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Inside the Omnicom-Flywheel merger with John Wren, Jonathan Nelson & Duncan Painter

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Inside the Omnicom-Flywheel merger with John Wren, Jonathan Nelson & Duncan Painter

In this exclusive joint interview, John Wren, CEO of Omnicom Group, Duncan Painter, CEO of Flywheel Digital and Jonathan Nelson, CEO of Omnicom Digital, divulge how the merger could set the stage for a revolutionary era in retail media.

Few marketing stories signify retail media’s meteoric rise quite like Omnicom Group’s acquisition of Flywheel.

In October, Omnicom Group purchased Ascential’s digital commerce platform Flywheel for $835m, making it the most expensive deal in the company’s history. The investment aims to broaden the US-headquartered holding company’s influence in the digital commerce space, which is anticipated to increase by 50%, reaching $7 trillion by 2025, according to John Wren, Omnicom’s chairman and chief executive. It also blends Omnicom’s precision marketing and insights platform, Omni, with Flywheel’s retail optimization platform.

At CES 2024, Wren, alongside Omnicom Digital chief executive Jonathan Nelson and former Ascential chief executive turned Flywheel Digital boss Duncan Painter, sat down for a rare interview together to discuss how the convergence of the Omni and Flywheel platforms, combined with the power of AI, will reshape the future of retail advertising.

The nexus of sales and marketing

According to Painter, Flywheel’s suite of precision targeting, real-time insights, brand amplification and incrementality tools connect products with consumers with “superhuman” accuracy and efficiency. This made the company particularly attractive to advertising juggernaut Omnicom.

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“Duncan had the vision to see where retail marketing was going,” said Wren. “We thought it was interesting. We [observed] that he [created] the only seamless platform you could utilize to collect data and focus on company sales. I’m secretly envious of what he’s accomplished.”

Omnicom’s ultimate dream, as articulated by Nelson, is to close the gap between sales and marketing and provide a comprehensive understanding of consumer behavior through first-party data. Joining forces (and datasets) gets them that much closer to making their dream a reality.

“Omni is ‘the end.’ It’s really about going from awareness to consideration and understanding all audience behavior. Awareness, consideration and purchase: everybody says it. It kind of rolls off the tongue, but nobody really has been doing that,” he explained. “[Flywheel has] the moment of truth: the point of purchase. Connecting the data sets together allows us to understand not just who [consumers] are and what they bought, but what they saw and all the things that happened before that … Nobody could really explain this, so we’re going to be the ones that explain it. We see the whole customer life cycle, the whole chain.”

Wren went on to say that this could remove several ROI-related questions for brands, and eradicate adtech from the equation entirely. “What Duncan has built in the past five years is a platform that goes through adtech and allows [clients] to see whether or not what they’re doing is efficient and identify what’s going to drive category growth … It’s very exciting. We now have a vision of that. The amount of data between the two platforms is that of a government, really.”

The road ahead: raising the bar with AI

In the era of cookie deprecation, AI will touch every aspect of marketing and sales, according to Nelson. “AI will be with the underpinning for all of this, and with the start of Omni and Flywheel, you’ll start to see where this goes,” he said. “2024 is going to be pretty exciting. Last year was getting the foundational pillar partnerships in place. 2024 is go-time.”

Meanwhile, Painter said he expects generative AI to work on product visualizations, dramatically reducing the time required for product assessments. “This new infrastructure can help [brands] innovate new products multiple times faster than they’ve ever been able to do it in the past. They can create, test, prove, know for reality in a very short cycle and then scale in confidence with brand, in a business model that has only ever been a dream before.”

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Wren reiterated his excitement for what’s to come from the Omni-Flywheel platform and remains confident that their combined forces will pose as an enduring disruptor in the burgeoning retail media space. “Essentially, if one of my competitors did something smart, it wouldn’t take more than six or nine months to plagiarize that idea, [but] this is impossible to plagiarize. It would take somebody at least a decade.”

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

In a recent announcement, Snapchat revealed a groundbreaking update that challenges its traditional design ethos. The platform is experimenting with an option that allows users to defy the 24-hour auto-delete rule, a feature synonymous with Snapchat’s ephemeral messaging model.

