WPP, LiveWorld Hook Up For Social Networks

Continuing to bolster its interactive capabilities, advertising holding company WPP has struck a deal with LiveWorld to introduce social network functionality into selected WPP ad campaigns. The deal comes shortly after WPP's recent acquisitions of word-of-mouth marketing firm M80 and Web design and analytics firm Zaaz.

LiveWorld will lend its online community expertise to Web campaigns for WPP clients, focusing on key areas including online infrastructure, interface design, and content policing. LiveWorld already provided these services for Dove's "Campaign For Real Beauty" at the behest of WPP property Ogilvy Interactive. Ownership of the new partnership, called WPP-LiveWorld, will be divided equally between the two stakeholders.

With WPP slated to buy just $2 million worth of LiveWorld stock, the small amount of actual corporate ownership being transferred resembles IPG's recent deal with online college social network Facebook. IPG bought just one-half of one percent of Facebook stock in exchange for access to consumer data and promises of substantial ad spend on the site.

However, the deals differ in their strategic goals: while IPG hopes to leverage the Facebook site as an ad platform, WPP is asking LiveWorld to build social networking into specific ad campaigns.

The WPP deal seems to make sense in the context of the company's other recent purchases, said Dave Neupert, CEO of word-of-mouth firm M80. "LiveWorld provides tools to do branding solutions, and I could see us being very compatible. We use very similar technical subcontractors all the time, and their technology would fit nicely into our arena."

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