VivaKi Looks to Create New Unit

Publicis Groupe’s media division, VivaKi, is doing a soup-to-nuts audit and reevaluation of the company’s global social media assets. It’s also planning a new VivaKi-level unit that will house shared resources and tools to help individual media brands execute optimally in the rapidly evolving earned-media space, the shop has confirmed.

Major deals and relationships with the bigger social media platforms may also be orchestrated from the new unit, according to Rishad Tobaccowala, VivaKi’s chief strategy and innovation officer, who is overseeing the process.

The effort comes as agencies, public relations companies and other specialist firms are competing to help marketers hone their social media strategies.

Tobaccowala said the reassessment is designed, in part, to identify capability gaps and to improve communications among the social media experts at VivaKi’s different operating companies. The goal, he said, is to have it completed by November, in time to implement changes in 2011. (Also included in the rethink is Publicis Groupe’s PR agency, Manning Selvage & Lee).

Tobaccowala noted that VivaKi, comprised of media agency networks Starcom MediaVest Group and Zenith Optimedia, and digital shops Digitas and Razorfish, among other units, has about 100 social media specialists.

“But if you were to ask does it appear like we have a 100-person expert group, the answer is probably not because we have a few people all over the place,” Tobaccowala said. And a key strategic question, he added, is, “How do we get one plus one to equal three?”

Social media activities at the company would continue to be led by individual agencies, Tobaccowala also said, noting it’s critical that such efforts be integrated with broader plans developed for clients.

“It’s hard to de-link social or earned media from paid and owned media,” he said. “It’s all related; one feeds on the other.” (In fact, earned media is usually scaled through paid media.)

Tobaccowala believes group-level steps can be taken to optimize those agency-led social media efforts. For example, certain listening platforms might be reorganized to make it easier for all the VivaKi operating units to access the services. The company is also linking all of its social media experts via an internal network in a bid to improve communications and foster the flow of ideas. “We’re trying to get our social people to be social,” he quipped.

The VivaKi initiative comes as other media holding companies and their agencies are fine-tuning their own social media efforts.

Reprise Media, a unit of IPG’s Mediabrands, for example, is expanding both its geographic footprint and its capabilities. The shop, which started as a U.S.-focused search specialist, is opening a dozen-plus offices overseas this year.

In addition, it will develop a portfolio of social media and experiential services to complement its search offering, a rep confirmed.

Meanwhile, Mediabrands’ two full-service media shops also reorganized their social media efforts this year. Initiative created a unit called PropheSee, and Universal McCann unveiled Rally@UM.

At Omnicom Media Group, OMD developed a social media practice called OMD Word that officially opened its doors at the beginning of the year. It is overseen by Matt Duffy, U.S. director of social platforms. Social media strategy, he said, “is at the tip-top of every marketer’s mind. There’s hardly a conversation that doesn’t include social.” Duffy and his team help clients develop social strategies, work with outside parties (including co-owned entities like search specialist Resolution Media) to implement those strategies and then coordinate with OMD Digital to analyze results.

Meanwhile, GroupM has a plethora of teams and assets within its three main agencies, as well as stand-alone GroupM specialists like M80 and companies within the broader WPP holding company to help it service the social media needs of its clients, said GroupM North American CEO Rob Norman. That includes listening platforms like Zaaz, a unit of Wunderman, and Cymfony, which is housed at Kantar, the research company WPP bought two years ago.