Agency of the Year 2008 (Silver): OMD Digital

Agency of the Year 2008 (Silver): OMD Digital

To the core

At the beginning of 2008, OMD promised to put digital at its strategic core. A year later, account wins and stellar cross-media creative show the approach is a winner.

One of the first moves in this direction was appointing Scott Hagedorn, formerly U.S. director of OMD Digital, as managing director of the East Coast region, overseeing traditional and interactive media.

"When OMD started, digital was almost a separate agency," Hagedorn says. Putting the different media teams together expands their expertise; for example, broadcast people bring their knowledge of negotiation, while digital people bring new ways of thinking about traditional. "It's led to amazing things for the client."

In June, OMD snagged Alan Cohen away from Initiative to be lead sled dog in the race to the all-digital future (although his contract kept him out of its offices until October). Cohen was formerly president of Initiative's West Coast operations and worldwide innovation. "Putting digital first means that a number of our account teams should be run by or have a deputy in the strategy area that comes from that space," Cohen says.

"We want it to permeate every conversation with every client and every consumer."

The media giant also lured Jonathan Haber from Initiative to head Ignition Factory, OMD's innovation unit. And it's not just a cushy think tank, Haber insists. "We have people in the trenches, embedded with the core account teams so that they can really understand the client."

Even as the economy tanked, the agency nailed several big client wins. It ripped Levi's eponymous brand and Dockers' media planning and buying away from Zenith and Initiative, business worth an estimated $50 million. CBS handed its media business to OMD, tapping it for strategy, investment, digital, Ignition Factory and emerging media. This client followed Cohen and Haber from Initiative. In addition to digital cred, Cohen has entertainment marketing chops from his time as a top marketer for ABC, NBC and 20th Century Fox. Len Fogge, executive vice president of creative, marketing, research and digital media for Showtime, said OMD Digital would help it stretch the boundaries of marketing.

OMD also landed Intel Corp.'s estimated $300 million media planning and buying account, along with recent new business wins from Dial-Henkel, Callaway, McAfee, and a bigger slice of the Visa pie.

OMD showed how media can lead strategy and creativity for clients by inventing new opportunities and acting as the go-between among media entities. As Hagedorn says, "Media agencies are increasingly becoming the tailor of ideas coming out of the marketplace that we craft and make appropriate for the advertiser. All of a sudden, we have something to contribute to the creative process that didn't exist before."

The digital and traditional synergy sizzled in the groundbreaking deal OMD negotiated with NBC Universal and News Corp. for the launch of Hulu, the site that legally streams movies and TV shows. OMD clients got first crack at what turned out to be a winning broadcast-Internet play.

Says Cohen, "Every agency wants to control the conversation with the consumer. We, as media agencies, have to be smart enough to be the ones to do it." This approach led to a promo for the Nissan Versa and Heroes with the agency's "360 degree" media approach. The TV show became the platform for an integrated campaign that included on-air commercials, product integration, online, in-theater and iTunes.

The digital team took the lead in a promotion for CW's Gossip Girl that broke the fourth wall, as viewers received the same text messages as the characters did.

On Bravo's Project Runway, contestants took a field trip to Hershey's Times Square store, where they had five minutes to grab whatever they could from inside the store to use as raw materials for their creations. Along with on-air exposure, the brand was also featured in the show's Web component, where viewers could upload their own designs in hopes of winning a 5-pound Hershey bar.

Agency of the Year 2008 (Silver): OMD DigitalTo rev up excitement about Nissan, OMD Digital created Nissan Live Sets for Yahoo Music. Concerts featuring A-list performers such as Christina Aguilera streamed online, and fans could ask artists questions via chat, play branded games, get virtual demos of the cars or create a mash-up of their favorite tunes on the Nissan mixer-dashboard. The concerts were picked up by MTV, further amping up the highly successful campaign.

For the launch of Nissan's Sentra SE-R, OMD identified a new demographic target for the brand, then partnered with Xbox 360 to develop a racing game using Nissan cars. The Nissan brand showed up on billboards on the virtual raceway, while a customization contest on Xbox Live let gamers design their own Sentra to compete for prizes. An innovation in traditional media (sort of) were scratch-and-sniff ads with eau de burnt rubber.

"If we have a client with a target that makes sense, we think about gaming as a 360-degree effort that encompasses print, TV, digital properties and the games themselves. Then, you can take assets from the game into other marketing," Haber says.

The agency is as hip to social media as it is to the old-school way, illustrated by the community spin it gave the 40-year-old McDonald's Big Mac. A contest invited fans to submit their own versions of the classic Big Mac jingle. The campaign brought together MySpace and the cable show Friday Night MTV with some 12,000 submissions, 7,000 MySpace friends and 1.1 million unique visitors to the MySpace profile page.

At OMD Digital, negotiation and planning are as integrated as the rest. For example, OMD's strategy, digital and broadcast practices worked together with NBC and Nissan to negotiate a tie-in with Heroes that included on-air spots, product integration, the Web site, in-theater and iTunes.

Says Haber, "Putting digital first is about hiring and promoting people who don't just do media in a box. They know digital, traditional, and how they're blending and merging together. The people who are succeeding speak all the languages."

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