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by Mehrdad Amirkhizi and Juliane Paperlein | July 3 2024

Why Florian Adamski still keeps his own minutes

Florian Adamski is CEO of Omnicom’s media division

It’s a first: never before has the head of a media agency received the HORIZONT Award. Florian Adamski, head of the Omnicom Media Group, is the first manager to achieve this. In the award winner’s interview, he talks about the importance of media and how important it is for bosses to master the operational business.

Congratulations, Mr. Adamski. You are the first media agency manager to win the HORIZONT Award. What does that mean to you?
I feel incredibly honored. First of all on a purely emotional level, regardless of whether I come from a media or creative agency. Above all, I am aware that I was only able to receive this award because other people have repeatedly opened doors for me. I am very grateful for that.

Doesn’t it mean anything to you that you are the first prize winner from the media sector?
I think it’s timely. Media has a completely different status today than it did in the early days of my career, when it was mainly about implementation and purchasing advertising space. Today we are dealing with far-reaching communication strategy issues and sophisticated advice on complex technology and data use. We are experiencing a renaissance of integrated agency models in which media plays a central role. The boundaries are now fluid. An “Agency Man of the Year” from the media sector is proof of this development.

However, there were times when it was said that media agency heads could not be awarded prizes. The business was too opaque.
In my opinion, this discussion has changed radically. Not only the way media agencies work, but also the fee and remuneration models according to which we are paid. When I think back to my early days over 25 years ago, there was a lot of ambivalence. A media agency contract was only a few pages long back then, today it is several hundred. The business has become extremely complex.

We don’t mean complexity, but transparency and business ethics.
There were indeed far-reaching debates in the 1990s and 2000s. In the years that followed, there was a clean-up and, above all, clarification of business practices that had previously perhaps been in a grey area. That is no longer possible today. We are dealing with a generation of managers with a clear commercial and ethical-moral compass.

However, media agencies still live from purchasing and trading – and from the margins that are achieved there.
I cannot confirm that, especially not on an international level. 75 percent of the Omnicom Media Group’s revenues come from consulting-related services. Purchasing only accounts for a small part of our fees. The entire model has been largely changed from a commission to a FTE basis. This means that people are paid per head. Today we have a completely different consulting structure and services that did not exist before. Margins in purchasing and implementation are significantly lower than often speculated. But above all – and this is crucial – they are very transparent for our customers.

In the end, it is not the most sophisticated consulting offer that decides, but the most favorable conditions.
This is an exaggerated perception that is particularly widespread in the German market. Nowhere else is there such a focus on purchasing. In international pitches, we spend most of our time developing the right consulting and organizational models. Of course, prices are also negotiated in a highly competitive manner. But I hardly know of any pitches that are decided solely on the basis of the purchase price.

Was the Volkswagen pitch one of those?
Please understand that I cannot comment on the details of the tender. I will just say this: We have a very healthy partnership with Volkswagen that we have been able to expand over the years – and certainly not just because of the good purchasing conditions.

Why is the conditions looked at so closely in Germany?
Perhaps it has something to do with the German soul’s desire to make things comparable down to the second decimal place. In the Anglo-Saxon world, we talk a lot more about the planned collaboration between agency and client, the operating model, the teams and people involved, and the complex content-related tasks during pitches. You must not lose sight of which agency partner really creates added value and how you can measure this.


The media expert has spent his entire professional life to date at the US advertising holding company Omnicom. He started in 1997 in the media department of BBDO in Düsseldorf, initially believing that it was a journalistic training course. After that, his career took off: first as managing director at OMD, later promoted to local country manager of the Omnicom Media Group, then global boss of OMD. Today, Adamski, who turned 47 last Saturday, is the global CEO of Omnicom’s media division.

Aren’t the content offerings of the various agencies pretty much interchangeable these days?
Anyone who says that hasn’t looked sufficiently into the respective offerings. Of course, all agencies have technology platforms, of course they all work with data and of course they all have central media purchasing. Nevertheless, there are big differences in services, structures and of course in employees. Media is still underestimated in its complexity.

