OMG's global investment CEO on his 25-years with shop

'Regardless of the A.I. integration and machine learning necessity, it's still fundamentally a people business.'

Barry Cupples will be stepping down from his current role as CEO of global investment for Omnicom Media Group at the end of the year. As the 25-year Omnicom veteran looks ahead to the next chapter, he shares his perspective on the industry’s greatest challenges and opportunities, as well as its enduring core strength.


The end of another year is always bringing a propensity for reflection. For me, this year-end is also an opportunity to look forward as I close the book on 25 incredibly rewarding years with Omnicom to start a new and equally exciting new chapter in my career.

Looking back on the past two and a half decades of unprecedented change and challenges, this industry, I am grateful for having experienced them as part of organization that had the vision and talent to stay ahead of change and met every challenge. As I turn my sights to a new and equally challenging future, is seemed like an ideal time to share a few thoughts on the road already travelled, and the path ahead.

It’s no easy decision to leave something that you genuinely believe is the pinnacle of your profession and the penultimate example of how to build and run a communications company, but just as it’s time for me to explore new areas of the business, so too is it time for the next generation to have their turn at the tiller, steering this stellar enterprise to the next level.

The industry has been uniquely challenged these last few years. We’ve seen both margins and trust reduced, negotiation too often defined by a race to the bottom -- all of which impacts that quality of our product and our ability to attract the most talented people.  

I consider myself fortunate to have worked at of an organization where quality and talent have always been the defining priority -- across every client, every country and every region in which I worked, that was always the constant. I think everyone involved in the process -- agencies and clients alike -- are ill-served by the obsession with pricing that often results in a situation where winning can amount to simply being the first to cross the finish line in a race to the bottom.

Responding to procurement mandates with concessions and cuts alone isn’t sustainable and undermines effectiveness on both sides of the table -- which is why balancing the need to deliver both savings and solutions needs to be a priority for all stakeholders in the process.  

On the positive side, despite the problems, the fluid change that is the defining characteristic of our industry also makes it endlessly fascinating, and singularly appealing to the creative, the curious and the change-agents. The realities of integration over the last few years has brought a fractured model close together and healed a lot of territorial and divisive issues that in the past have not been conducive to collective success.

This integration has been a powerful tool in showing the depth and breadth of the holding companies offer and capacity to grow our clients’ business, and I am proud of the development we have seen in such a short space of time. Solutions are diverse, technology-driven, data-infused and talent-enabled -- a heady mix of creativity and commercial savvy to drive growth for the clients.

Just as transformational has been how the industry has embraced technology and built systems that show clear results, and most importantly, how those results were achieved. It’s still a work in progress -- but the performance metrics being shared through better targeting and data platforms are a significant step forward in being able to finally nail the true meaning of growth and real return on investment.

This evidence-based economy needs to be merchandised more freely, both to address transparency and reduce the pricing factor in decisioning. With the "guess" economy in which we’ve existed for over 60 years breathing its last gasps, we need to hasten its end through an industry that is surely the best vertical in the world of commerce.

As I look towards the next stage in my career, I remain relentlessly optimistic and inspired by our industry. Regardless of the A.I. integration and machine learning necessity, it’s still fundamentally a people business. And it is the people with whom I have worked that are and will always remain the best part of the past quarter century.

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