OMG Spain’s Joan Jordi Vallverdú on the Future of Advertising, AI and More
- OmnicomMediaGroup is the media division of Omnicom Group, one of the world’s largest marketing, advertising and communication companies that provides services to more than 5,000 customers in more than 100 countries.
- OmnicomMediaGroup includes the media networks OMD Worldwide, PHD Network and Hearts & Science, as well as the leading data analysis company Annalect.
- In Spain OmnicomMediaGroup, led by Joan Jordi Vallverdú since 2011, invoiced 505 million euros in 2017, which was 25% more than the previous year.
Within our Better Capitalism initiative , we continue with our series of interviews with the most important media and advertising agencies in Spain, key players in communication and in the relationship between companies and consumers.
OmnicomMediaGroup is one of the largest agencies by volume of investment, and also one of those that has grown the most in recent years, thanks in part to winning, globally, an account as important as that of the Vaesa Group (Volkswagen, Audi, Seat …), one of the largest advertisers in Spain and the fifth largest in the world, which until then had been managed by GroupM .
Joan Jordi Vallverdú has been linked to the company since 1992, although he acceded to his current position as head of the company in Spain in 2011.
At what moment is OMG now, both globally and in Spain?
We are in a moment of constant transformation. Technology is changing, consumers are changing, media are evolving, brands and products are evolving, advertisers and customers themselves; and we are in the middle of that ecosystem.
The good news for us is that we anticipate periods of transformation or crisis. That’s the advantage of being in a media agency: it forces you to go ahead and anticipate possible changes.
It is a moment of transformation and even of wealth in terms of novelties, changes and speeds of these constant changes.
But within these changes, and this is something that we are perceiving the media, we are in a moment of advertising investment, especially in Spain, in which it seems that a turning point is coming.
It is true that there are many nuances, but logically the progress of the big ones – I am talking about Facebook, Google and the irruption of Amazon – is being noticed and it is obvious that in Spain there has been a certain slowdown in the growth and advertising investment.
Is this you perceiving? Is it only in certain sectors?
I think there are several answers to that question.
The first is that I do not think it’s being a bad year in terms of advertising investment. First, because we are going to start talking not only about the paid media, but also about our own means and the means we have earned, which is basically the entire ecosystem in which we are working with our clients. That means that the money is finite and you have to distribute it, and if you have an investment in your own means, you will surely reduce the investment in paid media or use other types of marketing tools.
2018, if we look at the evolution of the whole year, has been a very erratic year in terms of forecasting behavior. That is to say, to try to advance in February what would happen in March, or in June, or in September, it was very complicated because, indeed, there are many saw teeth in the behavior. However, in the total accumulated we will be around the levels of Spanish GDP.
If we look at all sources of measurement, investment data is still lacking, especially on Facebook, Google, Amazon and other technology platforms that are not collected. And if we include that amount, which is not collected, we are probably growing by 2 or 3%. Therefore, it is not as bad a year as we could think, what happens is that we are used to much more positive data. But growing by 3%, when a GDP is growing below 3%, is not a bad figure.
In this sense, how do you see next year and the specific challenges that your company has?
Our mission is and continues to be to help our clients grow their businesses. Therefore their challenges, automatically, become our challenges. Where are these challenges? One of them is in the consumer’s knowledge, a consumer that is constantly changing.
The consumer journey of that same person has nothing to do at 8 o’clock in the morning, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and at 8 o’clock at night. We can talk about multiconsumidores within a same consumer and that requires a deep knowledge of that behavior. We are talking about media that do not work the same, with the same speed or effectiveness, based on many variables that we are already incorporating.
Therefore, a first challenge would be to measure all those variables and know how they affect each of the media. And there we enter analytic environments with attribution models, contribution models and also everything that has to do with econometric models and therefore with marketing science . It is one of the main challenges we have in our group to provide service to our clients and help them optimize those investments.
Within the consumer, the user experience is fundamental in our own media because it is the way we are going to connect with our brands and our products and services.