Speaking of differences: what contribution does Florian Adamski make?
I represent a new generation of agency leaders who act in an extremely practical way. Coming from an advanced market, I place great value on craftsmanship, detailed work and knowledge of the local needs of customers – combined with the ability to develop global solutions for greater efficiency and consistency. This is a different self-image than managers who have never developed a media plan and concentrate primarily on representation.

How much can you live up to this self-image as head of Omnicom’s media division?
The core problem of many holding companies is that they are seen as anonymous administrative units that have nothing to do with the operational business. This model no longer works in times when customers want access to the entire spectrum of a group. Modern holding managers are knee-deep in the operational business. I invest at least 80 percent of my working time in solutions for our customers.

So you didn’t have to change your working style in the holding role?
If you ask my wife, she would say that Flo still has the same working style. I try to understand things in detail and go into depth – whether as a trainee, agency, or holding manager. There were times when I was frustrated that I had to report to managers who didn’t have practical experience and weren’t interested in the details of the business. I have retained the attention to detail and the desire to really understand things to this day.

Do you tend to micromanage?
No, that has nothing to do with it. But I am firmly convinced that you have to understand the operational business precisely, especially at the top level. Then you can talk to customers and employees in a completely different way. If they see that you ask questions with passion and expertise, a better relationship is built. I sit in a lot of operational meetings, take minutes, write presentations. I come from the engine room. It encourages people when they see that one of them got into this role because they do things with passion and commitment.

Have there been things on the business level that you have changed?
The key terms are data, technology, workflow. In order to ideally link these areas, we established the Omni platform worldwide under my leadership. We decided not to make a major acquisition for this, but rather to build it ourselves.

I believe in building rather than buying. Things that you build from within usually take a little longer, but are better received. When you buy such solutions from outside, there are always integration difficulties and the risk of silo structures. I come from a local market and know how it feels when someone from headquarters tells you what to do or use, even if it has zero relevance for your market and your customers. That just slows you down and wastes resources. But

Omnicom has made a very big deal with Flywheel.
It is an acquisition of the entire holding company, not the media division. But we are the partner with the most intensive exchange. Realistically speaking, it would not have been possible to build this offering ourselves. Flywheel offers services that we do not have at this scale, for example in the areas of commerce analytics, retail media and software.

Retail media is still the next big thing, right?
Today, every dollar has to do both: build brands and increase sales. That is another reason why retail media is booming. We will see growth rates of between 20 and 30 percent here in the next four to five years. Flywheel is a smart acquisition because it brings both worlds together. Up until now, Omnicom was primarily a brand and communications expert, but now the group is also a sales specialist.


“There are only a few agency managers from Germany who have made the leap to the top of an international network. But for Florian Adamski, this was just a stopover. As global CEO of the media division of the US advertising holding company Omnicom, he is responsible for all of the group’s media activities. He is also a key contact for the group’s customers. Adamski is considered a modern manager who has made a valuable contribution to the media industry beyond the boundaries of his own company.”

There are numerous individual brands under the umbrella of your group. Why do you still need them?
It’s about intensifying cooperation, also with appropriate incentive systems. We now serve many customers in a flexible model with several agency brands at the same time. The most important criterion is always the success of the customer. Everything is built around them, not our own structures. Many service providers still make the mistake of focusing too much on themselves and not on the person who pays them.

That doesn’t exactly sound like a plea for several agency brands.
Yes and no. Customers are looking for the best possible solution from the overall range of a group. But I still strongly believe in a model with differentiated agency brands. They convey orientation, home and values. Under my leadership, the brands will not disappear. The bigger a construct becomes, the more anonymous it also becomes. We need smaller operational units with which employees can identify. OMD and PHD were just named number 1 and 2 of the global networks at the Cannes Lions – this creates loyalty on the part of customers and employees.

And where is the media business heading overall?
The trend is towards more and more specialization, technology, data and a fusion of media, content and CRM. In ten years, there will no longer be any media agencies in their current form.