Digital 40 Over 40 2017: Jonathan Nelson, CEO, Omnicom Digital

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Dan KhabieJonathan Nelson
CEO, Omnicom Digital


Like others on this list, Jonathan Nelson traces his career path back to the first banner ad ever, an Oct. 27, 1994 ad for AT&T on HotWired.com, a web spin-off of Wired magazine. Nelson, who also built the first subscriber database for the publication, has a plausible claim to being "There in the Beginning." Nelson placed that first banner ad as the cofounder of Organic Online, one of the first agencies of the dot-com era. 

Almost 20 years later, Nelson applied his deep institutional memory and expertise to start the Annalect Group in 2013. The company, a provider of the data management platform that all Omnicom agencies use, helped power Hearts & Science's wins of the Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s and AT&T accounts.

Nelson, who is responsible for all the digital activities within the holding company, began his career bouncing between the music and multimedia worlds. After graduating from Allegheny College in 1989, Nelson worked at the legendary Knitting Factory in New York’s Greenwich Village. From there, he moved to San Francisco, where he landed a job at Wired. After a short stint at the tech publication, he started Organic, now a subsidiary of BBDO. While there, he founded Accrue Software, a web measurement and analytics company that he later left to run and eventually took public, along with Accuen, a web analytics company incubated at Organic.     

Nelson became part of Omnicom after the holding company bought Organic in 2003. Six years later, he became CEO of Omnicom Digital. Currently, Annelect is the linchpin of Omnicom’s data strategy. The holding company decided several years ago that it would rather build a data organization from scratch than buy an existing one. Hearts & Sciences’ Scott Hagedorn, the founding CEO of Annelect, told Adweek that he believed CRM and addressable media were merging and the holding company created a new entity to manage that merger. 

Everyone is pitching data-driven marketing these days. But Procter & Gamble Global Brand Officer Marc Pritchard told The Wall Street Journal that "Omnicom demonstrated superior and proven performance in the area of data analytics, planning and buying, innovation, talent and financial value." 

Nelson has had one of the longest and most enduring careers in digital media. At the helm of Omnicom’s digital assets, he continues to innovative with the very same process that brought him early success: develop, iterate and adapt.


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