Essence is consolidating its non-advertising consultancy services by forming a standalone business, Essence Consulting, which will operate globally alongside—but separate from—its media agency parent.
The consultancy is currently going through a recruitment process for three key roles: head of Essence Consulting, who will report to Essence EMEA chief executive Tim Irwin and EMEA chief operating officer Ryan Storrar, plus an implementation lead and a customer success manager.
Essence, which was founded in London in 2005 and has made its name as Google's digital media agency, is speaking both to internal and external candidates.
Essence Consulting is currently working with three clients, none of which has a media planning/buying relationship with Essence.
Irwin told Campaign that he is looking to appoint people with business leadership skills, but with a solid grounding in data and privacy expertise.
He noted that in the past 18 months to two years, WPP's Essence has built "capabilities and services within Essence that are frankly removed from the planning and buying of media".
He added: "This is about identifying those tasks not related to the scope of work we offer as a media agency."
While Essence Consulting will initially have a core of three people, the agency said it is in the process of increasing this to double figures as it builds its client base. The business will also pool talent from across GroupM disciplines, such as media technology, data strategy, analytics, product innovation, activation, creative and advertising.
While Irwin would not disclose the names of the businesses Essence Consulting is working with, he said that they were not clients of the main business. It's a reflection of the autonomy with which Essence Consulting will be run. One project is for a company that holds a lot of data but lacks cohesion across its business.
The plan is for Essence Consulting to operate as a standalone business, with "as small an overlap as possible" between its and its parent's remits.
The business will run on the basis of "three key pillars": digital enablement, in particular commerce, privacy and data use; media consultancy, advising on how clients can build in-house media capabilities and conduct audits; and technology solutions and support, practical advice on developing technology stacks and vendor partnerships.
One example of the type of service Essence Consulting offers is a free-to-use ecommerce assessment tool, called the "eCommerce Maturity Framework". This supports businesses seeking to develop digital routes to market by examining their "ecommerce maturity", such as use of media channels and how well a business tracks conversions.
Once the client has used the tool, it is given an overall assessment and scores across nine areas. From that point, Essence will be able to determine and recommend measures for how to improve its strategy.
Another service, called "Get privacy ready", will help businesses navigate data regulations in the post-GDPR era.
As part of the technology and solutions pillar of Essence Consulting, brands will be able to use a "server to server" product that allows brands to send conversion data directly from their server to another, giving them "full-funnel visibility" that ties campaign strategies to business outcomes.
The media pillar will tap into Essence's proprietary tech and automation tools to give clients "actionable analysis across media channels and marketing technology subscriptions, eliminating risk and wastage while increasing the effectiveness of media campaigns".
Irwin said: "After unprecedented digital transformation over the last 12 months, macro industry factors are forcing a shift in the direction of business thinking around being privacy-first and ecommerce ready. We feel now is the right time to offer our data, media and technology expertise as standalone consultative services to partner in new ways with advertisers to accelerate their digital journey."
With more media planning and buying becoming automated and simplified, there is increasing pressure for media agencies to diversify and broaden the scope of their offering, such as advising on how to use first-party data. Essence Consulting is effectively an inversion of what consultancy giants such as Accenture and Deloitte are doing by moving into adland.
Irwin added: "We're excited by the prospect of helping advertisers to answer the big questions about data and technology around business growth and competitive advantage, as well as architecting the project parameters and solutions.
"We're already at the forefront of many market-leading digital solutions, and Essence Consulting gives us a home for this innovation and the opportunity to harness our expertise to offer additional value to existing clients and other advertisers."