it. Headed by Tobaccowala and reporting to Jack Klues, chairman of Publicis Groupe Media, the Denuo team includes 15 new media innovators assembled from inside Publicis and recruited from outside. They include Hanlon; Nick Pahade, former president of WPP's Beyond Interactive and managing director of WPP's MediaCom digital units; Tom Tercek, founder of SMG Access; Courtney Jane Acuff, founder of Digits wireless; and Dan Buczaczer founder of word-of-mouth shop Reverb, also join the Denuo team. The partnership also includes Scott Witt, digital group director at MediaVest; and Christian Kugel, who was previously a director at market research company Millward Brown.

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