The proposed change aims to introduce a “Never delete” option in messaging retention settings, aligning Snapchat more closely with conventional messaging apps. While this move may blur Snapchat’s distinctive selling point, Snap appears convinced of its necessity.

According to Snap, the decision stems from user feedback and a commitment to innovation based on user needs. The company aims to provide greater flexibility and control over conversations, catering to the preferences of its community.

Currently undergoing trials in select markets, the new feature empowers users to adjust retention settings on a conversation-by-conversation basis. Flexibility remains paramount, with participants able to modify settings within chats and receive in-chat notifications to ensure transparency.

Snapchat underscores that the default auto-delete feature will persist, reinforcing its design philosophy centered on ephemerality. However, with the app gaining traction as a primary messaging platform, the option offers users a means to preserve longer chat histories.

The update marks a pivotal moment for Snapchat, renowned for its disappearing message premise, especially popular among younger demographics. Retaining this focus has been pivotal to Snapchat’s identity, but the shift suggests a broader strategy aimed at diversifying its user base.

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This strategy may appeal particularly to older demographics, potentially extending Snapchat’s relevance as users age. By emulating features of conventional messaging platforms, Snapchat seeks to enhance its appeal and broaden its reach.

Yet, the introduction of message retention poses questions about Snapchat’s uniqueness. While addressing user demands, the risk of diluting Snapchat’s distinctiveness looms large.

As Snapchat ventures into uncharted territory, the outcome of this experiment remains uncertain. Will message retention propel Snapchat to new heights, or will it compromise the platform’s uniqueness?

Only time will tell.

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

While it is tempting to try to appeal to a broad audience, the founder of alcohol-free coaching service Just the Tonic, Sandra Parker, believes the best thing you can do for your business is focus on your niche. Here’s how she did just that.

When running a business, reaching out to as many clients as possible can be tempting. But it also risks making your marketing “too generic,” warns Sandra Parker, the founder of Just The Tonic Coaching.

“From the very start of my business, I knew exactly who I could help and who I couldn’t,” Parker told My Biggest Lessons.

Parker struggled with alcohol dependence as a young professional. Today, her business targets high-achieving individuals who face challenges similar to those she had early in her career.

“I understand their frustrations, I understand their fears, and I understand their coping mechanisms and the stories they’re telling themselves,” Parker said. “Because of that, I’m able to market very effectively, to speak in a language that they understand, and am able to reach them.” 

“I believe that it’s really important that you know exactly who your customer or your client is, and you target them, and you resist the temptation to make your marketing too generic to try and reach everyone,” she explained.

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“If you speak specifically to your target clients, you will reach them, and I believe that’s the way that you’re going to be more successful.

Watch the video for more of Sandra Parker’s biggest lessons.

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

Instagram’s testing out some new options to help spice up your live-streams in the app, with some live broadcasters now able to select a game that they can play with viewers in-stream.

As you can see in these example screens, posted by Ahmed Ghanem, some creators now have the option to play either “This or That”, a question and answer prompt that you can share with your viewers, or “Trivia”, to generate more engagement within your IG live-streams.

That could be a simple way to spark more conversation and interaction, which could then lead into further engagement opportunities from your live audience.

Meta’s been exploring more ways to make live-streaming a bigger consideration for IG creators, with a view to live-streams potentially catching on with more users.

That includes the gradual expansion of its “Stars” live-stream donation program, giving more creators in more regions a means to accept donations from live-stream viewers, while back in December, Instagram also added some new options to make it easier to go live using third-party tools via desktop PCs.

Live streaming has been a major shift in China, where shopping live-streams, in particular, have led to massive opportunities for streaming platforms. They haven’t caught on in the same way in Western regions, but as TikTok and YouTube look to push live-stream adoption, there is still a chance that they will become a much bigger element in future.

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Which is why IG is also trying to stay in touch, and add more ways for its creators to engage via streams. Live-stream games is another element within this, which could make this a better community-building, and potentially sales-driving option.

We’ve asked Instagram for more information on this test, and we’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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