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Interview: Omnicom Digital CEO Jon Nelson: We Were A Trendsetter In The Ad-Shop M&A Game

Since the end of 2006, Omnicom Group’s smaller rivals WPP Group and Publicis Groupe have struck out aggressively to acquire digital ad shops, while Omnicom has tended toward smaller investments like the purchase of interactive marketer C2 Creative, or taking a stake in New Zealand web designer Shift and virtual world ad specialist Millions of Us.

With companies like Digitas, 24/7 Real Media and Razorfish getting snapped by other ad holding companies, there is a perception that Omnicom has been watching from sidelines. Jonathan Nelson, Omnicom’s digital CEO, says that’s not the case. In fact, he argues that Omnicon actually beat its rivals to the acquisition game when you consider the big digital ad shop buys it made in the late 1990s.

Part of his new mandate, with the introduction of Omnicom Digital this week, will be to find new companies to invest in and buy. He says the company is ready to do some acquiring now that prices have come into line, though CEO John Wren has made similar pronouncements last year and the year before. In a sense, the new Omnicom unit combines the attributes of WPP’s interactive investment arm, WPP Digital, in terms of scouting for deals, and Interpublic’s Mediabrands, which was created to develop in-house technologies and instill greater coordination among its media buying shops. Read on for our full interview with Nelson.

paidContent: How is Omicom Digital different from OMG Digital, which was formed two years ago as the company’s in-house creative digital unit? Will anything change at Omnicom’s other digital agencies like and Tribal DDB, or the digital media divisions of PHD and OMD?

Jonathan Nelson: We work in conjunction with OMG Digital and all the other agencies. Nothing will change at those other units. Our concept is that digital is not a department at Omnicom. My role is to sit at the holding-company level — not the agency level — and advise across all of them and integrate them even further. I founded Organic about 16 years ago and sold the company to Omnicom in 1998. We