The year 2014 has been amongst one of the better years for OMD as it arrested loss of businesses and corrected course by adding new global and regional wins. The agency’s global Chief, Mainardo de Nardis, bid adieu to the year with a visit to key markets in Asia and Europe, coinciding with the agency completing 15 years of operation in China. Mr de Nardis also made stops in India, Singapore and Thailand.
“The Asia visit is always special but it was more so in this round, because of our 15th anniversary in China. I wanted to be there because it is one of our first five offices, and in a country of importance. At the time, there was not much happening in China, so it was a beginning of sorts for China too, and we were a part of that,” observed Mr de Nardis.
The festivities at the agency were also marked by the OMD Innovation Fund awards. The fund is an internal incubator where OMD stimulates and finances business plan for its people to do something different and specific in the agency, which could be new service or capability in the area of content or technology. “If someone has a great idea, we encourage it and finance it. This is also a great way for younger people to bypass the organisation because they run the service. I wanted to see how it worked, and how we could take it to the region or globally. This is typical of OMD – take the best from a market and remix it for everyone in our agency,” Mr de Nardis stated.
China and Singapore are two markets that feature more frequently on Mr de Nardis’ calendar. While the visits were dotted with business, client and team meetings, Mr de Nardis reflected on the viability of the hub role that Singapore is playing. He said, “Unlike the experience of being in China or India that are priority markets for many of our clients, the reasons for being in Singapore has more to do with its regional hub role. But the dominance of the global clients versus the local team is very different in Singapore when you compare it with other such markets like New York or London, that also house very large local teams. A few years ago, there were many regional clients in Singapore but now I challenge the role of regional clients. Clients want to be in China and India where the action is. There is a question mark for the future on Singapore as a regional hub.”
Mr de Nardis’ Thailand trip, where he spent time at the agency’s Bangkok office, was to acknowledge the transformation of the agency’s digital offer. “I was fascinated to see how an agency that was born in the pre-digital area had morphed into a completely new culture, vision and way of thinking. From a staff of three, the office has a headcount of 40 servicing digital mandates. While it is an Omnicom Media Group service, I was happy to see it is so well integrated and doing the best work for clients. In less than a year, it feels like an agency that is now being run by the next generation – what a change,” he remarked.
This was Mr de Nardis’ first visit to Thailand in two years. “There was always a reason that would come in the way of making a prior trip,” he observed, and added, “But with the way our offer has evolved in Thailand, there was a good reason to reach out and connect with our people there, so they are encouraged to directly connect rather than work through filters, which really is quite boring. The trip served the purpose of connecting with our people. I had a town hall meeting with so many questions from our younger staff – it felt like I was in downtown New York – it was great to experience this.”
Mr de Nardis’ last stop on the trip was at the agency’s Mumbai office. While he is expected to be back in India soon, he noted that the despite being an eight-year old operation in India, OMD had not lost its start-up culture. “It feels like a big start up in our office. It is big and solid set up but it has the climate of ‘make the world go our way’. In a very polite and respectful way, they move forward – even if they disagree with you, they ignore you and move on,” he quipped.
Mr de Nardis’ Asia visit was marked with two clear takeaways. First, from the client viewpoint, he noted that clients today want to be challenged, they want to hear new and different things, and more often than not, they want to know about other markets and what can be imported or worked in their own market.
The second takeaway was in context to the agency’s culture. OMD has recently rolled out a ‘-ER’ philosophy across its offices. Elaborating on this, Mr de Nardis said, “In an Asian conference in Philippines, people from our New Zealand office were presenting the office’s contribution within our framework and they started talking, what we now call the -ER language. It clicked and we all agreed that that is what OMD is about. This is a bottom up thought process, where our people can define the agency in the ER language. It is different across markets. In Thailand for instance, the keywords were smarter, clearer and happier, and these can change as the agency evolves. For me this is important especially because it is coming from our people and it is giving us the direction of what we need to do to help them in better servicing our clients and strengthening our network.”