Global Media Agency of the Year: OMD

By summer 2009, it appeared that OMD’s winning streak was about to come to an end.

The problem started back in mid-2008 when, after successfully consolidating big global accounts—including Intel, Visa and Renault-Nissan—its client Vodafone began a market-by-market media review. Holding about half of the telecom’s $1.3 billion advertising budget, OMD knew it had its work cut out for it. By March 2009, things weren’t going so well; OMD lost the lucrative U.K. piece, with an estimated $100 million in ad spending. Decisions in other big markets were looming.

But then the game plan changed—and things became even riskier. The client, switching gears, decided to conduct a single review among its incumbents—including OMD, Carat and WPP—to consolidate its entire media business. And it appeared that OMD was poised to lose a lot more than just the U.K. account as word circulated in Europe that Vodafone was ready to award the full global assignment to WPP.

Mainardo de Nardis, who joined OMD as worldwide CEO last March, acknowledged that Vodafone was one of the shop’s toughest pitches in 2009. In the fast-changing, sophisticated high-tech world of mobile telecommunications, preparing for the pitch was like “going to the university in terms of the learning involved,” he said.

Eventually, all of OMD’s preparation paid off. After more than 14 months of assessing work at both the local market and global levels, Vodafone, in late August, selected OMD to be its first global media agency network.  “We took our time deciding and in the end we were convinced they were the right people,” said David Wheldon, Vodafone’s global brand director, noting the agency’s “excellent creative ideas.”

The win capped a second straight year of multi-billion-dollar billings growth for the agency—no small feat for a big shop that has clients in almost every category.

The Omnicom agency, also in August, captured the worldwide $200 million account, without a formal review. Earlier, in February, the shop picked up the Asia, Latin America and Europe, Middle East and Africa portions of the $1 billion HP global consolidation after a review managed at the holding company level at Omnicom Media Group.

In total, OMD won more than $2.5 billion in net new business last year, boosting global billings to $32 billion, up 9 percent from 2008, according to Adweek figures. Global
revenue was up 4 percent to approximately $895 million.

Key wins at the U.S. operation were the Worlds of Discovery account ($80 million)  and two pieces of digital business from existing clients PepsiCo ($85 million) and CBS ($10 million).
Clients said that OMD brings a formidable package of skills to the table, not the least of which is innovative thinking and creative applications combined with what Wheldon described as “best-in-class” tools and systems.

On the innovations side, OMD scored a number of “firsts,” notably a deal to put the first ad campaign on Kindle, and a unique campaign to insert video in a magazine.

The work on Kindle was for client Showtime and came out of the Ignition Factory, a new unit—led by OMD U.S. director Jon Haber—to craft new techniques for traditional and emerging media platforms. It promoted the series Nurse Jackie and offered readers a free downloadable script on the Amazon e-reader.

In September, the Ignition Factory developed a campaign for two clients, PepsiCo and CBS, which enabled the network to showcase its fall lineup in a miniature video player inserted in the fall preview issue of Entertainment Weekly. Also in that issue was a video promotion for the soft drink and snack food company’s Pepsi Max brand.

Last year, OMD launched OMD Pop, a unit of the company that informs clients about the latest trends in popular culture and assesses how to incorporate those trends into their marketing plans.

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