Opportunity knocks

Annabel Denham
Follow Annabel

Annabel Palmer talks to Dan Clays, the man who gave OMD new direction

WHEN Dan Clays joined OMD UK as managing director in 2012, he was on a mission. There was, he says, huge opportunity to “bring the agency back into the spotlight”. It was good timing – Clays had been in his previous role at Arena Media for 12 years, first helping to build its online agency and more recently as chief strategy and development officer. He talks to City A.M. about the challenges facing media agencies this year, and how he’s upped OMD’s game.

How is OMD keeping up in a rapidly evolving media world?

Despite a fast-changing landscape, as a media agency, our fundamental role hasn’t changed. We exist to drive business growth for brands through innovative marketing and media. But the rapid flow of new technology and the vast data we are able to manage means we are constantly looking to take advantage for our clients in new ways.

So at OMD, we’ve introduced new communications solutions which combine paid advertising, social media, earned media, and our clients’ owned assets. As more media becomes web-enabled, it generates data, and with that the opportunity to be more programmatic in the way we buy media. As a result, we are also increasing our analytics capabilities. This demands new skill sets and new people, so it’s a period of huge change.

Content marketing: Is it more than a buzzword?

Absolutely. Absolutely. Be it viewable TV content, tools or games, content creates more time for brands with their target audiences.

We’re seeing a combination of fast and slow. On the one hand, we have to develop big ideas for brands that can be planned in advance and reach big audiences at-scale in quality programming – because, let’s not forget, 85 per cent of people still watch live TV. But on the other, we have to find ways to be hyper-relevant in an always-on world by, for example, placing a brand’s content around relevant conversations on Twitter.

As a media agency, our relationship with media owners is crucial. They intricately understand what audiences want and today deliver content across multiple platforms, which provides increased scope for creativity. So we’re working increasingly closely with them.

What will be the next “big thing” in media?

It cannot be labelled the next big thing because UK mobile advertising spend doubled in 2013 to over £1bn. But given the time spent on mobile devices, brands still need to unlock better advertising experiences.

A less obvious answer to that question is in-home technology. If brands that provide product in home can get faster access to customers, the possibilities are very interesting.

What’s been the biggest red herring in your career?

There is a lot of commentary around native advertising. It’s intriguing and is relevant, but that concept has existed for a long time. It’s not new news.

Wearable technology is interesting – but as a media agency, you must stay mindful of where clients should invest, based on the scale of return. Will it be right for everyone? No. But for eyewear brand Luxottica and Google [who recently partnered to work together on wearable devices], for example, the intersecting of the fashion and tech worlds makes sense.

What’s been the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?

The Channel 4 Superhumans work we did during the paralympics. Not only did it drive viewers to the channel, but it changed the way people think about disability.