Wondering About Omnicom

By The Cog Blog Archives
Cover image for  article: Wondering About Omnicom

You have to admit it: Omnicom has been on a bit of a run. In fact, not so much a run as a rose-petal-strewn marathon with personal brow-wipers at every check-point along the way. First, the media team pulls Procter and Gamble out of Publicis’ Starcom and into a new bespoke media agency called Hearts and Science, only formed in April of this year. Then the holding company beats the incumbent WPP to the giant AT&T business, a win also credited in large part to the new Hearts and Science who take on the media assignment from MEC, and thus join their sister agency BBDO, AT&T’s creative agency of record. Somewhere along the way, Omnicom’s media agency PHD beat the incumbent WPP’s MediaCom to the Volkswagen business. And now McDonald’s has decided to end a 35-year relationship with Publicis’ Leo Burnett and move the creative piece of the US account into Omnicom, which already handles the media portion (and has done for many years).

What the heck's going on, and what is in the $9 billion magic potion Omnicom seems to have acquired? After all, they’ve managed to take $4 billion out of Publicis and $5 billion out of WPP, neither of whom can be said to be an easy touch. So they must be doing something right.

First off, of course I have no idea. I wasn’t in any of those pitches and even though three out of the four are old clients of mine the times and their priorities have changed beyond all recognition.

But not knowing never stopped any blogger from having an opinion.

There are one or two interesting patterns.

One is a focus on delivering to a need, whatever the structure required to do that. McDonald’s and AT&T have brought creative and media together within the same holding company. The P&G solution was to be found in the formation of a new media agency.

It’s as if the holding company is setting aside the old structures and creating new teams from scratch from within their organization. Omnicom’s opcos seem to have evolved a happy knack of being able to work together across disciplines, whatever the internal pressures that may (or may not) be created.

WPP has for many years offered cross-disciplinary (and cross company) teams but at the same time Sir Martin Sorrell has been famous for his “fight nicely” mantra, with the implication that each unit has to scrap with each other to meet financial goals.

Publicis simply seems less practiced at this agile and flexible way of working.

Omnicom has always seemed, admittedly from afar, to be less prescriptive than its rivals in how it runs its operating units. In an era when the options are so numerous it seems sensible to retain the flexibility to bend and stretch into whichever shape is the most appropriate.

Whether I’m right or wrong, Omnicom seems to have found a winning formula. Will others learn from their losses?

Yes, of course they will.

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