Omnicom's Sparks & Honey is known for helping marketers more scientifically understand changes in culture. Today, is redefining its own.
As part of a reorganization and repositioning of the cultural strategy consulting practice, S&H is promoting COO Mark Newhouse to President-COO, as Founder and CEO Terry Young steps away from a day-to-day role.
As part of the restructuring several other senior execs are moved into new positions, including Davianne Harris to managing partner and Chief Client Officer from head of S&H's Equitable Futures Practice, and the promotion of two -- Head of the Youth Culture Practice Hannah Hickman and Head of the Policy & Philanthropy Practice Robb Henzi to partners.
In advance of today's news, MediaPost spoke with Newhouse to lay out his vision for the next operational phase of Sparks & Honey's practice, technology and products -- both new and old.
MediaPost: As he moves out of a day-to-day role, will Terry Young still be engaged in the business?
Mark Newhouse: He’s still CEO, setting vision and strategy and working on spending a lot of time on our innovation agenda and partnerships. And this will free him up to do more C-suite-level advisory services.
Part of the thinking here is to free him up to have some addition bandwidth personally and for us as an organization and giving me more day-to-day accountability for the business.
MediaPost: So how is this repositioning Sparks & Honey for the future?
Newhouse: Sparks & Honey has a different posture in the industry than some of our direct competitors in that we not only decipher culture and decode it for clients, but we help them relate it back to their businesses and figure out what they should do about it. And you can only be successful in that if you are a true consultative advisory partner to the client.
This is a way for us to be a bit more rigorous around things that had been evolving organically -- for us, anyway.
It’s about not only growing the strategy and work with clients, but also the implementation of those recommendations. And frankly, transforming some of the ways they operate, like building more of a capability internally around cultural intelligence.
That’s something that is on the radar for us.
MediaPost: By helping client operationalize culture strategy, are you going to be developing IP for them? Creating creative or media strategies, product development or anything like that?
Newhouse: Probably not creative or media strategies, but the product is an interesting one. When the business was started, our focus was on “Let’s help you understand culture better today to better inform you brand communications.” And it has moved over time to be more forward looking, further out.
So it’s not just today, but two years from now, five years from now or even ten years from now. And with that, moving up the ladder from marketing communications to innovation, what products they develop next, and what lines of business do they go into next.
MediaPost: What are you doing differently within Sparks & Honey to enable that?
Newhouse: We’ve now brought all of our client cultural strategy teams together under one leader -- Davianne Harris -- as sort of the head of consulting for that group.
And as part of my own role, I’ll be looking at greater integration between our product efforts and the delivery of client solutions.
MediaPost: Most of your product development to date have been technology like Q and your platform analyzing and applying cultural signals. Are you creating new products or enhancing existing products?
Newhouse: Well, for sure enhancing. We’re about to do a refresh on the core platform that will be in market in May. That will be a major shift in terms of the core product. And it’s probably not a surprise that we are looking at a lot of the emerging technology and generative AI is at the very top of our list.
That will either be integrated to enhance how Q performs today, but we are also looking at some alternative products that may be separate from the core platform.
That’s the technology side. In the strategy and and implementation space, we have other things that are new consulting offers that we would call products that will be new to market.
MediaPost: Others may have been doing it, but Sparks & Honey was certainly most public in its development of Q and using AI to do it. But everybody is doing AI now, and the speed of acceleration is crazy. How will you remain competitive, and what will you do in the next iteration of your product to keep it differentiated from others? Is it frustrating that now everybody is in it?
Newhouse: It certainly is exciting. In the full sense of the word. Our team is very excited about that potential, but we do have to move faster than we ever did before.
The way we use technology to quantify culture is still pretty unique in the marketplace, and I think generative AI presents a different kind of value to clients. When I think of generative AI, I think of ways of synthesizing in more accessible ways than folks were able to access them before.
But I think there are big parts of the Sparks & Honey model that are differentiated, and we can expect them to be moving forward and incorporated into whatever new solutions we build.