Programmatic Agency of the Year: Hearts & Science

Hearts & Science, OmnicomMediaGroup’s, data-driven marketing agency, doesn’t see itself as a programmatic agency. In fact, programmatic, exchange-based trading comprises only 15% of agency work.

“Our view of programmatic: Let’s build the brains to activate all digital [media] to behave differently," said Scott Hagedorn, CEO, Hearts & Science. The key question is: “Are marketers using behavioral audiences to power and make their digital media behave differently?”

Hearts & Science aims to make all digital advertising behave differently, not just the programmatic piece.

The agency’s take on programmatic and its potential is why MediaPost has chosen Hearts & Science as Programmatic Agency of the Year for 2016. It stands out as an innovator for taking a distinct and expansive approach to using programmatic media.

In less than a year from its formation, Hearts & Science scored two major client wins — Procter & Gamble and AT&T — largely due to its data-driven approach, but also thanks to Hagedorn. As founding CEO of Annalect, an Omnicom data and analytics platform, he led the pitch for P&G’s sprawling North American business.

That win was followed in August 2016, when the agency landed AT&T’s business.

What sets Hearts & Science apart is its ability to pair human insights and creativity with data — not just machine-to-machine, data-driven audience acquisition.

At its core, Hearts & Science focuses on connections between data and emotion. It combines data-driven media planning and buying practices with what Hagedorn calls “orchestrated” content creation, delivery and optimization.

With $8 billion in billings and 800 employees, Hearts & Science relies on a combined model. While programmatic can be trading through demand-side platforms (DSP), data management platforms (DMP), and private marketplaces (PMP), Hearts & Minds takes a more holistic approach.

“We enable programmatic everything,” Hagedorn said.

Of course, Hearts & Science has the benefit of tapping into its sibling Annalect’s data and marketing science expertise, but also has its own DMP and audience data.

Annalect serves as the data and technology platform at the OmnicomMedia Group level. Hearts & Science built a service model on top of Annalect’s data platform. The agency takes a data-first approach to everything, creating audiences based on consumer behavioral data.

Take CRM data, for example.

Hagedorn explained: “While CRM data is great for creating high-fidelity audiences, Hearts & Science doesn’t own CRM data. But we get a client to bring its data sets and can manipulate them to do lookalike modeling. Then we syndicate audiences across all publishers and push them to programmatic platforms to see how media is performing.”

On the flip side, if a client doesn’t have CRM data, Hearts & Science has digital behavioral data courtesy of Analect’s platform. For its DMP, the agency has invested in data sources, including comScore set-top box data, shopper marketing data sets, raw social and sharing data sets.

Hagedorn says by using audience behavioral data and ad tech, “we should make people aware of brands and the products people are most interested in.”

“Our mantra is that we need the most persistent views of consumer behavior, we need to orchestrate the media and creative. He dubs the agency’s approach “orchestration,” not automation. The difference?

Orchestration enables “us to open the door to testing lots of new opportunities with respect to data, consumer behavior and nonlinear approaches. There’s a lot to play and experiment with that hasn’t been actionable in mass media before.”

By using marketing science, Hearts & Science has created a new class of media planning. Hagedorn started his career in brand planning, which he considers an art.

 “It was good, but I was always missing a partner to quantify the insights and the reach. Now, we’re bringing marketing science and strategy together, then adding the data and technology platform to have the quantitative capability we didn’t have before,” he says.

Hagedorn prides himself on seeing the rise of the so-called “walled gardens” (Google and Facebook, etc.), five years ago. “We thought early on about how to build a neutral position to become interoperable with Google Facebook. They see us as more likely to have a conversation about common engineering plans and testing new approaches.”

For example, if a retailer wants to use its loyalty card data to create a currency, it needs to find the best data set to secure competitive data.

“How am I going to get access to those customers who don’t shop with me? Which audience is the best? That’s a CRM-oriented approach,” Hagedorn explained. A marketer has to think about companies with the best ID graph to push data through: household-level data, device data, income, etc.

Hearts & Science licensed Neustar as a DMP, but it can use a client’s DMP. It does reach projections, adds and subtracts behavioral attributes. The agency advises clients on whether to go with exchange-based buys, walled gardens, etc. Hearts & Science also makes media buys.

Hagedorn sees programmatic evolving into an enabling technology to aid future decisions about targeted offers to the right audience.

As to his vision of orchestration, Hagedorn uses a music metaphor: “I’d like to believe we use marketing science and analytics on a more improvisational basis to inform the strategy—that’s what I aspire to.”

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