OMD graduates top of the class in Amazon’s OMEGA e-commerce upskilling program
9 September 2022

OMEGA, an exclusive six-month certification program in partnership with Amazon, invited selected teams from Omnicom Media Group (OMG) to upskill on topics like e-commerce and the role and opportunities of Amazon whilst developing an omnichannel solution for clients.

“OMEGA has been the catalyst to transition us to a much more strategic partnership with Amazon. It could not have gone better… OMEGA really ticks all of the boxes for us” – Johan Boserup, Global CEO, Investment at Omnicom Media Group

Over 470 participants from twelve countries took part including teams from OMD EMEA, UAE, UK, France, Canada and the US, all of which have successfully graduated and are now ready to kickstart e-commerce conversations.

Graduates from the program also took part in ‘OMEGA’s Got Talent’, a competition designed to test what they had learnt throughout the program and included conducting an Amazon Ads audit.

32 teams took part in the competition with the top six teams pitching off in front of a global judging panel. The winners received the ‘Amazon Orange Carpet’ experience in Seattle, including a visit to Amazon HQ & dinner with the Amazon team.

Kenon Mak from Team Canada was among the winning finalists and shares below his experience and learnings from the trip to the e-commerce giant’s HQ.

When I decided to participate in OMEGA’s Got Talent, I certainly was not expecting to be sent to Amazon’s global headquarters. As a digital director at OMD Canada, I oversee digital strategy for my clients, so e-commerce, the fastest-growing sector of our industry, inevitably pervades my thinking daily. Whether or not we are conscious of it, eCommerce plays a major role in how people interact with products, brands, and everyday consumer experiences. Along with my teammate, Courtney Rosebush from Touché Toronto, I was ecstatic that our reward for placing in OMEGA’s Got Talent was a trip to Seattle to get the low-down on Amazon’s latest technologies.

The day began with an internal lunch meeting with Frank Kochenash, CEO of eCommerce, and Chris Taylor, VP of eCommerce at Omnicom. Dining under The Spheres, Amazon’s unique workspace filled with 40,000 plants, we talked about the competition, our backgrounds, and the future of e-commerce at OMG.

Pictured above from left to right: Courtney Rosebush, Associate Director of Search at Touché; Lucy Baumgartner, Managing Director, eCommerce Activation at OMG Canada; Frank Kochenash, CEO, eCommerce at Omnicom; Chris Taylor, VP of eCommerce Strategy at Omnicom; and little old me.

Following lunch, we made a brief stop at the Amazon HQ offices which were very hi-tech and surprisingly dog-friendly. (I later learned that Amazon encourages employees to bring their dogs to the office and assigns only two floors as dogs-restricted—these are colloquially referred to as the “dog-hater” floors by Amazonians). Here we met with the global Amazon team led by Amanda Bloom, Global Agency Development Lead, Jeannie Gjersee, Senior Program Manager at Amazon Ads (who works with the team that designed the Amazon learning platform for agencies), Tiffany Cooper, Agency Development, and our local representation in Canada, Vito Andrisani.

Adorning the wall of the front lobby is a collection of Amazon Kindle eReaders from oldest to newest. I still use my 2010 model!

After introductions, we went downstairs to their Amazon Go convenience store to try out their Just Walk Out technology. Amazon’s vision of frictionless bricks-and-mortar requires signing in via phone, credit card, or palm—yes, you can register your palm print to your Amazon account and enter the store by hovering your hand above the sensor! While in the store, an array of cameras and motion sensors mounted on the ceiling follows your every move. Every object you touch, pick-up, and put into your bag is automatically catalogued and charged to your Amazon account. Critically, I believe the metrics they derive from in-store shopper activity can one day become a treasure trove of valuable consumer insight. Imagine being able to track how long a customer spends in store, what items they considered by picking them up and putting them down, the time spent dwelling in front of promotional displays—these are the kinds of audience-building data that Amazon already does online that can now be brought into a real-life retail experience.

Pictured above: Amanda Bloom, Global Agency Development Lead,  signed Courtney into the Amazon Go store using her palm.

After raiding the Amazon Go store, we made our way next door to the stunning Amazon Spheres. The Spheres are a four-level meeting/workspace and ecological conservatory housed within three conjoined glass spheres, complete with a waterfall, 3-story-tall “living wall”, and home to 40,000 plant species from around the world. Our tour guide explained that the Spheres were designed to evoke a sense of biophilia—the innate human instinct to connect with nature and other living things. Indeed, the fresh rainforest scent and gentle white noise of the indoor waterfall made working in there quite appealing.

Pictured above: Our tour guide explained the delicate ecosystem of 40,000 plant varieties living within the Amazon Spheres. Meanwhile, I am mulling over whether I watered my houseplants before flying out.

Left to right: Tiffany Cooper, Agency Development at Amazon; Lucy Baumgartner, Managing Director, eCommerce Activation at OMG Canada; Vito Andrisani, Senior Agency Development Manager at Amazon Canada; Frank Kochenash, CEO, eCommerce at Omnicom; Courtney Rosebush, Associate Director of Search at Touché; Kenon Mak, Digital Director at OMD Canada; Amanda Bloom, Global Agency Development Lead at Amazon; and Jeannie Gjersee, Senior Program Manager at Amazon Ads.

As we capped off the day with a group dinner, I was able to reflect on the ways Amazon is helping to push the evolving e-commerce landscape, not just online, but also through brick-and-mortar retail spaces to create truly end-to-end shopping experiences. Most importantly, as we continue with the metrification of our lives, we need to remember to stay connected to what makes us human as well. Consumer behaviour doesn’t just boil down to conversion rates; we need to consider the psychology that shapes our needs. Like The Spheres, we need to marry technology with nature and use both in equal measure to enhance and create balance in our lives.

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