How Annalect Contributed To Omnicom’s Big Year

erin-mattsOver the last year Omnicom went on a tear, poaching big-brand clients from its competitors.

Omnicom Media Group (OMG) lured Procter & Gamble from Publicis Groupe’s Starcom Mediavest and built the data-driven agency Hearts & Science to support it. AT&T also consolidated its business under Omnicom when it moved its media account from WPP’s MEC to Hearts & Science (its creative business already belonged to Omnicom’s BBDO). PHD snagged Volkswagen’s $3 billion media account from Mediacom, another WPP agency. And Omnicom’s DDB won the creative account for McDonald’s pledging to build “the agency of the future.”

Although the brands went to different agencies and networks within Omnicom, there was a common denominator: Annalect, the holding company’s data and marketing sciences group, which supplied much of the expertise that attracted those blue-chip clients.

Being a central part of the pitch represents a big change compared to how clients used to perceive Annalect, said North American CEO Erin Matts, who used to serve as its CMO. “Now we’re at the tip of the spear and much more integrated throughout the entire pitch,” she said.

Matts took over in April from Scott Hagedorn, who now heads Hearts & Science. Hagedorn built Annalect from the ground up in 2010 – and the fact that it’s homegrown has helped it integrate across Omnicom’s networks.

“I think where we’ve seen that fall apart is when you get a bolted-on solution from an outside party,” Matts said.

Annalect’s data scientists are embedded in OMG agencies OMD, PHD and Hearts & Science and Annalect has increasingly taken a central role within Omnicom’s creative agencies.

“We are here to support the agencies: media, creative and social,” Matts said. “All of those guys are reaching maturity as they integrate with us.”

Data As The Silo Breaker

 In the past, Omnicom creatives had to walk to another room if they needed some data insight to inform their creative process.

Now “they’re building those other creative agency offers and services around Annalect,” Matts said.

Creative agency BBDO has a director of data solutions, Tina Allan, who translates Annalect findings into insights that creatives can use.

“It’s easy for us to say, ‘Here’s the box you have to play in. Good luck in this tiny little box,’” Matts said. “That’s the opposite of how we approach it.”

Even with data at the center, Omnicom wants to maintain individual agency cultures.annalect

“You bought BBDO, you want BBDO,” Matts said. “Cultures are still important because that’s what individuals working at those agencies stand for.”

Allan agreed. “Clients aren’t buying the dashboard from Annalect,” she said. “They’re buying the people and the talent to connect the dots for them.”

When creative agency DDB won the McDonald’s account in August, Annalect was front and center at the pitch.

“Creative agencies are bringing us [to pitches] not to present credentials, but to actually present real data manipulated into provocative thoughts,” said Loren Grossman, chief experience officer at Annalect.

Those presentations can involve dynamic creative activations that go beyond display template swapping into personalized messaging throughout a customer’s journey.

“If we’ve customized a piece of paid display media to you, it makes a whole lot of sense that the client’s landing page would replicate our understanding of who you were as that creative target,” Grossman said. “We can touch things like search, landing pages, dynamic modules within emails, etc.”

Annalect Deep Dive  

Although Annalect has standardized on Neustar’s DMP and has a programmatic trading desk, Accuen, it touts its tech agnosticism. Its execs emphasize Omnicom hasn’t taken stakes in ad tech companies or built its own data management platform. (The comment is likely a dig at rival holding company WPP, which invested $25 million in AppNexus, and another $25 million to build out its own DMP.)

“[Annalect is] completely neutral and open-sourced,” Matts said. “We want favored-nation status with everyone that we think is a critical player.”

Annalect claims neutrality is important when working with platforms like Facebook and Google, who might be wary around a holding company with a potentially competing ad stack.

While Annalect harnesses third-party and CRM data (through which it can perform functions like suppressing messaging to repeat customers or predict in-market timing), not every client is willing to share its data.

“As the industry matures, we have some clients who are more willing to share because they see the value,” Matts said. “On a client-by-client basis, there are absolutely some who are very sensitive to this. It tends to be in health care, banking and financial services.”

Annalect also has a consulting division to help manage tech stacks that clients buy but don’t know how to implement.

From the agency side, Annalect Consulting comes in handy when creative shops like BBDO need to interact with clients on more technical subjects.

“A lot of times we’ll bring Annalect into an area where we can’t necessarily help,” BBDO’s Allan said.

While competition is growing from technology firms and management consultancies angling to provide this kind of white-glove service, their lack of experience in media plays to Annalect’s advantage, Matts said.

“We were born in this world and this mindset,” she said. “We know the ins and outs of how a media plan works and the thousands of different decisions you have to make in a given week to make that [happen].”

Update: Erin Matts is the CEO of Omnicom in North America. Omnicom’s BBDO already had AT&T’s creative account. Volkswagen was added as another major account win for Omnicom this year. 

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  1. john stockmann

    If a butcher tells you to buy more meat, do you believe him? And do you believe him if he tells you that he is totally neutral and that more meat is healthy for you? Of course you don’t. For the same reasons, agencies should not grade their own homework and analyze where their clients should put money. It’s a conflict of interest. OMD may claim to be independent but their trading desk or search agency could lose millions if their analytics were to suggest putting money elsewhere. Do you think they would take that risk?

    • If a man walks into a butchery to buy some meat, would it not make sense to ask the butcher what the best cuts and meat are? If the butcher had any sense he would advise the man on the best he has as he wants the man to return the next time he wants to buy meat. If the meat turns out to be bad or not as expected then the man can just not go back (and really shouldn’t) but otherwise should go back and maybe try something else that the butcher suggests, maybe something more profitable to the butcher but the man still enjoys it. This space is complicated and clients rely on agencies to help work it out for them, if they don’t feel like this is the case then they can walk away. Trading desks may lose millions but also stand to gain millions if they produce some meat that the client really likes. If the analytics is skewed then the client realises (or at least should realise) and should walk away