Peter Horgan on building up specialist capabilities and making key hires in a tough talent market

Following recent changes at the top of OMG analytics, data and tech agency Annalect, Peter Horgan speaks to Mumbrella's Calum Jaspan about the wider group strategy, and the benefits of having specialist agencies like Annalect to complement the more traditional media brands.

Last week Clement Tsang was announced as the new MD at Annalect, an appointment that came after much consideration from Omnicom Media Group’s (OMG) CEO, Peter Horgan and a small team, due to CEO Darren Stein’s departure to a global position at Forethought.

With the hiring game now more intense than ever due to a lack of talent in the market, Horgan explains how he and the OMG team are approaching key hires like that of Tsang and others, and what differentiates them from the other opportunities in market.

“Media agencies will struggle to hire as many Harvard MBAs in consultancy services as an Accenture or Deloitte. But we’re on the tools, we understand what clients should be doing next, we’re bringing in terrific and diverse data and tech skillsets, we make specific recommendations and then we’re on the hook for pulling it through to activation, and clients will see pretty quickly whether that advice has improved performance.”

According to Horgan, the appeal of having specialist agencies such as Annalect on hand to help deliver results is increasingly being bought into by clients across the board.

“Annalect is an important part of our business and a growing part of our business. There are four main pillars, across marketing science, analytics, business intelligence and finally tech and data, and each of those has a specific lead who’s a highly experienced subject matter expert. We’re getting enormous traction across our clients, not just the mid-sized clients, but the enterprise-level businesses, the Telstras, McDonald’s, and are driving great, great results at a fraction of the cost of the big consultancy firms.”

Part of this was shown last week, with the recent announcement that OMG retained PepsiCo under the new purpose-built agency, Trio. Trio is taking on the account previously held by OMG’s PHD to provide a specific strategy in the local market for PepsiCo following the appointment of a new CMO, Vandita Pandey in the back end of 2020.

Vandita Pandey, new regional CMO at PepsiCo

“That is a whole of Omnicom Media Group solution. Outside of North America, I think it is one of the few markets where Omnicom works with PepsiCo. And when Vandita Pandey has come out from the US, she has been very focused on a future-facing, data-led approach to media, and we were able to prove to her that we had the capability in the group. That’s often a very hard thing to do once a new person comes in and says, “right, I want to test the market”.”

To drive further cohesion, Horgan says there needs to be buy-in across the group in order to realise the results that can be delivered by playing to each agency’s strengths. He says that in order for this to work, the agency brands that are directly responsible for the client relationships need to be confident in the outcomes that bringing in a specialist agency can provide.

“It’s all very well being a holding company boss like me going “come on, use Annalect”, but there will be enormous resistance unless the agency that leads the account actually has confidence that the entity is going to deliver for them because its their client relationship that’s on the line.”

New Annalect MD, Clement Tsang

Horgan also says it is important to note that specialist agencies are not pulling out capabilities from agency brands, and not dumbing down their own offering, but providing solutions that are outside of the normal expectations.

“The Group philosophy that exists across the entire business is that the agency brands own the strategy, across paid, owned and earned channels, but they also own the strategy of how different technology solutions and data solutions string together for their clients. And the difference is they’ll pull in Annalect or Resolution resource when there’s a specific capability solution required…deep technical expertise that you don’t want to replicate across three agency brands. I’m a big fan of embedded structures, but there are certain skillsets where the experts need to spark off each other in a scaled environments, to deliver market leading capability”

With Stein leaving, Horgan also made it clear that in order to build out specialist capabilities and ensure there is trust that these extra capabilities are of use, having the right people to execute is essential. He says that people with these skills are key in collaborating with the agencies, understanding the needs and delivering on the strategy.

“You need quite rare talents. So you need scale around that, you need people in that specialist capability who can collaborate with an agency and deliver on the strategy that the agency has developed.”

In addition to the recent switch at the top of Annalect, GroupM’s Liesa Newland was also hired to take up the newly created role of head of data infrastructure and integration.

“You’ve got to set up your data architecture and your internal governance for capturing your own data,  in a way that’s going to be sustainable and robust enough so the foundations are solid and we’re able to build the stacks that are going to deliver for clients. So Liesa is key to that objective.”


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