Creating The Omnicom Omni-Channel Agency For McDonald's

Successfully integrated marketing in real time across channels requires a complete overhaul of how you think and operate on both the client and agency sides.

Wendy Clark, CEO of DDB North America, outlined how Omnicom turned itself inside out for McDonald’s when the quick service restaurant chain issued a 4-inch RFP for an omnichannel agency approach. Clark told her story during a keynote address at the Advertising Research Foundation annual conference in New York.

“The days of clients force-fitting into fixed agency models are over,” Clark said.

McDonald’s was committed to an agency that would control everything from Super Bowl advertising to tweets to Ronald McDonald House. Omnicom chose to build the agency for the customers — “the people we want to eat at McDonald’s.”

The result was “unltd,” short for We Are Unlimited. The agency won after 120 days that involved 18 significant meetings with 19 sister agencies, hundreds of people and 3,000-plus pages of content.



It started with data — media data, behavioral data, purchase data — in an intelligence center DDB created with its agency partners at Omnicom and calls the Cortex.

“Data is not a proxy for decision-making, but used correctly it can help fuel better decisions,” Clark said.

The agency is set up to handle micro, macro and mega capabilities, which Clark defined as real-time, long-form editorial and tent-pole campaigns. McDonald’s produces 7,500 pieces of content a year and the quality control of all of it is handled by the agency.

To keep from growing stale, the talent pool assigned to the account consists of 70% fixed staff, 20% tethered (on contract) and another 10% hired guns for specific problems and campaigns. DDB factored all of this at the outset, when pricing the work, to avoid the client’s dreaded “incremental scope.”

Collaboration is essential to making successful work in the fast-and-efficient world we are living in. It is mandatory at the agency and all reviews now include grades not just on what you do, but how you go about doing it, Clark said.

“Agencies have tolerated bad behavior for talent,” she said. “You can’t tolerate it."

“If you’re considering doing this with any of your clients, you have to be sure there’s a commensurate ambition on your client’s side,” Clark added.

Client Conagra will be going this route and Clark predicted an “inflection point” by the end of the year of DDB clients choosing to embrace the omni-channel agency approach.  

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