GroupM, the media-buying agency owned by WPP, formed a startup accelerator program that aims to support early-stage ad-tech companies. The AdVentures program will select four U.S.-based startups focused on specific business problems identified by clients, including customer experience, lifetime value modeling and AI-driven dynamic creative, per an announcement.
Jet.com, Church & Dwight and Mike’s Hard Lemonade are among the brands that will participate in the program. They will help GroupM select entrepreneurs who pitch their ideas to a panel of judges and propose a solution to a specific business challenge, AdExchanger reported.
Start-ups accepted into the program will receive mentorship and support from experts at WPP, GroupM and partners providing advice on legal issues, development, branding and governance. The start-ups will have a workspace at GroupM’s headquarters in downtown Manhattan.
While there are signs that the ad-tech industry is consolidating after years of consistent growth, GroupM’s incubator aims to nurture entrepreneurs who have ideas about using technology to improve how marketers create and manage ad campaigns, underscoring how traditional agencies continue to looks for ways to integrate digital into their operations. GroupM and its clients aren’t demanding an equity interest in the companies that are chosen for AdVentures accelerator, to avoid conflicts of interest. The program is more focused on improving the communication among the agency, clients and ad-tech startups, which can be a challenge for a big organization like GroupM, Issah Abdul-Moomin, partner on GroupM’s global corporate development team, told AdExchanger.
WPP and its business units have worked with accelerator programs to help fend off competition from consulting firms like Accenture that are investing in ad technology and services. Accenture this month agreed to buy independent creative agency Droga5, which will become part of its digital marketing services division Accenture Interactive. Meanwhile, WPP's Grey Advertising in December formed an exclusive partnership with Betaworks, a startup incubator that invests in tech companies and helps them bring their products to market. WPP last year brought together Young & Rubicam and VML to form a VMLY&R. The development was followed by the announcement Wunderman Thompson, which merges the legacy J. Walter Thompson agency with the more digitally-minded Wunderman.
The ad-tech industry expanded in the past decade as consumers shifted their media consumption to digital platforms, especially smartphones with more processing power and faster downloads of content. That shift spawned demand for companies that can help brands to analyze massive amounts of consumer data, improve ad targeting, place ads programmatically and manage campaigns on social-media platforms.
Digital media provide unrivaled ad targeting and tracking, but that doesn’t mean the marketplace is completely efficient. Ad fraud, privacy breaches, lack of transparency and extensive violent and harmful content placed next to ads still dog the digital media industry, as Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of CPG giant Procter & Gamble, said in a speech this month.