You also have to get out of the ordinary and seek, through creativity and innovation, things that differentiate you from the rest. We have to push our clients out of the comfort zone. But let’s innovate, let’s try things that are coming and you have to try them before they are ephemeral and disappear.
We have to push our clients out of the comfort zone
Therefore, there is also a term for new technologies, or new media, or new ways of connecting. For example, I am talking about branded content or audiovisual content that must be taken into account on the table.
In short, everything changes and nothing changes. That is, everything changes because there are new variables and playersin the field of play, and nothing changes because our mission continues to be to bring brands to consumers through the media.
In this sense, in which you talk about the participation of technology and also in the group’s own structure … how does that relationship between Omnicom, OMD, PHD and Annalect work, which is the most technological part?
We are organized the other way around than other groups. The OmnicomMediaGroup group is below to provide services and support to the agencies above with direct relationship with customers.
On the one hand we have OMD, which is the most adolescent agency, is 16 years old. On the other hand, we have PHD, which is an agency that has 10 years in the world – and that in Spain was born from scratch in 2016.
We have a new agency in Spain called Hearts & Science, which we created months ago. Each agency has its own personality.
The nuance of OMD is creativity in the contribution of ideas. PHD seeks innovation in media: always find a new formula to connect and impact the consumer. Hearts & Science is the data driven marketing agency . But even with their mission and clear personality, they all have a creative, innovative and data driven focus .
The group offers transversal support thanks to the volume of purchases, that is, the muscle of negotiation, as well as shared services such as finance, human resources and information technology.
In addition, and transversally, share the data and technology unit, Annalect, our digital consultancy, which serves the clients of the three agencies according to the business needs of advertisers, their degree of maturity in terms of technology or analytical and their degree of need in terms of creating digital ecosystems. Annalect, with the team of consultants, computer scientists, mathematicians and engineers provide this transversal service.
THE ADVERTISING MARKET
How do you think advertising is evolving and your relationship with customers? Is there really a tendency to seek authenticity? And, how do you mix the cold data with the most human part?
They have lace. I believe that magic is produced when you feel at a table a creative and a mathematician and get a product in common. The mathematician brings science and the creative brings innovation, then they are perfectly compatible.
In fact, you usually talk to a mathematician and he will tell you that there is nothing more creative in the world than mathematics. It’s partly right, it’s true. Therefore I believe that it is necessary to know how to combine it.
The magic comes when you feel a creative and a mathematician and get a product in common
It does not mean that the data make us radically change the way in which campaigns are created, but they will give us information for our creative thinking process: how to think or adapt better to realities. I think we have to avoid that the excess analysis leads to paralysis. But it does that the analytical of data and the systems of algorithms help us to be more innovative and creative. That is the combination.
The agencies are transforming the ways of working enough: it is a very important revolution that we are living.
And as for the devices or windows where advertising is directed, how do you see the future and how can it impact your business model?
Television, for example, is still a working and reactive medium that helps you know your brand or sell. It is very immediate and I think nobody puts that into discussion. What happens is that it is more than evident that before it had a market share and now there are many competitors that complement that function or are absolutely autonomous to run an advertising campaign.
To all this the mobile part is added. I believe that the penetration of smartphones in Spain and in the rest of the world is spectacular. If we consume television, or listen to the radio, or are doing sports we are also with the mobile. You have to know how to see it and combine it.
On the other hand, televisions also reinvent themselves and look for their digital channels, creating products that attract the audience. I believe that television will continue to be there. The growths to which I was accustomed to the best are different, but I believe that they will adapt their products and television offers to the new realities.
The issue is that there probably will not be a budget for everyone and we will have to decide how to make this media strategy much more adjusted based on the needs we have of our products and our consumers. And there again enters the analytical and econometric models, which will help us balance those weights. We are in a moment where analytics will help us to balance the weights between one medium and another.
And within that analytics there is a clear tendency to segmentation, but there is also a feeling that volumes without a quality component are no longer so interesting. Is it a reality or is it a perception that we have the means?
