Omnicom's Betting On Building Its Own Data Expertise Even As Its Rivals Spend Billions On Data Providers: 'It De Risks Our Business'

The battle for advertising agencies to get their hands on consumer data and use it in intriguing ways continues. On Thursday, ad giant Omnicom Group revealed Omni, a data platform that allows the company's shops — which include BBDO, OMD Worldwide and DDB — to access gobs of third-party data.

The tool allows any of its agencies to search for creative images, create audiences for ad targeting, buy media, and track campaign results. According to Jonathan Nelson, CEO of Omnicom Digital, the tool has been in the works for several years and was developed by Annalect, Omnicom's data marketing group.

"This is the first time that we've stitched it all together," he said. "Think of it as being audience-first [with] insights going out to two primary audiences — one is media and the other is creative."

About 100 vendors that Omnicom works with are part of Omni, he added. The identity sources include LiveRamp, Neustar and Experian. Adobe, Salesforce and The Trade Desk integrate data and a feature using Google data allows advertisers to see how many people search for a brand after viewing a TV commercial.

Agencies are under increasing pressure to beef up their data capabilities and expertise as more advertisers demand results and face new competition from consultancies like Accenture Interactive and Deloitte. Last week, Interpublic Group announced plans to acquire Acxiom's data-marketing group for $2.3 billion in cash while Dentsu owns Merkle. And WPP assembled an initiative called mPlatform in 2016.

With GDPR and new regulation looming, Omnicom is keeping its distance from owning data

Unlike IPG's decision to go all-in on data through the acquisition of Acxiom, Omnicom's strategy is to build expertise in-house and set up deals with multiple vendors. Those relationships keep Omnicom a neutral player for agencies, according to Nelson.

"We don't make investments at all in our data providers — we think it de-risks our business," he said. "If a technology isn't working, we swap it out. There's no conflict there."

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