Hearts & Science on the hunt for Australian foundation client

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 7 June 2017
Hearts & Science CEO Scott Hagedorn.

Omnicom's Hearts & Science has begun the hunt for a foundation client that will allow it to launch in this market, AdNews can reveal.

The agency, which applies a transparent data analytics lens to media planning and buying, has not yet found a client but has begun the process.

AdNews caught up with Hearts & Science CEO Scott Hagedorn to discuss the agency's plan for this market, his thoughts about the media industry and how the agency differs from others in the market, including Omnicom stablemates.

He confirmed Hearts & Science would move to Australia once a suitable foundation client was secured.

In other markets, such as the US and Japan, this has been P&G, but Hagedorn said discussions between the world's largest advertiser and the agency haven't included Australia, which is currently served by MediaCom.

“I think we tapped into a nerve that the clients don't see some of [our competitors] are able to assemble all of the assets required to execute on data-driven marketing,” Hagedorn said.

“Do I think we can own that position forever? I think we're going to have to be pretty quick, nimble and agile in how we adapt it and how good we get at it.

“The Dentsu acquisition of Merkle and its proximity to Carat, The M Platform that GroupM is working on, the Sapient acquisition by Publicis. There are sharks circling the boat. But for right now, we've been able to capitalise on the work we did at Annalect, Accuen and Resolution and bring it into full fruition.

“Where a lot of the competitive set talked about buying exercises, we talked about audience strategy.”

Hagedorn says he isn't calling bullshit on media agencies that claim they do data-driven marketing but don't deliver; it's more a case of historic CRM agencies “haven't ramped up to be able to activate on a mass basis yet”.

He added that Hearts & Science doesn't conflict with the offerings of Omnicom's media buying powerhouse OMD and its rapidly growing strategic media agency PHD.

“OMD is best in class for brand building and winning creative awards, PHD is best in class on the comms planing front and ours focus is on data-driven marketing,” he said. “We have three distinct swim lanes for us all to play in.”

Wanted: Australian foundation client

Annalect Australia joint CEO Jeremy Bolt told AdNews Omnicom is already on the hunt for a foundation client on these shores that will allow Hearts & Science to launch and the group was tooling up local talent for launch.

“In terms of local market, we have our people overseas spending time in their New York office making sure that we're across the technologies, learning tools, the agile approach so that we are ready to launch locally,” Bolt said.

“We're also starting the process of having discussions and we've put up the hearts-science.com.au domain so people can get in touch with us. The process is starting.

Omnicom Media Group Asia-Pacific CEO Cheuk Chiang told AdNews the agency, one of the most talked about globally, would not be quickly rushed into Australia.

“The unique thing about Omnicom media group is that we haven't gone out to acquire different businesses with different cultures and hope they work,” Chiang said.

“The meaning of collaboration for our network is very, very different. The agencies that have established themselves within our group have grown organically off the back of each other. PHD grew off the back of OMD and in many respects Hearts is now growing off the back of OMD and PHD as well. We're very collaborative and work closely together in our organisation.”

Chiang wouldn't be drawn into timelines or providing a list of the countries where the agency will spread to next, except to say it hopes to cover the major Asia-Pacific markets as soon as the right client can be found.

After Japan's recent launch, China and Australia are next priorities and other major markets like Korea could follow.

“This isn't about growth for growth's sake. It's about ensuring we can deliver on the promise,” he added.

Hearts & Science is an agency born out of the programmatic era. It formed to serve P&G at a time when its marketing boss Marc Pritchard had become disillusioned with digital marketing and its effectiveness.

Its business philosophy has five pillars: agility, empowerment, intelligence scale, open standards and inquisitiveness.

It offers full transparency in programmatic trading, allowing marketers to know exactly where they digital media dollars are spent in the ecosystem.

“We're strong believers in that what we have, our clients have,” Hagedorn said.

This is particularly appealing to the likes of P&G and AT&T that want more transparency and to be able to leverage the expertise of media agencies in a complex digital media planning and buying ecosystem without bringing the function in-house.

AdNews will reveal more about Hearts & Science, its DNA and ambitions later today.

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