This article was originally published by Adweek.
Omnicom Media Group’s media agencies used to plan vertically by platform, but leaders at the agency specializing in influencer marketing realized that the old way of planning obscured the combined reach of creators who have audiences across many platforms.
With the help of its data and analytics arm, Annalect, the group built a new product—a horizontal planning capability that fixed the problem. Then it deployed the product through its technology platform Omni to all three of its media agencies, OMD, PHD and Hearts & Science.
This new product, and others like it, originate from OMG’s centers of excellence (COEs)—centers established at the group level to expand Omnicom’s media offerings and extend its competitive advantages to each of the holding company’s agency brands.
As more holding companies are establishing single P&L models, organizational structures are constantly in flux. Many holding companies have grouped their media agencies together and are now faced with figuring out how to appropriately support them all from the top down, through structural changes as well as technology and innovation. The COE’s are one way OMG is doing it.
The group has eight COEs—bubbles of specialty knowledge focused on getting ahead on the latest media trends. The rise of influencer marketing led to the COE that produced the new creator planning capability. The group’s other COEs are focused on digital activation, social, SEO, SEM, linear and advanced TV, activation analytics and mar tech. It also has task forces at the center level focused on commerce as well as data products and tools. Although there are some exceptions, the group usually hires external talent to staff its COE rather than pulling employees up from the agency level, underscoring that the COEs are truly separate entities from the agency brands they serve.
Media agencies’ connective tissue
Group-level resources are more common now, but OMG wasn’t always structured in a way that made them work. In 2019, the group changed its organizational design in North America. Before that, there were specialists at the helm of every brand—and at the center level. This created challenges with reporting structures and ownership.
“We provide that connective tissue that didn’t exist before. The collaboration you now see across PHD, OMD and Hearts is impressive,” said Kelly Metz, managing director of advanced TV activation at OMG and leader of the linear and advanced TV COE.
The group eventually adopted a new organizational framework that gave more power to the group level. Now, each agency brand has a practice lead, which connects the COE leads to employees on the ground as well as to the clients.
This connectivity helps COE leaders understand which specialties to invest in.
“The requirements start with the client or some intuition of where the market is going channeled through the brand teams, and then it hits the center and we take those requirements and translate them into capabilities, which we then use to power up the brands,“ said Scott Hagedorn, Omnicom Media Group, North America CEO.
Subject-matter expertise on demand
The centers are more than just innovation labs. They’re also educational resources that agencies can tap into as needed to leverage specialized knowledge. COE leaders are experts in a particular practice, allowing COEs to operate as knowledge banks.
Part of their remit includes creating instructional playbooks and distributing these at the agency level, creating a knowledge transfer process that benefits all agency brands equally.
A key element of Metz’ role is educating agency leads on OMG’s TV offering and the latest trends in that space.
It helps that she is the one developing that capability.
In one instance, the COE worked with Annalect to create a new audience planning capability that enables holistic video planning across linear and digital delivery by combining datasets at the household level. When Nielsen is sampling 10 thousand to one, OMG’s new planning capability is 10 to one, according to Hagedorn. This means that the group is using a much larger dataset when working with household data—it accounts for approximately 12 million homes—in an effort to plan TV buys more accurately.
“I do think we’re at that next generation, that next iteration of ‘what is that core capability of the center and how they can help agencies take that next step?’” said Michael Solomon, U.S. chief operating officer at PHD, adding that PHD initially lacked the depth of expertise to specialize in marketplace insights and third-party cookie deprecation, but leaned on a COE for help. PHD then hired an employee responsible for collaborating with that COE to make sure best practices reach the agency’s employees.
COEs as central product orgs
The centers mirror product organizations. In addition to educating agencies, they work with Annalect to design and deploy new products. Many new products generated from COEs, like the new creator planning capability, become upsells for clients and generate more revenue for OMG.
“Our plan is to scale the service revenues within the brands and within the bespoke client teams that are part of a solution,” said Hagedorn.
Metz and other COE leaders are responsible for managing vendor relationships too. Metz owns the group’s relationship with VideoAmp, for example, and lets those vendors know what they need to build.
Experimenting with new models
With more clients seeking flexible relationships with their agencies and a talent crunch plaguing the industry, OMG will occasionally leverage its COEs to train and deploy talent with specialized skill sets to its agencies.
“We have flex talent that come in and counsel and advise, and we also have flex talent who are focused on delivering a new capability the client wants to pilot,” said Samantha Levine Archer, OMG’s North America chief transformation officer.
The group is currently recruiting the first class of 20 people for its commerce task force, which it will do on a rolling basis. The new hires will receive training at the center, becoming certified in the agency’s new proprietary Amazon certification program.
“That’s an incubator program, just like how banks bring in their talent and train them and deploy,” added Levine Archer. “We are bringing rigor and excellence to this.”