Unless you’re living under a rock (or are a normal person that doesn’t work in/with AdLand), you’ve heard about the largest merger in advertising history, joining mega-companies Omnicom Group and Publicis into the Omnicom Publicis Groupe (did you see the ‘e’ there??). Many excellent voices have given their opinion about what this means for the future - this interview with Intuit’s Cezanne Huq has been my favorite so far - but I wanted to add a new spin to this topic. Having served two “tours of duty” through Omnicom companies (RAPP and M/A/R/C Research), I got to know the Omnicom side of this partnership very well, and often squared off against Publicis agencies on the other side of pitches.
I think this is a perfect time for the new Omicom Publicis Groupe to plant some flags and draw some lines in the sand to correct formerly failed strategies (such as trying to convert “traditional” agencies into “digital” ones). So lemme play “King of OPG” for a minute - if politics could be moved and budgets rearranged, here are four things I would do immediately:
1. Create the largest marketing startup VC fund on Earth.
If you think I’m being hyperbolic there, I’m not in the slightest. This isn’t just about the “somewhere out there is the next Facebook” factor, although that is true. Spreading enough cash around to hit the lottery on startup lightning in a bottle is just a fringe benefit. No, this is 99% about people and culture. The geniuses today that are chasing the bleeding edge of marketing technology want to realize personal profit and control - likely through creating a startup, helping it gain traction, and selling it off. So not only would OPG get the chance to show their clients the cream of the crop of upcoming marketing technology products, they would have a CONSTANT flow of dreamers and doers - people who have the smarts to have an idea, and the hustle to bring it to life. Even if only 1 out of 10 startups in the fund succeed, you can offer some amazing positions within agencies to the ones that don’t, effectively creating a built-in acqui-hire model alongside traditional exits. Other agencies and holding companies have done this on their own, but OPG could bring such scale to bear as to dwarf these others. Besides, what marketing startup wouldn’t want immediate, top-tier access to the world’s largest advertisers?
2. Create SWAT teams that will dominate these channels: Wearable Technology, 3D Printing, Living Room Experience.
Some might call me prosaic by calling for channel-specific teams. ”After all,” they’ll say, “aren’t we supposed to be omnichannel Marketers?” Yes, but being the best of the best for a given channel can be a tremendous asset for corporations and clients alike. Call it the Salesforce strategy: once they built a dominant position in CRM, they acquired channel players to bolt on to that experience like ExactTarget (email), Buddy Media (outbound social), Radian6 (social listening/data), Jigsaw (corporate buyer data), and GroupSwim (collaboration - now part of Chatter). The channels I’ve listed here are the new frontiers in marketing - places where dominant concepts haven’t emerged for reaching customers in a dramatic way, so there aren’t really solid buy targets here yet. I think here is where OPG needs to create the NEXT ExactTarget in effect, by building the next channel dominant players. Moreover, this isn’t about building the technologies themselves. We all know Apple will somehow build an iWatch, MakerBot has made 3D Printing a consumer possibility, and the XBox has transformed the living room - they, and many others, have already created the platforms Marketers need. Rather, it’s about using these technologies to create experiences that sell brand narratives. This is what R/GA built their life off of: taking existing technologies to bring platforms like Nike+ to life. (Sidebar: if you haven’t watched this video with Bob Greenberg and Barry Wacksman of R/GA YET in its THREE YEARS of life on YouTube, you need to stop and do so now. This piece cracked open the concept of platforms over campaigns, and literally changed the way I think about Marketing.)
3. Buy or create a game studio. Full-on, console-level, gaming.
If I’m in the M&A department of the new OPG looking for the next best buy, I’m nowhere near the standard marketing technology companies. Why? Because I can grow those from within my VC fund (see #1) and do so at fractions of the cost of acquiring mature companies with mature overhead. No, if this is me, I’m already on a plane touring the nation’s best gaming studios - both indie and owned. Why? Lemme give you 3 solid reasons:
- Global game revenues are expected to reach $70.4 Billion for 2013, showing a 6% YoY increase.
- We spend 3 billion hours a week as a planet playing video games.
- MMO gaming grew 14% in Q1 2013 alone.
This is a channel unlike any other media play out there. Name me a form of advertising where time spent interacting is going UP. Name me a form where people spend time equally with it in the living room, on a mobile device, on the road, and even at work. (Yep, admit it.) And don’t tell me about ad inventory in existing platforms like XBox Live or brand placement in GTA V - these are obvious, and therefore the customer is oblivious to them. The win here is for OPG to take the lead in creating brand platforms that customers can experience in a much more visceral way, weaving the brand narrative in with their own to create brand new stories. And if you’re not into all that touchy-feely stuff, think of it like this: how would you like it if I could create a game that customers would PAY for, that also made them want to buy YOUR brand? The mind boggles.
4. Develop a plan to create a true, complete, and absolute “work anywhere” platform for ALL OPG employees by Jan 1, 2015.
If you’ve ever worked in a traditional agency, you’ve overworked. It’s simply a fact of life. Clients approach agencies to help them accomplish the miracles they can’t, and no matter how talented your people are, there’s a limit to what they can accomplish in 8 hours a day. So you push it to 10. 12. 14. 16. Technically speaking, these employees are paid for as long as you can cover their hourly hard costs for 40 hours a week, so any extra hours they work are “free” to the agency. As all agencies know, it’s not enough to have revenue - you have to have PROFIT. And, “free” labor is EXTREMELY profitable.
With these pressures, it’s an absolute joke that some agencies still have a “be in the office by 8:30” mentality. Even if you’re just approaching this problem from a pure cold-and-heartless point of view, wouldn’t you WANT your people to be able to work from anywhere, so they can work more hours? Hopefully, however, you have an actual pulse and a shred of human decency, and you care about the lives these people lead. Since I believe that to be the case, let me give you some other good reasons to invest in this:
- Creative ideas do NOT always come from the open-office uber-collaborative model. Sometimes your people - ALL people - just have to get away and FOCUS. As mentioned in a study by design firm Gensler, “When focus is compromised in pursuit of collaboration, neither works well.”
- Being in offices creates more of what Jason Fried of 37 Signals calls “M&Ms”: Managers and Meetings. Both of these are toxic to productivity. That’s not saying the act of management or meeting can’t be productive, just that being in an office incentivizes these to increase in a detrimental way. After all, if you’re a Manager and your direct-reports are right down the hall, you’ll be in their office more often, and distracting them from work. If you’re in a meeting, there’s really not much reason to leave, because you’re just going back to your desk. These forces shred your day into pieces and force focus time to the edges.
- Employees are most productive when they’re fully able to embrace both their personal and professional lives. These often require very different physical spaces, so why not consolidate those spaces wherever possible? Not only do you save on time lost to commutes or pollution to the environment, you give employees the permission to live their lives, thus getting many of the average worker’s stresses OFF their plate.
- Your target customer is on 24x7, and you’re trying to market to them 24x7. So what does a “business day” mean anymore? Seriously, you’re taking work home anyway, and have been since grade school.
- Other top technology companies are already offering this, and leveraging it as a perk to land the best talent. How in the world do you think you’ll be able to land the best developers or product managers by offering an 8-10 hour (or more) cage every day, when another company hands them a mobile phone, tablet and laptop and tells them to go forth and be awesome?
I actually wish nothing but the best for the new Omnicom Publicis Groupe. Despite what The Onion says, I actually know a ton of people working for these companies that are fabulously talented, and I want to see them create awesome work. OPG, now is your time to make that possible.
What do you think? What else should Omnicom Publicis Groupe do to make the most of their merger?