WPP bolsters programmatic trading management with The Exchange Labs purchase

Media agency giant extends its DSP capabilities by acquiring the latter's Proteus programmatic advertising platform

WPP’s GroupM division is bolstering its programmatic advertising capabilities by acquiring The Exchange Lab and its proprietary technology, Proteus.

WPP said the eight-year-old business will operate as an agnostic business layer within its Connect offering, and allow the group to extend its multi-platform programmatic approach.

Connect is GroupM’s worldwide digital organisation and unites data, operations and technology across search, programmatic, social, mobile and all other real-time and biddable media. The business unit is supported by 2000 employees across 50 countries.

The Exchange Lab’s Proteus platform enables users to have a view across all programmatic channels and partners by unifying demand-side platforms (DSPs), marketing technologies and exchanges into one management layer.

The platform is integrated with notable global DSPs such as MediaMath, AppNexus and The Trade Desk and used by more than 700 clients across 50 markets including Volkswagen, Virgin Holidays and Glasses Direct. The Exchange Lab has offices in the US, London, Canada and Singapore and 130 staff.

In a statement, WPP said integrating Proteus will allow clients to allocate marketing budgets across any and all programmatic partners including GroupM’s proprietary media properties.

Under the deal, Proteus co-founder and CEO, James Aitken, will step down to pursue external interests, while current executive chairman, Chris Dobson, takes the reins as CEO. Fellow co-founder, Tim Webster, also remains with the group as chief strategy officer, reporting directly to GroupM Global’s worldwide CEO of Connect, Rudiger Wanck. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“The Exchange Lab’s value proposition for an all-in-one solution across all digital media and devices and its commitment to building the absolute best technology to solve complexity for clients aligns precisely with the goals of Connect,” said Rudiger Wanck, CEO, Connect, GroupM Global.

“The impetus behind the creation of Connect is to provide agnostic, real-time media investment management across all technologies, data and inventory. Adding The Exchange Lab’s talent and proprietary technology accelerates our development and directly benefits the clients of GroupM’s agencies.”

Dobson said the GroupM deal presented The Exchange Lab with the opportunity to access better global scale.

“GroupM’s culture will allow us to continue marketplace innovation driven by our entrepreneurial spirit. Together with Connect, we will continue to develop the absolute best real time media technology to reach and engage audiences for brands,” he said.

Last week, WPP’s Australia and New Zealand business agreed to merge with STW Communications Group, creating a combined group with revenues of $1 billion. The deal sees businesses such as MediaCom, GPY&R and MEC merging with those under the STW umbrella.

The transaction is being structured through a $512 million contribution of WPP’s A/NZ businesses into STW, and gives WPP a 61.5 per cent equity interest in the STW group, up from 23.6 per cent.

The deal is subject to shareholder approval and a review by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissions as well as Foreign Investment Review Board.

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