The Agency of the Future with McDonalds and Omnicom

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Weeks after the announcement that McDonald’s had selected Omnicom as the winner of its U.S. creative review, McDonald’s chief marketing officer Deborah Wahl and DDB North America CEO Wendy Clark took the stage at New York’s Town Hall during Advertising Week to discuss the new agency relationship and how a 45-year legacy paved a foundation for the “agency of the future.”

“We took a look inside at McDonald’s at a few critical things. We have all of this data and intelligence, but we wanted to make sure we had a partner that had human intelligence at the core. It’s cultural context and what’s happening in the moment,” Wahl said. “We looked at our existing structure, and realized we needed a new model.”

Clark discussed pulling the “best and brightest” from across nearly 20 agencies to help win the pitch and, ultimately, the McDonalds brand, noting it was “important that it didn’t just work in theory, that it wasn’t just putting a bunch of logos together.” Both panelists shared similar sentiments for the necessary component of human chemistry in a business relationship.

“When you’re low on sleep, you’re out of time, you’re reordering slides last minute, that’s when you know if you have created a team that really believes in each other and can really go forward,” Clark said.

Speaking more on the idea of unity in the new relationship, Clark noted there would be a transformation to shift focus more toward the consumer, explaining how the industry can often “get caught up in our ways.”

“We forget there’s such a huge conversation about McDonald’s, always. So go on these social networks and pay attention,” Clark said. “Customers love having breakfast available outside of that constrained time frame… it’s listening to that want. Having that cultural foresight allows us to predict trends, rather than just follow trends.”

Wahl addressed the question of social media in modern day branding, noting how “someone interacts with or reaches out to us once every two seconds.” And still, she hopes that turn-around time gets faster, an idea Clark countered with the emphasis of quality when it comes to a pushing a brands message on a social network platform.

“We need to be more selective. Brands need to remember they’re uninvited guests, they have to work to make sure they’re invited. The way you get invited is by bringing something to contribute,” Clark explained. “You know when you’re pushing it and you can tell it’s not the voice of the brand. Unless you’ve got something really great to contribute, why would you put something out that’s mediocre? McDonald’s isn’t in the business of mediocre.”

What’s to come in the next five years? Wahl says she believes it will likely be continuing to navigate the digital ecosystem, while Clark believes powerful storytelling will resurface as the source of life for all marketers and advertisers.

“For everything that goes into marketing, storytelling has endured over time. Since cavemen were writing on cave walls, to the transmission of voice and the rise of mobile phones, what’s engaging is the story. That’s the one truth we’re certain of,” Clark said. “Collaboration, and powerful storytelling no matter the platform.”

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