GroupM Consolidates Commercial Data Benchmarking With COMvergence, Ends Partnership With Recma

WPP network looks to highlight transparency efforts

It's a major win for COMvergence.
Sources: GroupM, COMvergence

WPP’s GroupM has consolidated the reporting and analysis of its commercial and business development data with global independent research firm COMvergence in an attempt to be more transparent, something that has been a sore spot for media agencies since the Association of National Advertisers first uncovered nontransparent practices in 2016.

The appointment ends GroupM’s relationship with Recma, which previously was the only global research firm that provided quarterly reports and benchmarks on media agencies’ client billings. Recma still works with the other holding companies.

“Our relationship with COMvergence is exclusive, and we’re not working with Recma anymore,” a GroupM spokesman said in a statement to Adweek. “We’re not subscribing to their reports, nor are we supplying this data to them. This [new partnership] does offer a transparent process, and we will have true benchmarks of the size and scope of our business [as well as our competitors’] in each market and globally.”

Despite the spokesman confirming to Adweek twice that GroupM will no longer have any partnership with Recma, the firm denied this in an email.

“Recma is working and assessing all of the GroupM ‘s media agency networks as well as all the other players (IPG, Omnicom, Publicis, DAN and major independents such as Horizon),” a representative wrote. “It represents over 800 agencies across 72 markets. Research is not limited to subscribers but covers all the players involved with advertisers.”

Sources close to the matter claim that COMvergence is seen as a more accurate source for data because it pulls from credible third parties including Nielsen and WPP’s Kantar. The holding group recently announced plans to sell 80 percent of its stake in the latter company.

“COMvergence has taken an open approach to building its methodology and partnerships for data collection and tabulation, giving us the confidence that when we share data from their benchmark reports to clients and their pitch consultants, it is the most accurate and validated view of the size and scope of our business and competitive set across the globe,” Elizabeth McCune, GroupM global chief growth officer, said in a statement. “Our industry truly needs a focus on accuracy and transparency in this area.”

According to GroupM, COMvergence also tracks information from other research firms, agency performance evaluation companies, financial analysts and industry associations like the World Federation of Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, while conducting in-person meetings and surveys directly with CMOs.

GroupM added that it has employed COMvergence as a data source for more than three years, “each year adding additional markets in a progressive push to consolidate its data reporting with the most accurate resource available.” Terms of the deal include that COMvergence will “ensure the accuracy of its methodologies and reporting with annual third-party auditing by an accredited auditing firm.”

“GroupM has been an extraordinary client partner,” said Olivier Gauthier, COMvergence founder and CEO, in a statement. “COMvergence stands behind the veracity of our data, and we promise annual audits to provide our clients and the marketplace at-large with utmost confidence in our data and analysis.”

Gauthier worked at Recma for 14 years before leaving to form COMvergence in 2016, most recently as director of research and head of advertiser relations.

In short, this is a major win for COMvergence and a potential pitfall for Recma.

Adweek’s Patrick Coffee contributed to this report.

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