They are both. As agencies we want everything: large audiences and personalized messages. The faster we reach a large audience and, knowing the audience, we can segment different messages according to the information, we will be much more effective in both aspects, audience and segmentation.
For that we have created a tool a few months ago worldwide that is called OMNI , which is the first precision marketing platform based on people and insights that what you are looking for, through different tools connected to this platform and through different sources of audience information and creative processes incorporated, is to reach the maximum possible coverage but with the largest number of personalized messages.
Agencies want everything: large audiences and personalized messages
That is the tendency towards where I think we are going to go. To give you an example, imagine in any medium that depending on the time of day, the temperature, the public, can serve both creativity. In the end you will get that big audience but you will launch very different messages, and the digitalization will help us. We already see it in programmatic on television, it is already there, it exists and it is a reality.
Nobody wants to give up coverage or segmentation that helps you find the customer who ends up buying at the end of the funnel , but brands have to have their reputation in their life and their history. If they are just sales, you do not build or maintain the brand reputation that is so important, it is what ultimately makes a consumer decide for you or another brand.
And how will the IA impact in this sense in the future?
There is already artificial intelligence for example in Google and Facebook working with algorithms. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, processes a lot of data , learns from that data and obtains as output the results that are expected. That is, what we used to do manually before, let’s imagine it on a large scale and much faster. That’s what artificial intelligence is going to bring.
What we have to help us reflect on is that we will have time to think more. That time that we used to do that field work now will do the algorithm itself and we will have time to think about what is better, what is new, what is tested, what testing …
In the coming years machine learning and artificial intelligence will change our lives. I do not think anyone can argue that the internet has changed our lives for 25 years now. The same will happen with machine learning and artificial intelligence, not only as consumers but as companies. It does not mean that business disappears, it means that we will change the way we work in many aspects.
Artificial intelligence is going to change our lives as the Internet has done in the last 25 years
How do you see the evolution of the great technologies within the market of the advertising sector?
What Amazon does is generate more competition. And if there is more competition, it is good because it forces others to strive to be better. The richer the digital ecosystem and the more options there are, the better and more effective the advertising will be.
On the other hand, that Instagram is working very well is because it has become relevant to the consumer. One of the things the internet has given us is the democratization of information: we access the information we want, when we want and how we want. Using an app is very easy in the age bracket that is and it shows. This leads us to the fact that the consumer pushes us to decide what works for me and what does not work for me.
The consumer pushes us towards what works. That has been the key to Instagram
The problem is that there are more and more technologies, but there are still 24 hours a day of time and we do not have more hours to use more applications or more social networks, with which we have to decide where we consume. And that is the challenge, to know where we are going to spend the time: if we spend more with Instagram, with Twitter, with Facebook, buying at Amazon … Statistics say that everything grows but time is finite, so from somewhere they will have to adjust those times.
And in terms of formats, you have also mentioned branded content and the exponential growth of the program, while the decrease of the display is a reality. How do you see this evolution?
The growth of digital video, of online video is a reality in any format. In the end, technology is what will determine what kind of formats will work best. When between 5G and you can download a giga in five seconds, imagine, that will change your way of consuming everything, for sure.
A very important thing is that for more audiovisual content that you have, if it is not relevant, it will not work. You have to get it to hook the consumer to say: “that product interests me, I want to see it and I want to share it or enjoy it individually”.
We go with the media. For some time we have been living a constant transformation. How do you see the future? Do you think that payment models will be imposed? How will this affect advertising?
There is one thing that I think is a trend that is growing at the consumer level in general and we can look for its application in the media, which is subscription payment. We are realizing that a user is willing to pay if what offers that payment is interesting and provides and, above all, with the option that when you want to disconnect. I believe that the permanence disappears and the subscription allows you to enter or leave whenever you want.
The user is willing to pay for the information if it contributes and is interesting
How do you combine that with advertising? Because if I’m paying, I hope I do not receive publicity. Well, it depends on whether that publicity provides information that I do not care about because it satisfies my needs, because it knows me, because I am sharing my information. Then it will be a world in which they can live together perfectly.
