Merkle are developing their global footprint and in Europe this is being achieved by the amalgamation of a number of strong acquisitions, forming a solution greater than the sum of its parts. This is an emotional time for us all; the Periscopix brand that we have worked so hard to build over many years - with a strong focus on delivery over glamour - is something of which I and the rest of the team are very proud. I also think that transitioning away from the brand is not without its cost. It does however make an incredibly strong statement about the commitment to creating a single entity with data-enriched advertising to its core. Merkle is not a network of agencies, but one entity designed to shepherd our clients through the changing data landscape.
There are plenty of benefits to being a network of agencies, each with their own core competency. We could leverage the force of the Periscopix, DBG and Comet brand equity and focus individually, constructing a wider solution for our clients. As of today the Merkle brand does not yet carry the same degree of weight in Europe as the collective sum of the individual brands. The cross-sell opportunities would still be there, new business would certainly be simpler, and each of the teams would continue to sit within their comfort zones.
The network solution is however not all milk and honey. Internal competition can often lead to a P&L focus rather than a true drive to make a meaningful change - as with everything in life, motive will drive behaviour. My experience of networks is that they develop pockets of talent, with great people doing great work, however often in isolation.
As the market becomes ever more complicated and the amount of available data grows, advertising is becoming more and more like systems integration – Don Draper just stepped into the IT Crowd. When advertising relies on data, the plumbing becomes key; so we need consistency of implementation, depth in talent and a truly integrated approach.
Blending a number of businesses together means addressing a catalogue of challenges. From motives and earn-outs to cultures and locations, all of these issues seem small in perspective when the end game here is to create a solution that can challenge the status quo and meaningfully change the face of advertising. Merkle are making the hard decision - we are all going to experience some challenges as the brands that we have loved for years devolve away. However, I see what will be left as combining a number of elements operating very successfully in isolation and building something extraordinary. A single customer advertising solution end to end, using insights on each customer to present relevant, creative and commercially appropriate advertising to people in real time. Through using this evolving understanding of how customers interact with our clients' brands during the lifetime of their relationship with each client, we (Merkle) can evolve the way we advertise to these individuals and use this data to reach similar users in the most efficient manner.
Making the hard choice is just that, hard, and one that as a collective we are delighted to make, as the opportunity to shape the future of the industry is something that everyone here wants to be a part of.