OMD’s Chrissie Hanson on ethical data, Web3 and marketing’s role in business transformation
7 September 2022

Originally published on WARC.

As part of Future of Strategy 2022, Chrissie Hanson – Chief Executive Officer at OMD USA – spoke to WARC’s Anna Hamill about accelerating data capabilities, digital transformation, and the attention ecosystem.

When it comes to skills and expertise required by you and your team on a day-to-day basis, your daily job, what have been the biggest changes over the last few years?

In the last few years, it’s been very much around competency in data application and interpretation, done at speed with the expectation of greater clarity than ever before.

We’re always driven by the need to make better decisions faster – that’s our brand mission. I think we do that in a more complicated context with cookie depreciation, needing to understand the shifts in legislation and complexities around data usage, but always also thinking about the latest shifts in consumer behavior. Those fundamentals don’t change.

But I think there was a greater complexity to navigate, because we’re also now thinking about ethical considerations. It’s not just legislation, but let’s consider the ethical piece as well. I think those have been the biggest changes and pressure points on the day-to-day work that we do

Do you think that now is the most flux that you’ve seen within the industry with regards to all of those factors?

Yes. I’ve been in the industry for 22 years. The urgency for every client to have business transformation and to know how to navigate the changes in data has perhaps made it the most seismic and challenging time.

You can’t underestimate the impact of cookies going away. You can’t track people in the way you used to do. What does it mean in terms of having the same level of certainty I used to have when I deploy campaigns or when I spend my dollars, that it’s having an equal impact?

How are you approaching the cookie issue?

We are tackling it from a number of angles. We were just discussing cleanroom technology, so that is one solution which allows for different data sources to be in a cleanroom and for the connection points to be made that allow us to have an end-to-end understanding of journeys.

There’s also the work we’re doing around attention, and that was a direct response to cookie deprecation and growing consumer privacy. Where are [consumers] putting their attention? I can now see from gaze models where you are. I think that’s a huge step forward, knowing that viewability as a metric has not given us what it needed to.

What do you see as the biggest trends coming down the pipeline that you and your team are going to need to understand and adapt to?

There are the more general trends, which are how people are behaving differently today in light of more channels, more options, and more opportunities. There’s more of a constant ask.

We do have – further in the future – more requirements to understand the metaverse and Web3.0 because we are effectively laying the foundations to know what to do next. Those will take a little bit longer to come to total fruition. But I think you need to be dipping your toe in the water today to have the route maps on that.

One of the other trends is that there has been a persistent and continued consumer breakdown in trust, in terms of institutions and around data itself. There is a breakdown of trust around tech platforms. I think it’s an incredible opportunity for clients to say, okay, against that context, what is the role of brands? How can the brand be the antidote to that? If a brand can behave in a way that demonstrates it has the services and products that can meet and overcome that [challenge] through deeper empathy and understanding, then I think that’s a really interesting opportunity to pivot against a [loss of] trust.

How do you think that the metaverse is going to impact on the strategy and planning function more generally?

It’s understanding what the opportunity is within it. For example: what’s the percentage of my audience that’s going to be within it? Am I looking at the innovations that I have today and the experience that I’m crafting today to be ready for that?

I also think it’s important to state that as a woman, I look at the metaverse and I know that I have a responsibility to consider what it means from a brand safety perspective. What does it mean in terms of the equitable, equitable, right and fair environment that we are creating?

Do you think that perspective is often overlooked when it comes to conversations on AI or the metaverse?

It’s interesting. When I talk about this with other women, it is one of the first things we all raise… Women weren’t present in Web1.0 and Web2.0 in terms of wealth creation, but also perhaps [conversations about] the perhaps innate bias and algorithms, safety and the need for protecting more at-risk audiences.

A lot of what we’re seeing are unintended consequences due to a lack of diversity.

The word ‘empathy’ is one that has become increasingly popular. It’s an important one as we think about this specific topic. It’s about seeing the world through the eyes of your audience, with their values, and exercising no judgment. That point about fair values is really, really important as we think about the international angle, because it also requires you to go, ‘hey, what may not be important today could be important tomorrow’. So let’s think through all of those variables.

That’s where the ethical piece really comes into it, because you’re trying to innovate with technology, and you’re trying to future proof to create something that is safer and kinder. I talk about a ‘net positive’ attention ecosystem – what does that look like? We won’t get it all right, because we may not think of every eventuality, but I think if you’re intentional about where this may go then you’ve got to have more voices and more perspectives in the room.

How has your relationship with creative teams and clients changed over time, have those expectations from clients changed?

I think we’ve become closer to creative teams as well as clients over time. I think that has been the result of one of the benefits of COVID… that was one of the great positives. But also I think, the opportunities around data and the implications for all parties means you’re coming together.

Clients are asking for business transformation, which means they need to consider the problem from all angles. This goes back to the ‘diversity of perspectives’ piece. We’ve understood that it makes the work better and actually makes the job far more enjoyable.

Which things do you expect to be the most significant threats to strategists and planners?

You’ve got to stay on top of the changes in data and the partnerships that are available. Only if you understand the technology will your recommendations and insights actually stay on top of the consumer shifts. It’s not going to be enough to be really great at the original principles of how consumer connection works. Like the partnerships and the data opportunities, how you look at retailer data and commerce data makes you a sharper operator.

What about opportunities?

I think the biggest opportunity is probably clients inviting us more to be true partners and transformation leaders. What that then does is open an aperture for you to bring that problem solving skill set and that wider vantage point to the table as opposed to being a media person or a creative person. You really are doing the thing you’ve always wanted to do, which is solve the business challenge as opposed to you trying to shove your way into it. I think that’s an incredible opportunity for us.

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