And on the other hand we will have means in which we will gather large masses of audience (allow me the word masses of audience) such as live events, sports, etc. There advertising is native, it is almost part of the content itself. You can not imagine a Super Bowl without the spot , it’s already part of you. Well, I think that model will also be in another type of media. In those times of congregation of many people there will be a native advertising that is there, also living with much more worked and personalized models.
And how do you see the situation in Spain?
Here we have several scenarios. We have a digital part in which the editorial groups will try to create a quality product.
Televisions are looking for television formats that hook and connect with the audience, not only in their open channel, but also in private channels, even with subscription, so they are diversifying their model. In press, there is the digital part but also the paper part, which is a discussion that we have had many times. Every year is falling, but every year new magazine titles are growing and when a paper magazine is launched it is not to lose money, it is to earn money.
In the end we are in the hands of that consumer who not only knows and thinks, but has a voice to decide and decide, and also prescribes: just as it can give us fame, it can be removed. Just as it can give us an increase in audience, it can be taken away from us, so we have to be very close to him to understand what he needs, likes and does not like.
In the future, a little bit of everything will happen. In the end we are all going to have to adapt the needs of the market to technology, which is the one that will set the pattern of behavior.
Do you think it is complicated for a medium to survive only from advertising?
It depends on the medium. If you have a lot of competition at the end, budgets are finite and you have to decide where you invest your money. You probably have to remove or stop putting in some media because the budget of our customers is limited. There will be means that can not live on advertising alone and will have to look for a subscription method that will help them finance that part. There will also be means that can live on advertising if they can reduce costs. Since 2008 all companies have done that exercise, or at least, it should be done.
Tell us about the culture of OmnicomMediaGroup, is there any difference between your way of working and that of your colleagues in other countries?
Yes, there is a global DNA that has some very similar pillars, and then each country adapts them to your needs or your local budget. We are a fairly autonomous company in decision making.
Our culture is client first oriented . We are customer oriented because we think that if it is good for the customer it is good for us. If the client is doing well, we do well; If the client sells, we can do more things. But if the client does not sell, there are more problems so we are oriented to support the clients. Our mission is to help you grow your business goals.
On the other hand we are a company very focused on people. The differentiating element in advertising in the agencies are the people. We work that hard and try to have the best professionals: with the best talent but with the best attitude.
We seek to give the best version of ourselves. It does not mean to be the best: it is to give the best version of yourself, but with the best possible attitude and also the pride of being the way we are. This culture also makes us proud.
Everyone in the company passes a digitalization test, if we are not digitized, we can hardly help our customers
And last but not least, we have a clear vocation for digital transformation. If we are not conceptually digitized – that means knowing how to use digital channels, know how to understand them, know how to apply them – it is very difficult for us to help our clients. In fact, in the company everyone passes a digitalization test to see what degree of digital skills they have and we apply a training plan to solve those areas that have to improve. That is to say, to someone of finances I will not ask him to be able to work a DSP, but I will ask him to know what a DSP is ; and someone from programmatic should ask you for an in-depth knowledge of how a DSP works. But I do believe that the entire company should know what it is and what it is used for.
Which profiles are the most sought after when hiring? What are the potential employees?
Here are two lines. One is where there is a high turnover, and focuses on the area of performance specialist , programmatic, etc. They are coveted and highly demanded profiles, and, in a market that is relatively small and specialized, is a challenge in which we have to work. We work a lot with universities to detect future talent. It is the formula so that they know our culture, integrating themselves in the teams and thus we give them opportunities.
It is also true that, in terms of this high turnover, I think that sometimes there is little time to consolidate projects. From the salary point of view it is good for them, but not so much in the long term. It will be necessary to see in five or ten years where they finish or do not finish those movements so fast.
Our mission is to move from supplier to value consultant
Another aspect that we must work very well also those people who have that 360º vision and are very focused on helping our clients’ business and not only their own work, which would be defined as a planner or a consultant.
