Neil Hurman on the changing role for companies like OMD

Neil Hurman, Chief Planning Officer at OMD EMEA, talks to LinkedIn about the future of marketing at Cannes Lions.

  • In a world where the customer is increasingly in control, what do you think about the changing role for companies like OMD?

Previously when I started in the business, we were able to take our audiences for granted. We were able to broadcast and publicise our point of views and our clients’ point of views quite easily – we had a guaranteed audience. We cannot take audiences for granted anymore. We have to earn the right. We have to avoid ad blocking. We have to avoid the distraction of choice that we never had. In fact, even the words ‘audience,’ ‘target audience,’ ‘our audience,’ ‘our customers’ speaks of a world where we’ve learnt to take too many things for granted and I think that is the big change that I have seen.

  • We’re interested to hear from you on how the role of media has evolved over recent years and what the future of effective media planning looks like, within both OMD and across the broader Industry?

Media planning was how much TV you could afford and in the last five to ten years it has changed beyond all recognition. I think it has become a story less about media planning and channel planning because what we really meant was what audience is more or less likely on the margins to consume various types of mass media. It sounds a little bit like a cliché, but I think we are moving from media planning to content distribution, from media planning to the sharing of stories. I think that requires much less emphasis on channels and much more of an emphasis on how you promote sharing, how you make your stories more attractive. I think it’s that difference between the age we left behind, which is about targeting, and the age we’re moving into, which is about attraction, it is probably the single biggest dynamic.

  • How do you think the skills required to be successful in media and marketing have changed, and what do the successful professionals of tomorrow look like versus those of yesterday?

So, I think at the moment it helps to be something of a polymath, there is almost too much we need to know. Our business is full of experts and needs to be full of specialist experts as the scope and scale of what we do broadens from content to technology, managing data, statistics modelling, all the way through to our digital services and, of course, we still have the age-old skills of being able to listen to clients.

  • Similarly, when you think about how the conversations you have with your clients are changing, what are the key things they are most concerned with and how do you drive best in class discussions with your client base? How do you see these discussions continuing to evolve in the future? 

Conversations for clients are always about value and value delivery. The nature of that value delivery changes and has changed significantly. The value we deliver is less about not paying too much for your media and more about the value return of building brands and the value return on growing a company’s revenue, not just in the short-term but in the longer term too. Historically, I think there has tended to be a focus on the short-term, what we used to call the short-term, versus the long-term. The short-term sales versus the longer term health and brand building. You can’t have an either or conversation anymore: it has to be ‘and’. You have to win in the today and you have to be winning for tomorrow as well. You have to do both at the same time and I think that is something that has become absolutely clear in the last few years.

I think the way we do that, and the way we are trying to do it more within OMD, is to productise what we do a little bit more by taking what we do and working out a way of how we systemise it, how we make sure we can deliver a more consistent problem-solving product with sharper insights, smarter ideas and stronger results for every client, every brief,  every time.  We are exploring platform-led ways of integrating our entire global team together to ensure standard ways of delivery and standard ways of quality controlling outputs from our teams. I think that it is quite new and different, and a much better way of problem-solving going forward.  

  • What are you most excited about for Cannes 2016? 

I think for me the thing I enjoy most is catching up with colleagues, friends and people you haven’t seen for a while. And of course, there are a lot of important client meetings, of course, there is a lot of partner meetings and there are some really great conversations that you can have here because it is one of the few times in the year that everyone is in the same place. It sounds like a very self-serving justification for everyone being here, but you can get an enormous amount done in a relatively short period of time because everyone is here.

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