AT&T’s Re-bundled Agency Solution

A little more than a month ago, telecomm and entertainment giant AT&T re-bundled its agency assignment, selecting Omnicom Group for creative and media duties on its massive $3 billion advertising account. The scope of work also includes digital, data and analytics.

Commenting on the appointment during an Advertising Week event today, Fiona Carter, Chief Brand Officer at AT&, said she was looking for a new agency model that would have an “exponential” impact on AT&T’s business.

It’s early days, but she thinks she’s found it. “We wanted a model that would fuse media, creativity and data to our best advantage,” Carter told the Advertising Week crowd. Omnicom creative shop BBDO, which has served the client for a decade, will work with sibling media agency Hearts & Science to see that Carter’s vision is carried out.

By and large, Carter said, “the agency model is still relatively traditional.” While some agencies have claimed to take a new approach, she doesn’t believe much actual change has occurred.

As she sees it, most agencies are still siloed, which inhibits communication and creative output. Getting agencies in different locations to work optimally with each other is difficult. “I wanted people in one location finishing each other’s sentences,” she said.

Carter also said that despite all the talk about how data helps marketers better connect with and message to consumers, rarely is data used to full advantage. That’s largely due to a traditional agency structure that hasn’t changed much.

Hearts & Science, Omnicom Media Group’s newest media shop, positions itself as a “data-driven” agency. Carter said that going forward with Omnicom, data will be “unleashed to the advantage of the creative process and free and accessible to all.” That in turn, will put pressure on brand planners at the agency to step up their game a bit. They’ll have to be adept at media and know how to exploit that unleashed data to the benefit of the client.

Asked by MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan what the big difference was for BBDO going forward on the account, Andrew Robertson, president and CEO at the agency, said by combining forces with Hearts & Sciences there would be a lot more data-driven knowledge available about clusters of AT&T customers and prospects and a “lot less superficial groping around.”

The creative process overall, he added, will be much more precise from a consumer targeting standpoint.

David Lubars BBDO chairman and Chief Creative Officer said in today’s complex world “brands need to navigate with a holistic view, agility and focus.” The Omnicom solution will provide just that to AT&T. That said, he added, “you still need a big honkin idea” that can be developed to communicate with the various consumer clusters that data has shed so much additional light on. How those ideas come to life is hard to explain, he added. Chalk it up to “the magic of humanity.”

Daryl Simm, CEO Omnicom Media Group, said that data is at the core of the offering. “Data is the glue,” he said. It provides knowledge about consumers, can help shape strategic direction and even provide inspiration. It also helps assess how effective messaging is or isn’t and how ads might be altered for better “stickiness.”

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