Let’s be honest. This is really OMD’s second coming. The first was
a puddle of confusion: a silly name, a letterhead, a man, a dog; a
knee-jerk salve for the wound where a global network should have
And let’s be honest, the second coming (Campaign, last week) is really a
foreplay, a mere brush of lips but with a promise of consummation.
Optimum Media Direction was launched as Omnicom’s global media brand
back in 1996. The media world was starting to pay lip-service to
globalisation, companies like Zenith were expanding with a vengeance -
including into the US - and as one of the world’s biggest communications
groups, Omnicom signed up and conceived OMD as its international media
operation, embracing media for the BBDO and DDB networks.
The UK was represented by a shell office manned by Tim Cox, nominally
working with BMP’s media department and New PHD. But in truth, the first
OMD was little more than a token gesture. How many times have you seen
OMD on a pan-European pitch-list? The ball had been set rolling with a
degree of vision which, though clouded, still put some competitors to
shame, but there was no real sense of direction and no firm leadership.
OMD was a brand name without a brand.
Then Bruce Crawford, Omnicom’s chairman, met Daryl Simm, the Procter &
Gamble wunderkind who had decided that reaching the top of the P&G media
tree was not going to be the apex of his career.
Simm had already made a name for himself in the wider world of
At P&G, he had been responsible for a radical overhaul of the fmcg
giant’s media approach, snatching buying from the heart of the company
and consolidating it into Leo Burnett and TeleVest. The changes helped
dust down the entire US media scene and propel media further up clients’
and agencies’ agendas.
But having become P&G’s worldwide head of media at the age of 33, Simm
had begun to wonder ’what next?’. ’P&G was a fantastic experience,’ Simm
says, managing to smile while he talks - do US business schools teach
the art of talking with a grin? - while also seeming sincere. ’It gave
me a unique opportunity to understand the importance of media at a time
when media was becoming a global issue.’
Such singular and covetable credentials at a relatively tender age
suggest a status-hungry, ambitious and determined young man. If so, Simm
hides it well beneath a charming and affable manner. Ambitious, me? Not
really, he says, at least not in the thrusting, aggressive sense. He
can’t identify what exactly it is that drives him, ’a psychiatrist would
probably say an inferiority complex or something’, he laughs, admitting
’the day I take on a new job, I always want to have a clear idea of my
next step so that I know where to focus my energies’.
Leaving P&G, though, was ’the most difficult decision I’ve ever made. It
was a much easier decision to get married to have kids.’
From the other end of the media cheque, Simm admits he’s surprised that
only now are so many major clients taking their media requirements
For agencies, though, this can only be good news, which is why OMD is
really beginning to take off. Simm has spent the past nine months
getting the operation fully functional in key markets. But the UK launch
last week is a vital addition.
Critics may say the UK is still being fudged. The three Omnicom brands -
BMP OMD, New PHD and Manning Gottlieb Media - will co-operate on
research and will share their international resources. It’s hardly a
pooling of the Omnicom might. Having said that, those same critics would
admit that Omnicom is in the very fortunate position of having three
fantastic brands, all of which stand tall on their own, unlike WPP, for
example, whose JWT media team and the Network were not really contenders
in their own right.
For Omnicom, there is nothing to be gained from merging its three UK
media agencies right now. Simm is very clear of the need to maintain the
saliency of the local brands which, after all, provide the equity for
the global proposition. But further co-operation on backroom resources -
and particularly television negotiations - seems a logical and
increasingly expedient move.
There is also the question of how well the three media agencies will
work together. BMP is carrying the OMD name, so are New PHD or MGM being
marginalised? New PHD’s commitment to OMD has historically been
Simm insists that Omnicom’s takeover of New PHD’s parent, Abbott Mead
Vickers BBDO, removes the uncertainty.
Of course, the truth is that as long as there are benefits to be gained
for the three agencies and international business is allocated
equitably, OMD will work in the UK. It’s still a little confusing - and
still a little crude - but as a global network, OMD is finally taking
’We’ve laid the foundations,’ Simm says. ’Now we’re finishing the first
floor. I expect the structure will be up this year - a global media
brand that is without equal. Then we’ll start working on the bathroom