July 14, 2023 | By Olivia Morley
In a recent sit-down with Adweek, OMG group and agency leadership discussed how our Agency as a Platform model is providing OMD, PHD and Hearts & Science with the large scale capabilities they need to help their clients drive growth in an increasingly complex marketplace, enabling customized service solutions aligned to individual client need, and making the new business process more efficient and effective. In this condensed version of Adweek’s July 14 story, AaaP is explored from the group perspective. Stay tuned for the follow-up installment, in which our agency CEOs will explain how AaaP has turbo-charged their offers and operations.
Omnicom Media Group (OMG), the Omnicom subsidiary that oversees the holding company’s media agencies OMD, PHD and Hearts & Science, is the latest example of how media agencies are shapeshifting.
In recent years, OMG leadership implemented a series of organizational changes that made it easier for the group to offer more to its clients. It rolled out centers of excellence that support each of its agencies, and pulled on Annalect’s engineering prowess to build its proprietary Omni technology—what agency representatives refer to as an “operating system.”
OMG’s most recent strategic change underscores the group level’s role in pitching and crafting custom team models for its clients. New business representatives used to sit within all three OMG media agencies, and now those employees are doing business at the group level. OMG manages new business on behalf of the three agencies, making it easier for the group to figure out which agencies, or which combination of agencies, should pitch which clients. If all goes to plan, the change should also make RFI outreach easier for clients and pitch consultants to manage.
This change is part of a larger strategic shift. OMG’s leaders told Adweek it is not just a media agency, nor is it necessarily a group of media agencies. Instead, they’d like the industry to recognize OMG as a platform. They even call their new strategy an agency as a platform (AaaP) approach.
Funneling new business through the group level gets OMG one step closer to that goal, assuming the change makes it easier for clients to tap into all three agencies’ resources.
The backdrop: Media agencies must offer more
“Clients say, ‘We want the best of what you have to offer across the group.’ Typically, that is the talent, that is technology, that is the scale,” said Florian Adamski, CEO of OMG Worldwide.
Agencies have been crafting bespoke teams for clients for a long time now, and OMG’s been making structural changes to facilitate custom account models for roughly half a decade. What makes OMG’s most recent move significant is it effectively formalizes that process. Flexible account models are no longer the exception but the rule.
“The days of individual media agencies developing and providing the strategy, execution, technology and data services required to manage paid media for enterprise advertisers are waning. They’re giving way to centralized services for investment, data, technology and innovation,” according to a January 2022 Forrester report.
Forrester subsequently changed its criteria for evaluating media agencies in its Wave reports. It previously evaluated individual agencies, but now scores them at the group level.
“Our business, even more than right now, will increasingly be a platform-based people business,” Adamski told Adweek in November 2021, shortly after he became the group’s leader.
Meanwhile, OMG has been raking in new business. In 2022, the group drove more than $2 billion in net new billings. It was more than any other media group that year, according to COMvergence’s annual New Business Barometer.
The win streak continued during the first three months of this year, with OMG adding more than $600 million in new billings.
Elevating new business and brand
After a 12-month pilot period in the U.S., OMG is now cementing its group-level new business approach and expanding it across its global markets. “We’ve created this growth practice as an engine that drives a consistent and repeatable process,” OMG CMO Sofia Colantropo told Adweek of the change.
The horizontal new business approach helps the group move through RFIs in a speedier fashion, the CMO said. Prior to the change, the group’s siloed new business teams operated at both the global and regional levels.
“There was a lot of duplication happening within the brands, in terms of how we were responding to new business,” Colantropo said.
Now, OMG regards all business development employees as part of one global team. Some individuals still focus on specific regions, but even in those cases, there is an open line of communication with their counterparts that did not exist before. To execute the change, OMG developed a pod-style model. Ilana Casser, former head of new business and marketing at Hearts & Science, leads one of three pods in the U.S. The new workflow requires Casser and her counterparts in other pods to surface new business opportunities as they arise and discuss them as a group before deciding which agency or group of agencies should respond to the RFI.
Urging clients to choose their own adventure
There are varying ways these models take shape.
OMG can create bespoke, curated teams sometimes comprised of employees from all three agencies, like it has done for L’Oréal. Other clients, like RBI, request similar group-level resources, but prefer those services be embedded into a specific OMG agency brand.
“If you look at these RFPs today, the most important piece typically is the operating model,” Adamski said. Clients often ask the leader how OMG can help them make sense of what’s become an overwhelming amount of technology systems and partnerships.
What links these OMG account models is their flexibility, or the idea that clients can select whatever service model suits them best.
A consolidated agency offering, OMG leaders said, is one way brand marketers can effectively manage the deluge of modern marketing challenges.
Most marketers could write an exhaustive list of what those challenges encompass.
“What we’re hearing from clients, whether existing or new clients, is there’s a lot of complexity out there,” Adamski said. “The changes are too vast for a single agency brand to cover everything and to be the best in class of every single capability all the time.”
The reality is that marketers’ purviews include things as varied as brand marketing campaign execution, data collection and targeting, commerce and retail media strategy, social media and influencer work, experiential activations and more. In-housing is also becoming more popular, compounding complexity. OMG services more than 60 clients with different in-housing scenarios, according to Adamski. It’s yet another reason OMG leaders are keen to roll out more custom service models.
“The fragmentation is the reason for the integration,” said Adamski.
Debuting Agency as a Platform messaging at Cannes
OMG Worldwide CEO Florian Adamski spoke exclusively with Adweek about the new AaaP offering. Answers have been edited for clarity and style.
Can you give us some insight about conversations you had at Cannes around OMG’s Agency as a Platform approach?
“For the most part, the approach spoke for itself in two compelling ways: First, each day of the festival we announced a new platform capability or partnership—all powered by Omni—that no one agency could deliver on its own (and that no other group has yet to deliver), including the Omni Assist generative AI virtual assistant built by Annalect that will significantly accelerate the timeline between insight and activation; Omni Commerce, the industry’s first connected commerce orchestration solution; and data partnerships with Uber, Albertsons and Criteo.
At the same time, our platformed Growth and Brand Experience team played a critical role in managing and orchestrating the daily programming and livestreamed talk show at The Omnicom Cove, delivering a level of content that would not have been possible for any one single agency marketing team. The way we showed up in Cannes this year really exemplified the end goal of platforming the business development and marketing services, enabling exponential effectiveness, efficiency and impact.”
What did you hear from stakeholders—your clients, partners and consultants?
“My conversations with clients weren’t about the platform approach, per se; they were more focused on what it’s enabling, and how the tools and partnerships we’re launching will help grow their businesses. And that’s exactly the reaction we want—it should all be seamless to them. In other words, we want OMD, PHD and Hearts & Science clients to look at powerful new capabilities like Omni Commerce and Omni Assist, or industry-first partnerships like Uber, as empowering the agencies they work with—scaled group capabilities that enable next-level solutions bespoke to their priorities.
On the other hand, our discussions with partners were all platform-driven, and since initiating our AaaP approach, our top-to-top meetings in Cannes have never been more productive and intentional.
Not surprisingly, consultants were unanimously positive about the new approach to business development since it operationalizes the repeatable parts of the pitch process, making their job easier and allowing more time to spent on the substantive aspects of conducting a review.”
How did the macro trends at the festival validate the Agency as a Platform approach?
“Certainly AI, commerce and measurement were dominant topics, and AaaP enabled us to announce first-mover solutions in all three of these areas—none of which could have been developed outside of the platform model.”