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PubliGroupe Aligns Real Media with Offline Sibling

New York-based online ad network and sales firm Real Media is now closer to a traditional-side corporate sibling, Dallas-based Publicitas North America.

Through terms of what the firms described as a strategic partnership, each will sell advertising packages containing elements of the other's area of expertise. As a result, Real Media will offer online advertisers the opportunity to buy into Publicitas' inventory in newspapers and magazines -- and vice versa.

Initially, the two have said they've seen success in selling inventory they jointly represent, including the print and online version of The Financial Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Investors Business Daily and the sports division of Miller Publishing Group (publisher of Tennis and Cruising World magazines).

"This is a tremendous opportunity for advertisers to take advantage of the cross-media synergies of our two companies," said Publicitas North America president Joe Kelly. "Moving forward, this is how precisely defined campaigns will be run, across multiple platforms but from a central creative and accounting source. We expect this to enable far more effective campaigns and impactful branding for our clients, while conversely providing efficiencies that should save them money."

But what does this mean for Real Media? Both Publicitas and Real Media are majority controlled by PubliGroupe, a Switzerland-based, publicly traded ad sales giant with offices in 80 countries worldwide. Earlier this year, PubliGroupe ousted Real Media's former chief executive in favor of its own man, Walter Annasohn, who held a seat on the Web ad firm's board of directors. Incidentally, Annasohn also is the CEO of Publicitas.

Additionally, Mark Walters, advertising director at Real Media's Dallas office, will oversee joint advertising packages as managing director of integrated media -- a title that he'll hold officially at both firms.

Yet despite outward appearances, Real Media says it's still very much an independent operating unit.

"This is not about consolidation within the PubliGroupe family," said vice president of marketing Mark Naples. "We're seeing so many advertisers that want to do these things in a more complementary way. You think of doing a print media buy and getting a value-add of online, but we're getting as many opportunities in the other direction. So we really see these [kinds of ad packages] as whole ... solution."

At any rate, Real Media's not the first interactive advertising play to be brought alongside a traditional agency. This year has seen massive consolidation among online advertising shops and their publicly-traded corporate parents, which are aiming to stem their losses from the deteriorating Web ad industry.

Havas kicked off the consolidation spree in February, absorbing i-shop Circle.com into its Euro RSCG Worldwide ad unit.

In March, Omnicom shifted i-shop Organic closer to BBDO Worldwide in a similar strategic partnership, while announcing a larger restructuring of its interactive agency holdings (including its position in Organic, Razorfish and Agency.com).

Also in March, Grey Global Group rolled Web agency Beyond Interactive into its MediaCom media buying unit. In May, Grey also rolled Elemental Interactive in with public relations agency GCI.

Nevertheless, Real Media describes Tuesday's alignment as a far cry from these reorganizations. Instead, according to executives, the partnership is merely a practical way to leverage two complementary -- yet entirely distinct -- areas of expertise.

"Real Media is committed to providing digital marketing solutions to advertisers," said Silvana Imperiali, who is the firm's executive vice president and chief operating officer of North America and Latin America. "Our strategic alliance with Publicitas is a major step in our ability to bring more advertisers to the Web more effectively."