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This article was originally published by MediaPost.

When Omnicom unveiled “Omni,” its homegrown data and information technology hub, last summer, it was touted as a “people-based precision-marketing and insights platform.” Outsiders naturally assumed it was just another in a litany of proprietary tech stacks claiming to do a better job of identifying “people-based” audience targets.

Omni does that, too. But Omni’s real innovation is another kind of people-basis: those who work inside advertising agencies. Some 70,000 of them, to be precise. That’s the workforce of planners, strategists, creatives, media and content people inside Omnicom agencies. The system was built to help them do what they strive to do best: influence other people, including of billions of consumers on behalf of thousands of brand-marketing clients.

The goal, says Jonathan Nelson, CEO of Omnicom Digital, was to create a simply, easy-to-use tool that unlocks the potential of people.

The result was Omni.

Years in development, and still a work in progress, Omni has gone from an initial beta last year to a rolling deployment across Omnicom agency account teams. With a single log-in, they can access all the information — proprietary first-party databases, primary and syndicated research, second- and third-party data from media and content partners — that can be associated with and used to describe the billions of consumers Omnicom campaigns touch every day.

Much of it is open-sourced, and that is on purpose, says Nelson. It is in keeping with Omnicom’s “heterogeneous” approach to technology, data and media.

“We are in the business of driving outcomes for our clients. Connecting media and creative solutions to drive more sales, more downloads, more video views, more accountability is why we exist,” he explains. “And we’re working with partners in an open solution to achieve those goals.”

As a result, much of the information organized inside Omni is accessible in other places. The key to the platform is the way Omnicom people access it — building custom-generated consumer-profile segments to match specific consumer or client needs and expectations, then craft the right messages, ads and content to deliver them.

In its initial phase, Omni is primarily delivering on audience targeting. But Nelson envisions it equally as an idea-generator for Omnicom’s creative teams, providing them with explicit, real-time insights about the kind of content people share and are influenced by.

One module inside Omni enables creatives to identify what online video content people are sharing across the web, based on specific audience groups. Creative groups stuck for an idea can use it as a way of visualizing what types of content target audiences are sharing in real-time.

The goal of the tool is not to replace people by automating processes, or even to direct what people do. It’s just another aid to help generate insights, ideas and inspiration.

“Insights can come from anywhere. They can be applied to media or to customers with messages,” Nelson explains. “One of the key things that I think is different, is that Omni in and of itself is not a solution. It’s that mix of humans and the tools that we think will drive the next generation of this.

“There’s always a person at the heart of it. That’s not to say we can’t and won’t automate. Of course we will automate when appropriate. But this should free up the creatives to do exactly what they’re supposed to do — be creative and come up with great ideas, great messages and great programs that support our clients’ goals.

“Omni is just a steppingstone. At the end of the day, it’s just a tool.”

One of the most interesting ways Omni is automating data and insights has been onboarding the proprietary database, methodology and taxonomy created by Omnicom’s Sparks & Honey unit. It combines technology, data and people to scrape and synthesize the most important emerging culture trends to fuel insights and ideas for campaign executions.

Sparks & Honey’s platform incorporates more than 400,000 mega, macro and micro “signals.” The Omni team is training its database to process them the way the Sparks & Honey analysts would. To date, about 50% to 66% of the method has been automated via Omni, and the goal is to get to 100%.

It’s an example of how Omnicom is leveraging some of its proprietary knowledge to help inform its global teams and their client brand groups via a superior technology and data platform. Nelson emphasizes the goal is to remain “agnostic” and neutral to the sources of information and data accessible via Omni, in order to keep Omnicom a people-centered, open stack that’s not tied into one way of thinking or using technology.

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