As a longtime observer of the advertising industry, I couldn’t help noticing yesterday’s announcement that two of the world’s largest advertising agencies — Publicis and Omnicom — were merging into what I can only guess will be called Uber-Omnicom. It’s two old-guard agencies trying to become better equipped to trade in data analysis and automated ad buying. But as much as they’ll tell you it’s about big data, it’s really about big business.
The ad business, globally, is increasingly a marriage of art and science, but that’s very much a case of “opposites attract.” The skill sets and capital investments required to be truly talented at either art or science are often wildly different, and it’s hard to see how a single company will have the ability to optimize for both. The art in advertising is largely agency- and creative-driven, whereas the science in advertising is driven by technology, math, data and engineering. I have yet to see a major agency that excels at grasping the science behind advertising, let alone strategizing or hiring for it.
Instead, I think this merger everything to do with buying power – increasing the leverage that this new agency will have at the negotiating table with big media. In an environment where marketers increasingly take a close look at their agency relationships, lower media costs (assuming the savings are passed down to clients) are a good thing. But I’m not sure I see the connection to ‘big data’ that these two agency heavyweights are claiming.
If you’re planning — or currently enjoy — a career in digital marketing, the tea leaves are pretty easy to read here. Though I don’t think Publicis and Omnicom will be successful in their goal to compete against the likes of IBM, Adobe, Google or Facebook, they are correct in putting more focus on data analysis and ad automation.
Currently, the industry is trying to marry deep sophistication in data warehousing with marketer-friendly dashboards and reporting to give a holistic view of what’s going on in any given campaign, or in any given time period. There is a growing need for people who excel at “data storytelling.” Especially in demand are people who have talent at user design and user experience. The companies that marry the data and the science, and who hire people who can speak both languages, will be in demand for the foreseeable future.