Omnicom Shuttering Sparks & Honey, Integrating Into OMNI

Omnicom is effectively shuttering cultural intelligence consultancy Sparks & Honey and integrating some of its team, as well as its proprietary culture-mapping methodology and AI technology into its own AI-powered OMNI platform, MediaPost has learned.

Founded in 2012 by former ad man and entrepreneur Terry Young, S&H was renowned for its leading-edge analysis, insights and culture consulting services for many of the world’s biggest brands, as well as important public institutions.

It’s daily culture briefings became a must-see for industry execs, and the agency was a major factor in Omnicom being recognized as MediaPost’s holding company of the year in 2019, 2020 and 2024.

In fact, part of MediaPost’s 2024 rationale was based on the formal integration of S&H’s AI technology, known as Q, into Omnicom’s AI-powered operating system, OMNI, as well as a series of generative AI apps developed on the foundations of both systems.

Executives familiar with the current restructuring say it was partly motivated by Omnicom’s recent acquisition of the Flywheel Digital ecommerce business from Ascential plc late last year, and especially the commerce database it owns, and that the result will be a full-integrated AI intelligence system fusing Q’s cultural intelligence with Flywheel’s massive commerce intelligence.

"[Sparks & Honey] is becoming part of OMNI and combined with Flywheel," says an executive familiar with the integration. "They're putting all that shit into one monster tool set.

"There's almost 40 petabytes of data between them. That's massive."

Still unclear is who will oversee the operation, but it is believed to report up to Omnicom Digital CEO Jonathan Nelson, although Duncan Painter, the former Ascential CEO who joined Omnicom as CEO of Flywheel following its sale, is said to have an increasing role in the organization too.

Omnicom recently began promoting Flywheel with ads in major newspapers, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal (see below).

"What if you could track the customer journey in real time, transparently measuring and flexing your messaging for maximum momentum," reads the ad, adding, "Now you can."

But there are questions about the relative value of its nearly $1 billion acquisition following financial disclosures made as part of Ascential's 2023 results, which report a nearly $150 million operating loss for 2023 and a more than $200 million operating loss in 2022 (see below).

S&H's culture trends practice, meanwhile, leaves a long legacy of important insights about the relationship between culture and marketing, as well as society overall.

Some of its culture briefings and standalone reports touched on vital societal and business practice issues -- especially the ethical use of data and technology to do the kinds of things Omnicom promises to achieve in the Flywheel ad.

A great example of S&H's insights and guidance is the 2019 report it compiled on "Consumer Precision Data" and its implications for people, industry and the world.

As part of his series of real-life comic strips chronicling the ad business for MediaPost, cartoonist/journalist Stan Mack penned several about S&H, including this one, which captured the spirt and energy of the early days of S&H's culture briefing huddles.

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