This article was originally published by Campaign.
There were times when Omnicom Media Group’s new global CEO Florian Adamski didn’t know whether the agency landscape would be able to adapt to rapid and relentless change.
COVID-19 changed that. “It showed us the ability of some agencies to go at any pace needed to stay relevant to their clients,” he said.
For OMG, which recently promoted global CEO Daryl Simm to COO of Omnicom Group, adaptation continues to look like creating a more connected group underpinned with shared data, technology and talent to service global clients.
It’s a strategy that’s been working for OMG as global clients look to pick and choose the best that holding companies have to offer; the group recently won global media accounts from British Airways, Chanel and Mercedes Benz. And it’s a model built around a vision of creating a better experience for clients and talent.
“My ambition for OMG is to become less of an administrative burden and [more of] a parent company that pulls teams, capabilities, technology, tools and products together to make better decisions faster,” Adamski said. “We’re moving away from adding red tape to becoming more agile and adding best of breed skills, knowledge and technology to the work our agencies are doing.”
Executing on these goals will require buy-in from OMG’s agencies — OMD, PHD and Hearts & Science. George Manas, newly appointed global CEO of OMD Worldwide, is leaning into cross-agency tools including Omni, Omnicom’s data platform and operating system, for media planning and buying, as well as global practices around clean room analytics that help advertisers preserve personalization while they face tighter privacy restrictions.
Manas and Adamski sat down with Campaign US for their first joint interview since taking on their new roles.
Campaign US: What do clients want from a big media agency today beyond scale and buying power?
ADAMSKI: Clients are looking for best-in-class vs. best of agency. They are looking for solutions built around a capability as opposed to an agency. This type of alignment is becoming more important at the holding company level.
Why have agency brands at all then?
ADAMSKI: This business will remain a talent business. If you work for an agency, you want to be clear on what your agency believes in. Talent still identifies with agencies and their distinct cultures. But we need to create and use capabilities across the holding company.
If you look at how OMD is using Omni, it has a bespoke and deliberate interpretation and perspective. PHD has very similar infrastructure at its disposal, but the way it connects the dots and solves for client challenges is different.
How do you differentiate media agencies within this strategy?
GEORGE MANAS: We’ve always had a collaborative model where the agencies are more connected than not, especially across key clients. I’m excited to drive forward modern capabilities that can deliver against how consumers are behaving today. That [requires bringing] a diversity of skill sets into OMD, especially around digital, data and martech.
Holding companies are pitching global clients with bespoke teams more frequently. But I’ve heard that talent doesn’t like working on these teams because they feel disconnected from the agency they joined. How do you balance what talent and clients want?
ADAMSKI: It’s important that teams have a connection to their mothership. You can’t helicopter a CRM expert in and then that person realizes they are stuck on an island. That won’t be the core of what their career path is about. So this individual needs to be connected and receive learning and development, career pathing, knowledge, support and thought leadership from the mothership.
MANAS: Clients want bigger picture transformation support where a variety of specialisms come into play. Our ability to orchestrate that seamlessly and cohesively is the way forward. But [agency brands] are absolutely critical for us to attract and retain an unfair share of the best talent in the marketplace.
OMG still handles billions of dollars in traditional media billings. That mix has been shifting, but is it happening fast enough?
ADAMSKI: We do still handle linear spend on behalf of our clients and I don’t expect that to fully diminish in a short period of time. However, the share of digital and programmatic [is growing]. CTV and retail media, two categories that a few years back were almost irrelevant in client billings, have grown hundreds of thousands of percentage points in the last 18 to 24 months.
We need to be agile, fluid and flexible as it comes to changing investment patterns. A lot of the work George has done in the U.S. and we have replicated in many markets is to create centers of activation, cross-media planning and strategy. You no longer have one expert for TV only, or print only or out of home. We have communities that are able to flex between channels.
Omnicom has invested heavily in clean room technology and placed a lot of bets there for the future of personalized advertising. What’s your strategy?
MANAS: We’re redefining traditional clout by organizing global practices around clean room analytics. These capabilities are key for clients as they navigate privacy [changes]. They also create exciting opportunities to bring data and marketing science talent into our organization and show them they are part of a community where these capabilities are valued, and that we’re investing in them.
You’ll hear more from OMG around commerce and retail media as well. We’ll look to scale some of the work we’ve done in OMD U.S. around martech consultancy, helping clients make better decisions about first-party data and how to best navigate cookie deprecation.
How do you see the promise of personalized advertising changing as we head into a more regulated market?
MANAS: Relevance in advertising has always been important. I don’t think the ambition behind that goes away. We had the foresight to be very strategic with building that capability vs. investing in legacy databases rife with data and privacy challenges.
We enhance and accelerate the investments clients are making in their data and technology strategies. More and more, it’s about how we help them better orchestrate data and put it to work across their media and marketing workflow.
As you look at the media landscape, there’s an ethical conundrum around responsible investment. How are you balancing where consumers are spending time with the push for more privacy, the fight against misinformation, backlash against tech giants and consumer desire for more corporate responsibility?
ADAMSKI: As our clients’ agents, we have to balance two things. We want to make sure we get the biggest bang for their advertising dollar. At the same time, clients expect us to have a point of view, take a stand and help them make sense of the swirl and noise out there.
We use our privileged position of representing the clients we work for to have very grown-up, honest and candid conversations with our partners, including big media publishers and tech platforms. We have defined very specific requirements for them to fulfill around brand safety, equality and fair messaging. We don’t want to make this a political item. We have business partnerships with these platforms and we discuss things one on one with them.
Do I feel we’re making progress with these issues? I think we are. Am I personally satisfied with where we are? No, I am not. We have a number of hot potatoes to be discussed and we will continue to discuss them openly and productively. We never threaten, but we’re also clear that if things don’t change in a sustainable and scaled way, client investments can always find different ways to create ROI.
What’s something you’ve achieved in these conversations?
MANAS: This has been a coalition effort, but we’ve moved Facebook forward on [providing] better filtering for when and where advertising shows up in the NewsFeed, and what the adjacencies look like. That’s not operating at the breadth and depth we’d like, but I don’t think Facebook would have necessarily entertained it without our collective agitation.
ADAMSKI: A lot of clients are stumbling over a lack of clarity and consistency in how certain players are being treated on platforms. It seems some have the privilege to be a bit worse than others. That is something we’ve pushed against. We need clear, consistent rules that apply to everybody, whether he or she is a politician, an organization, a professional or private member of the platform. And those rules need to apply.