Magazine article ADWEEK

Omd: The Agency Clawed Its Way Back to the Top by Making 'Better Decisions, Faster'

Magazine article ADWEEK

Omd: The Agency Clawed Its Way Back to the Top by Making 'Better Decisions, Faster'

Article excerpt

PlayStation. Walgreens. Lowe's. Carlsberg. Coach. Sony. Groupe PSA.

From 2016 through late 2017, several of OMD's most valuable accounts fell like dominos as the industry-wide string of big-budget reviews continued apace. The Omnicom Media Group hub remains, by most estimates, the world's largest media network--but after a decade-long run atop the heap, it ranked dead last among 18 agencies on consultancy COMvergence's 2017 new business report.

"If I have the numbers right, we lost about $1.8 billion in business in 2017," says Florian Adamski, the former Omnicom Media Group Germany chief who ascended to the global CEO role at OMD after a devastating six months with an estimated new-business value of negative $800 million.

How did Adweek's Media Agency of the Year for 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015 fall so far?

"It took a moment for us to really understand that we were calcifying around a previously successful approach," Omnicom Media Group CEO Daryl Simm says, "as opposed to transforming into a new era for the agency."

In other words, OMD was firmly stuck in the past.

"What we really needed was the reestablishment of a North Star," says Simm, "a future-facing ambition to rally the talent and, most importantly, the clients around."

Adamski and his team quickly went to work. They created a new positioning called "Better Decisions, Faster" and translated that approach into a series of escalating new-business wins while defending most of their largest legacy accounts. By the end of 2018, the agency had clawed its way up from the very bottom of the COMvergence rankings into a virtual tie for first place.

That remarkable turnaround earns OMD the distinction of Adweek's Global Media Agency of the Year for 2019.

RADICAL CHANGE

The deceptively soft-spoken Adamski, who was not well known in the U.S. or U.K., may not have been the most obvious choice to lead OMD out of the wilderness.

But as the network struggled to regain momentum, Omnicom executives decided a big move was necessary. Given his track record leading one of its largest markets in Germany, as well as his time spent in the startup world, "it wasn't a difficult decision," Simm says.

In another unexpected shift, BBDO New York CEO John Osborn moved to the media side, taking over OMD's U.S. operations as predecessor Monica Karo became global chief client officer and longtime president of global accounts Kate Stephenson moved into the chief operating officer's role.

"At the end of 2017, the first thing I did personally was that I started to listen," Adamski says, citing "an inconsistent set of capabilities, tools and talent across the globe" that had failed to keep up with client briefs as they "radically changed" over the course of a few short years.

The road to recovery started in London, where 36 OMD executives gathered in November 2017 for a "blunt, candid" discussion of the challenges ahead.

The product of this summit was a list of 15 global initiatives "touching on every single facet" of OMD's business, from content to ecommerce. Stephenson took on the considerable task of turning them into actionable goals for teams around the world.

"We had people literally crawling around on giant scrolls writing up the initiatives," she says. "It was truly co-created from the bottom up, not mandated from the top down."

Most important, Omnicom leadership was all in.

MANAGING 'COMPLEXITY AND SPEED'

Adamski's first big move was to create several new positions. He named Brian Crotty and Guy Marks CEOs in Latin America and EMEA, respectively, while choosing former EMEA client officer Damian Winstanley to lead the network's own marketing efforts around the world. Israel Mirsky assumed the title of executive director, global technology and new platforms.

Another major component of the repositioning centered on Omni, the data analytics platform launched last June. …

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