Pulling back the curtain on OMD UK’s cutting-edge Newsroom

photo, agency newsroom

Back in February, OMD UK announced the formation of a new real-time creative unit called the Newsroom, part of a larger restructure designed “to generate ideas and earn clients a ‘greater share of people’s lives.’” In partnership with Buzzfeed, Global Radio, The Guardian, Google, Facebook and Outbrain, the Newsroom is tasked with responding to real-time audience interest with creative ideas for their clients. Piece of cake, right?

Digital Development Director Tim Denyer lets us in on the details of how the Newsroom actually works.

First, what exactly is the Newsroom and why is it so vital to your clients?

Newsroom is our real-time insights and ideas team. It is the engine room for spotting opportunities from what is happening in the cultural agenda for our clients (what people are reading, talking about, searching or sharing etc…). and creating cross-media ideas at speed to take advantage of those opportunities.

This is vital for clients because the changing media landscape means that the importance of just buying an audience to gain a greater share of voice has a diminishing impact. Data is showing us that the impact of owned and earned media has accelerated over the past five years so our agency mission is to capture a greater share of people’s lives through being culturally connected. Newsroom is one of the platforms that allow us to make this a reality.

Is Newsroom something your clients have been asking for or did it spring from another initiative? How long was it in development?

Clients were asking for ideas that really capture people’s attention, drove greater earned media and told their product or brand stories at the times that are most relevant.

We’d been practicing this real-time approach through social media but the key benefit to our Newsroom service is that we can now activate our ideas across all media. It allows us to blend paid, owned and earned media.

In essence, it has been an iterative journey but we did commit a few months to get the ways of working right. We’ve taken the start-up approach of creating an MVP (minimum viable product) which we will test, learn and grow as we achieve successful campaigns for our clients.

How did you go about choosing the partners to launch the Newsroom with? What were your key considerations?

photo, Tim Denyer, Digital Development Director at OMD UK

Tim Denyer, Digital Development Director at OMD UK

Our criteria for selecting partners was two-fold. Firstly, who has data that allows us to understand what is happening in culture and capturing people’s attention? Secondly, who is able to activate ideas for us at high-speed to an audience at scale?

How exactly will the Newsroom turn the insights it gathers into tangible ideas and creative for your clients? What is the process? Which departments across the agency need to be activated in order to make that happen?

It is a blend of human and machine. The machine element does the data collection. We’ve got tools that allow us to understand the velocity of news articles, memes, videos etc., as well as data that tells us how and where they are being shared.

This feeds the human element.

We’ve hired an editor/curator who gathers the data each morning. She then presents the major stories to a smaller team made up of people from across OMD Create (our division of non-traditional media specialists from Social, Experiential, Content, Sponsorship and Technology). These people then work with our client teams to formulate, build, stretch and sell the ideas to our clients as well as work with media partners to make them happen.

What does Toby Gunton bring to the Newsroom as the head of innovation?

Toby has great experience from both digital and creative agencies which has installed a ruthless tenacity for spotting, developing and delivering ideas. Having someone who is focussed on how we innovate in our service offering as an agency is also a huge advantage. It is fair to say that he is one of many great examples of the type of talent OMD UK has hired to move us away from just being a ‘spots and space’ media agency. We have people from specialists backgrounds in social, content, live experiences and mobile to diversify our skills and delivery for clients.

What happens now? Is the Newsroom already in action? What can we expect to see next?

Newsroom is up and running. For the past few weeks we have been sending clients daily email updates of what is happening in the cultural agenda and building ideas for clients off the back of the insights we’ve generated. We’ve had some early success stories for the likes of Channel 4 which have been great for two reasons: one, that we’ve proven we can deliver on what we’re proposing; two, our approach is delivering tangible ROI.

Furthermore, we’re seeing how our approach to different types of cultural moments is informing our longer-term planning for clients. All our people are beginning to think about the planned as well as the unplanned moments that can drive a greater share of people’s lives for our clients.

We do have further service extensions for Newsroom in the works – it is only the first of a number of new services and approaches we are looking at to really drive the agency offering forward. Watch this space.

As a major creative and innovative force in the industry, what impact do you see OMD UK’s efforts with the Newsroom having on the wider market?

Lots of people have talked about similar ideas to Newsroom but very few have managed to make them a reality.

What we are finding is that the fact we have put a framework in place appears to be acting as a catalyst both for brands and media owners to look at how we can work together to maximize the chances of making this kind of approach have the best chance of success.

Our experience so far suggests our timing couldn’t have been better.


Featured image courtesy of the Vancouver Film School via Flickr

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