Daryl Simm has never been afraid of a good challenge. As Chairman of Omnicom Media Group, he’s the founder of a company that currently employs 12,000 people, serves 5,000 clients in 100 countries, earns revenues of $3 billion, and controls 15% of the world’s media spending ($54 billion).
Prior to joining Omnicom, Simm spent 13 years at P&G, the world’s largest advertiser. While there, he undertook the largest media consolidation in history and sparked a new industry trend toward “unbundling” media services, meaning that one agency would no longer be responsible for the creation of advertising content and its paid placement.
“Ad agencies used to be paid on the basis of a percentage of media placements, which meant they favoured high cost media such as TV,” explains Dave Tinker, a retired business professor who taught Simm at Sheridan. “Thanks to Daryl and others, agencies are now paid on a fee for service basis, which favours client needs.” Unbundling further ensures that clients get advice based on “the most effective way to reach consumers” and not on the message created by the agency or the channels they know. “I don’t know of any agency that doesn’t do it this way today,” adds Simm.
The reason why media agencies are doing so well is complexity.
Despite having no agency experience, Simm was recruited in 1998 by Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) which owns ad agencies BBDO, DDB and TBWA, and PR firms Ketchum, Porter Novelli and Fleishman Hillard to establish Omnicom Media Group to run OMC’s media buying efforts worldwide. Today, OMG’s clients include Johnson & Johnson, Heinz, JC Penny, Wells Fargo, Apple and PepsiCo.
Since 2000, he’s built OMG into a leading global media agency, adding 12 subsidiaries that specialize in analytics, sports and entertainment marketing, search engine marketing, and insert, newspaper and out of home media. “The reason why media agencies are doing so well is complexity. Advertisers need more counsel, resources, technology and analytics to follow the consumer and get the right messages to them,” he says. As consumers continue to be hit by more messages in more channels, understanding media and its placement is critical. “Our work with data and analytics leads to an optimization process that makes the whole advertising effort more efficient and effective.”
Earlier this year, Simm was ranked as the 56th most influential leader in the world in marketing, media and technology, putting him on the same list as Google’s Larry Page, Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffet and Oprah Winfrey.
In his 30+ year career, Simm has recognized and harnessed opportunities stemming from three disruptive shifts: the proliferation of cable TV channels and magazine titles in the ’90s for advertisers to consider; the Internet revolution that created a direct pipeline between companies and consumers; and the rise of social media that enables consumers to organize, share opinions and exert influence, at times challenging a corporation’s ability to manage how it wishes to be perceived.
Simm has navigated this tumultuous change by adhering to a philosophy he developed at Sheridan. “I had a number of professors who got me interested in advertising,” says the 1983 Business Administration – Marketing graduate. “I saw that the start of the business process rests with the initial conversation with the consumer and how successful and targeted it is. I saw the connection between advertising and the relationship that was developed. That is the moment of truth – whether or not I establish that point of consideration, that likeability with the consumer. The philosophy might be even more relevant today. Everything is so personal. It makes it all the easier to get it wrong.”
Simm also says that he’ll consider himself successful if after he retires, employees won’t remember who occupied his office. “In any large organization it’s critical that no one individual be so important that the relationship hinges on them.”
Daryl Simm is 2015 Ontario Premier’s Award nominee in the Business category. The Premier’s Awards honour one outstanding Ontario college graduate in each of six categories annually.