SBJ/Oct. 23-29, 2017/People and Pop Culture

The Sit-Down: John Osborn, OMD

Osborn’s recent move from BBDO, long one of the most reputable creative agencies, to heading a large media-buying shop at OMD USA puzzled many. But it’s “where the action is,” he says, during an era of fragmentation and changes in media consumption.

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My move was a head-scratcher for some, but it was exactly what I wanted to do. There’s nothing but opportunity on the media side. Media is where the action is now.

It’s never been more important to listen to what the data tells us about reaching your target audiences and how they behave. And the news flash here is those messages do not have to be void of emotion or creativity.

I would argue that the right media, thought about the right way, in the context of all the other marketing variables, is the secret sauce which can make or break an entire campaign.

Sports is hotter than it’s ever been.


There’s a taste factor that will keep big sports from becoming too much like NASCAR [commercially]. You don’t want to just add more clutter to an already cluttered environment.

Photo by: KAREN LYNCH / OMD


We have to be smarter than that. Social media’s power means fans have a bigger say than ever.

You have to respect that, and I think that will stop some of the bigger leagues from moving [commercially] all the way in NASCAR’s direction.

On one hand, you’ve got this focus on fragmentation of media and drastically changing media consumption, along with the elevated complexity and precision of the marketing to adjust to all that.

On the other hand, we have clients still asking for less complexity.

They want to do things fewer, bigger, better
and going for mass reach with traditional media.

What we’re spending time on these days is determining the right balance — which is tricky, kind of like flying a helicopter.

Creativity and media can and should work closely together.
Change has taken place there already, with more and more media decisions being elevated up the C-suite.

It’s complex out there in “Marketingland,” and it can be confusing. There’s a sort of shadow hanging over digital [advertising]. But there are more opportunities than there are problems.

I have as many people pitching me on long-form content for digital as I do people pushing me on six-second or even two-second ads for digital.

I feel like I’m a crossing guard at the corner of context and creativity.

Maybe the answer is to produce work people will actually seek out.

There’s this promise of “mass-precision” marketing,
the ability to adhere to a common set of brand standards while delivering that customized message to the right people at the right place, at the right time and, most importantly, when they are in the right frame of mind to receive that message.



The macro advertising/marketing themes of relevancy and looking to effect behavior change haven’t changed. What has changed is the technology, which now enables us to be more focused on targeting and delivering marketing messages.

Millennials are brand loyalists as much as any group, but reaching them requires being smarter and more respectful about how we reach and interact with them. They don’t like being told what to do.

They can be fickle, they can be switchers, but they are just as brand-savvy and brand-loyal as any group.

Brands have to work harder to earn their respect and practice brand values and brand transparency they can share with millennials.

I’m talking to a lot of clients looking at using more experiential work.

Otherwise, there’s this risk of a message done wrong and delivered wrong coming across as marketing/advertising jargon.

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