Our mission is in – and we have achieved it with many clients – from being a supplier to a value consultant. We want those profiles that are commercial, that are managers, that are organized, flexible, that are not afraid of new trends, that they want to know. In that we combine training and young people who bring a lot of freshness.
It is interesting that high turnover in the agencies. What do you think is the key? Do they move based on a salary level or because there is no sense of belonging and permanence within an agency?
I meant that there is no time to consolidate the project, it is not a matter of the company’s culture not arriving and not generating the pride of belonging. It is that there is no time. A person who is 12 months does not have time to know the company, the values.
It goes away surely because there is a salary project and a change to a sector of big consumption, like the automotive sector, or there is a change of country. Much of the high turnover that exists is because the opening to Europe is very high. The rotation also occurs because the challenge of having experiences at certain ages outside of your home context also attracts. That allows you to easily say “I have a three-year programmatic experience and have worked with all the DSPs” or “I have a lot of experience in the Google platform”.
I think they are vital needs and money is always present as a decision variable. Just as it is a determining driver when buying one thing or another, in the same way it is decisive when it comes to accessing a job.
But I say again that there is a lack of patience and a certain generosity in consolidating projects beyond the short term. Because I think there are projects that go much further.
Do you have conciliation and flexibility policies?
There is flexible time of entry and exit within a minimum number of hours of agreement. It does not register. You can enter when you want within a time slot.
There are many collaborative actions between the agency in an initiative called funteam . Once a month, in each of the offices, five or six people create an idea or a project with a limited budget to encourage people to get to know each other and talk to each other. It can be Friday with mojitos, it can be an evening of cinema, it can be a volleyball championship in Barcelona , and that is what we encourage a lot between the agencies so that this culture is worked on.
We have Q & A sessions of employees to CEOs and myself
There are new training formulas with the scrum master method to motivate and incorporate membership issues. We have fruit days, we make healthy breakfasts , times when we meet at the company, especially at Christmas.
Also Q & A sessions to the general managers and to myself, in open, without preparing anything. Anyone can ask what they want. All the part of company culture we are working on and that is something that requires time and requires consolidation. We’re on that.
How do you see the role of women, both at lower levels and at senior management levels in this sector? Do you think that an evolution is really taking place or do you think there is still much to improve?
In the Spanish general economy there is much to improve. In particular, in OmnicomMediaGroup the masculine and feminine gender is not a barrier that we consider for any opportunity or for any managerial or non directive position. If you are worth, what you do you do it well and you do it with enthusiasm and with desire, the gender is exactly the same.
This is how we have been working for many, many years, because that is how we understand it. It is not a problem in this industry, in which a very high percentage are women, it is true. However, for the positions of computer scientists, mathematicians or engineers it has been a more masculine than feminine sector, although our director of the analytics unit is a woman, and that of human resources is a woman, our director of new business is a woman, the director General of the largest office of the whole group is a woman … We do not have that kind of doubt here, it has never been taken into account when hiring or making any decision.
Gender is never a barrier in GMOs, but it is true that in Spain there is much to improve
But back to the economy of Spain, I think there is a lot to do.
Do you think that much more aggressive policies are necessary, such as including diversity quotas within the objectives of senior managers?
I honestly think not. There will be industry in which the need for change is much higher, but not to impose you will achieve better results. That has to do with the base: how do you give the opportunities from the base to the people so that it grows and goes closer to managerial positions, and that really then there is the opportunity to have it.
The issue of quotas is a very complex and very difficult issue because all sectors are completely different, but quotas require, and feminism defends is a principle of equality between men and women. That’s what you have to respect, that framework. If decisions at the level of the board of directors or shareholders’ meetings to select CEOs or CEOs take into account gender, it is a problem, you are biasing.
If we put quotas we are also arriving in another way. It is true that if you do not put quotas in certain councils you may never make that decision but I think you have to let things evolve in a natural way. It is proven, and no one has any doubt, that women and men are perfectly capable of running companies at all levels. This is something that nobody can discuss. Somehow I think we have to let decisions be made and move forward.
