BBDO Veteran John Osborn Named U.S. CEO of OMD

By Suzanne Vranica Features Dow Jones Newswires

Omnicom Group Inc. has tapped John Osborn to helm the U.S. operations of OMD, where the longtime BBDO executive will be tasked with revitalizing one of the country's largest ad-buying firms.

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A 26-year veteran of Omnicom's creative agency BBDO, Mr. Osborn has been chief executive of BBDO New York since 2004.

The hiring of Mr. Osborn, 50 years old, may be somewhat surprising since he has no media buying experience. However, he is well-known for his strong relationships with marketers.

"We are trying to bring freshness of thought and leadership to OMD and increase our client handling capacity," said Daryl Simm, chief executive of Omnicom Media Group, the Omnicom division that houses its media buying firms.

Mr. Osborn is able to "provide business solutions to clients" and "bring simplicity" to the complex ad business, and that is why marketers are drawn to him, Mr. Simm added. As media agencies such as OMD expand their offerings into areas such as data and content, having someone like Mr. Osborn on board can help with integrating those services on behalf of clients, Mr. Simm said.

OMD has had a lackluster new business track record over the past 18 month, losing business from clients such as home-improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. and drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.

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It's a big change for the shop, which has long been Omnicom's strongest media brand. The agency has recently been outshined by its smaller sister ad-buying firms PHD and Hearts & Science, which have lured in big accounts from the likes of Volkswagen, AT&T and Procter & Gamble.

"It's tough to be the third-sexiest agency in a holding company," said Greg Paull, co-founder and principal of R3, a consultancy that works with agencies and marketers.

Mr. Osborn's hiring is part of a broader executive shake-up at OMD. He is replacing Monica Karo, who has been named chief client officer at OMD Worldwide. Ms. Karo is known for a close relationship to Apple, one of Omnicom's most-prized accounts. Florian Adamski, currently CEO of OMG Germany, is being name CEO of OMD Worldwide. He replaces Mainardo de Nardis, who becomes executive vice chairman at Omnicom Media Group

Despite some softness in its business, OMD remains one of the biggest ad buyers in the world and is responsible for buying roughly $42 billion worth of ad time and space on behalf of companies such as McDonald's Corp., PepsiCo. Inc. and Walt Disney Co.

Mr. Osborn said he decided to join OMD because media is "where the action is."

He may also be able to help OMD better collaborate with other Omnicom divisions, a critical skill nowadays as marketers increasingly demand better collaboration within ad holding companies. At BBDO, Mr. Osborn helped the firm work more closely with other Omnicom divisions, such as its health-care operations.

Write to Suzanne Vranica at suzanne.vranica@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 18, 2017 14:14 ET (18:14 GMT)