How Xaxis Is Tilting Toward Transparency

GroupM’s programmatic spearhead is now looking at potential moves into consulting

GroupM's Xaxis was founded in mid-2011. Xaxis
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The concept of an agency trading desk as a central hub within a holding group network, where media buyers can source audiences using ad tech, is a little over a decade old and a term that has fallen out of favor in more recent years.

Voices raising questions around the margins these desks made became increasingly loud towards the middle of this decade, with many ATDs trading media using a model where they could be likened to holding groups’ internal supply-side platforms.

Such dissenting voices brought about transparency conversations, which arguably came to a head with the 2016 ANA transparency report and many holding groups subsequently have had to address how they position such offerings.

Founded in mid-2011, Xaxis was one such unit housed within WPP’s media trading powerhouse GroupM. Its current CEO Nicolas Bidon is now making vocal comparisons between “Xaxis 1.0,” which was an ad network, and its current guise that leans into services. All the while, the entire agency network faces a shake-up under its new leadership.

Bidon speaks openly on how many of these conversations were prompted by calls for transparency and compares the “reset” to how the industry as a whole is being more open with consumers about how they use data to enhance ad targeting.

This has prompted Xaxis to position itself as an “outcomes”-based offering that now gives advertisers a more transparent breakdown of how it arrives at its fees.

This is why Xaxis now offers a blended approach working with (some) clients using a billing model whereby it charges a percentage of its media fee along with its full-service fee.

According to Xaxis, this more flexible model involves driving business results not just clicks, with some advertisers moving away from the ‘fully transparent’ model that has them paying just for working media and sundry tech fees to this outcomes-focused approach.

“Xaxis started as an audience company that was leveraging programmatic and data to help brands reach their audiences online,” he told Adweek.

“But if you look at Xaxis 2.0, it’s really about how do we deliver a better outcome for advertisers leveraging not only audience data but everything else at our disposal?”

Per Bidon this is in keeping with the ‘radical evolution’ model advocated by WPP CEO Mark Read who advocates an approach that makes it easier for clients and brands to tap into the best of what WPP has to offer.

“Clients don’t really care if they are buying from [m]Platform, m/SIX, [fellow GroupM units] or whatever,” he said.

“I think that creates a lot of opportunity for Xaxis around new services like consulting for our clients that want to explore what machine learning can do for them in the years to come or consulting around the in-housing part of [programmatic] activity.”

@ronan_shields Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.