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Can OMD APAC repeat 2012 success? Steve Blakeman on plans ahead

Steve Blakeman, OMD

OMD APAC is buoyant with the momentum that the agency has achieved on the back of a strong year. Now, it is gearing up to ensure that the energy levels are not just maintained, but accelerated further. Of the various things that the agency’s APAC CEO, Steve Blakeman, has been focussing on, there are three areas that appear to be high on OMD’s priority list – pushing forward the vision that positions OMD as a complete communication agency vis-à-vis a media agency; creating partners (or allies) who will help the agency grow stronger in the face of intense competition and embracing technology that will deliver on the promise of taking a holistic approach towards its business.

In a conversation with DMA, Blakeman explained, “OMD is not a traditional media agency. Quite simply, we are a total communications agency.”

For a while now, media agencies have been quoted on what they call a future looking approach, which is that the role of media agencies is changing from someone who was planning and buying media to a partner who works closely with clients in their pursuit of growth. Blakeman elaborated on the OMD thought process on this, and said, “Media is an investment that we make on behalf of our clients to achieve business growth. That investment goes beyond media.” And OMD has been doing quite a bit to back Blakeman’s claim.

The agency has a suite of services that includes their mobile offering Airwave (for which it has a strategic partner in Amobee), branded content company Fuse, search and online specialist Resolution and its Demand Side Platform (DSP) Accuen. Reiterating the agency’s future ready approach Blakeman added that OMD were either the first or at least within the first wave of agencies to launch these strategic services in APAC.

The Change Within
An important move for the agency at present is the launch of its new operating system Vision. Even as OMD has been beta testing Vision since the beginning of 2013, it becomes the official OS for the company from June 2013. Blakeman believes that Vision is another step in OMD’s attempt to look at every aspect of its offering with a holistic lens. Unlike its predecessor Checkmate, which was essentially focussed on communication planning, Vision is “all encompassing and consistent with the agency’s thought process of buying growth, not media”.

The other area that OMD sees as its secret weapon is creating strategic long term partnerships. “Clients today need a vast array of services. You either have to provide that service or have an external alignment that you can call upon. To deliver true strength in depth, it is important to strike the right partnerships,” advised Blakeman, and added, “And it is critical to regard them as equal partners.”

Some of these partnerships have even manifested in on-ground initiatives for the agency where it has been able to engage its employees, it clients and people from the industry. Incubator for GE (which is an OMD client) or Hackathon with Spotify are some examples of OMD’s attempts to lead future conversations. “We did the Hackathon in North America last year. Now as Spotify looks to expand its footprint in APAC, we would look to do something similar with them again. The important thing for us here is to partner with companies and people who see the future like we do. The go-to market approach of some of these organisations is very different and it shapes the future of that space. Those are the people we want to work with,” divulged Blakeman.

Another example to quote here is OMD Predicts, a series of industry seminars held across various markets in APAC making key consumer / business predictions for the future. Last year, OMD Predicts had focussed on topics such as mobile trends in 2013.“We are now already looking at 2014 and beyond for the next big trends,” said Blakeman, adding, “We will make fundamental decisions, choices and launches on the basis of some of these predictions.”

A Good Year
OMD APAC has had a very good year with some impressive statistics to show off. The agency won 180 new clients across APAC in 2012, which allowed it a billing of USD 400 million in new business wins. The agency also kept a close eye on its existing businesses and had 98 per cent retention rate. Blakeman said, “We are always mindful of the proverbial leaking bucket. Retention of clients and organic growth is even more important than winning new business. In terms of acquiring new client partners we have been more focused on securing regional and local business in APAC to support our extensive portfolio of global clients.”

Consequently, OMD APAC saw a 25 per cent increase in headcount, taking its strength in the region to 3,000 employees.

On the awards front, OMD emerged on top in the Gunn Report for the seventh consecutive year. With over 125 awards under its belt, 2012 was APAC’s best year ever for securing industry accolades and with more recent high profile wins in APAC already in 2013, Blakeman is aiming to beat that target yet again.

“When you see our dynamic logo, it is constantly morphing and changing. It is indicative of the way we work. OMD adopts the same approach and our strong growth is a direct result of this. We are always asking, always doing, always in motion,” concluded Blakeman.

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.
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