EssenceMediacom turns one: Conflicts, partnerships and breakthroughs

EssenceMediacom turns one: Conflicts, partnerships and breakthroughs
Rowlinson and Chapman at EssenceMediacom's event

The Media Leader joined 300 other media luminaries on Thursday to hear from WPP’s largest media brand, EssenceMediacom (EM) at Vue West End.

Also present were media partners including ITV, Channel 4, Sky, Yahoo and Digital Cinema Media CEO Karen Stacey, who by all accounts had offered the venue and prompted the idea of a one-year anniversary event with EM CEO Kate Rowlinson by saying it would save her 100 conversations.

EM and sister shop EssenceMediacomX (EMX), together with their northern and Scottish offices, represent over 2,000 employees, making them by far the biggest single “brand” in UK advertising, after Essence and MediaCom were combined a year ago as part of WPP CEO Mark Read’s strategy of creating WPP “super brands”.

It was slightly ironic, then, that this celebration was held on the day of WPP’s interim results, which mentioned a continuation of the super brand strategy but only cited “GroupM” as the media investment brand and failed to mention EM or, indeed, any of its sister (or should that be cousin?) brands Mindshare, Wavemaker et al.

The event started with Rowlinson and Clare Chapman, CEO of EMX, naming the elephant in the room in the first 30 seconds: “Why are we different brands here in the UK and nowhere else in the world? Client conflict.”

This is, of course, a smart move — the handling of conflict in advertising is an age-old problem and no CEO is going to let revenue walk out of the door if they can persuade clients that different teams, different buildings and modern technology solutions to confidentiality are in place.

True partnership

EM’s “media breakthrough” proposition was well-explained by its ever-erudite joint chief strategy officer, Geoff de Burca, and the always entertaining (and intelligent) David Wilding, chief strategy officer at EMX. This proposition goes across both parts of the agency, with a change of accent the only differentiator.

Elsewhere, against a backdrop that proudly proclaimed “A market leader AND a market maker”, Richard Kirk, EM’s other CSO, together with EMX chief transformation officer Sue Unerman, ran through research planning tools that engaged the media owner audience.

It’s a big project undertaken by Unerman that will be backed by a huge amount of resource. The challenge will be for the agencies to work as a true partnership to improve the products going forward. It was an honest and open approach to a problem the whole industry faces: proving the incremental value of advertising as a whole as well as the individual part your organisation plays in it.

The Q&A session, curated by MediaCom stalwart Claudine Collins, now EM chief client officer, was relatively gentle and involved the usual AI conversations, before GroupM CEO (but proudly ex-MediaCom and ex-EM) Josh Krichefski wrapped up the event.

No media owner in the room will want to avoid EM, in whatever guise, this year or next — but its role as the leader in GroupM and even WPP will perhaps be the more interesting watch moving forward.

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