For example, the top managers of Facebook, LinkedIn , Google and Twitter in Spain are women, so in the technology sector we do not have or do not live that feeling.
In Spain or abroad, do you have CSR policies?
There is a CSR policy in Omnicom in the United States that is very extensive, with many initiatives that work for the community, omniwoman for women, aspects of LGTBI …
It works with issues of help or social contribution, and in certain projects the agencies help to build parks, schools … There are many initiatives that are created or born in New York and then scale all over the world. We believe that it is much more ambitious if we do it in the global Omnicom framework and not in a single agency.
You have been with the company since 1992. You became CEO in 2011. Tell us a little about how that evolution has been, how you have been seeing yourself in different roles within the company and what you felt when you reached the position of maximum responsibility.
A lot of responsibility, when you get to that position what you feel is a lot of responsibility of a business, especially of wonderful people who are getting up every day to work and to fulfill their dreams.
Look, I started advertising almost by chance because my family belongs to the Catalan textile industry in Barcelona and the logical thing, studying Economics, is to continue on that path, but I ended up in advertising and internship in a creative agency of the Omnicom group . I am very active and I have always had the luck in my career that every time, two or three years, something happened within the same project, even if I had opportunities outside, I liked that more. And things have been happening, I’ve been in departments of organization, corporate and financial departments.
When we set up the medium, I started as CFO and then as CEO. We have created companies, we have created divisions. I have been traveling to Argentina, to London, I have moved a lot. Something always happens, it’s a company in which from 1992 until now every day was almost like a blank page. There was always something new that you could write if you wanted and that has always attracted me. To that you add that the years fly by and here I am. In 2015 they trusted me to lead the project with the departure of my predecessor, who was also a legend, so I guess the responsibility is still greater .
I do not know if I’m lucky or it should be like that in general, but I have a good time. There are difficulties, moments of complicated tension, like all businesses; but I like what I do because there are different sectors, conversations, people, the opportunity to see things that are going to happen or that are happening.
Within your work, what do you like the most and what is the least, or what is worse?
What I like most is that each day can be different from the previous one, every day there is a blank page in which you write: what I am going to contribute to the business today, what I am going to contribute to my clients and contribute to the teams.
And what I like the least is when you lose a client because it is a break in the relationship. We focus a lot on the client’s values, then breaking it is a disaffection, it is a sadness.
How would you define your leadership style?
It is a collaborative style, of listening but after deciding. I like to surround myself with a team. I’m lucky because we have a great team, a very high level and directors of many areas and wonderful people. I like to surround myself with people who challenge me.
Therefore, I have a collaborative style to listen to what they think on many levels. I like to ask, many times giving me walks around our offices, and talk to everyone. And with all the information – and I understand that it is also what is expected of me and I try to do it – I make the decisions.
Tell me one or two learnings that you have taken in this very long trajectory that you have here.
The first thing is to listen, but to gather more information. I think many times you do not get all the information, or the way it should come. You have to know how to read between the lines, you have to know how to say: here something is missing, I do not have the complete vision. The ability to try to find out what is missing is something I have learned.
Another is having patience. I am a very restless person, very active, and having patience is something that you are learning over the years. You have to let things come up and the projects to mature.
I would stay with that ability to listen and that patience. And also learn. Every day you learn something new. Learn to learn, even unlearn to relearn.
What would you recommend, from your position, to someone who would like to enter this sector, and more specifically in OMG?
First, you want to work and want to learn. That you are curious, very inquisitive: if you arrive at nine o’clock at your workplace and at six o’clock in the afternoon you leave and you have not talked to anyone, just with the computer, you have made a mistake. In fact, we are in a sector such as advertising and especially in agencies, where you can work with emotions, with curiosity, with innovation, with fear, with force. In very few sectors they allow you to be totally open and express what you want so you can contribute.
The other day a person of recent incorporation told me: “I come to work here because I learn and I enjoy”. Well, we’ll take care of you to continue enjoying and learning. A positive attitude that also spreads.