OMD’s New Chief Client Officer Arrived Ahead of Coronavirus

Shreya Kushari and OMD USA CEO John Osborn discussed navigating clients through disruption

A photo of Shreya Kushari next to the OMD logo
Shreya Kushari joined OMD from Digitas.

Shortly before the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., Omnicom Media Group’s OMD hired Shreya Kushari from Digitas as chief client officer.

Kushari previously spent six years at Digitas, most recently as head of investment and accountability. Adweek caught up with Kushari, as well as Omnicom U.S. CEO John Osborn, to discuss her joining OMD in this role during such a crisis.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Adweek: Why was Kushari the right fit for this role? And why was this the right time to make this move even before you knew the impact of the kind of disruption you’ve been seeing with the coronavirus pandemic? 

John Osborn: A lot of our clients were talking about the need to transform. And a lot of the underlying reasons for that were around disruption, disruption in the way that technology is moving us forward in the new sharing economy, also sometimes referred to as the attention economy. The fact of the matter is that with the world moving more quickly, it becomes more important than ever to be agile and to respond quickly, regardless of the circumstances. We really needed somebody to come in and take a more client-facing role in our transformation.

Shreya can instantly talk broadly and see the big picture as much as she can swoop down and be very intentional in terms of packaging up a lot of information in a way that is extremely relevant to clients.

As this has all kind of developed into a scenario where we’re talking disruption on steroids, her focus in the last several weeks has been very much on our people, making sure that our people are armed with the most recent and relevant information that they can get their hands on, and also our clients. She’s developed a SWAT team, under the heading of our Rapid Response team, that has been maniacally focused on quick turns on rapid-fire questions and needs that our clients are asking, such as specific questions related to a sector of the retail marketplace, the impact on the ecommerce marketplace or the entertainment industry and how behavior patterns are shifting in a unique way.

What are the specific challenges of coming into this role during the coronavirus pandemic? 

Shreya Kushari: Whenever you’re new to a place, irrespective of whether you’re in the middle of a global pandemic, it can be daunting. It also is easy because you can always raise your hand and say, “I am the new person, please help me.” Everybody has opened their arms and welcomed me. It has been an easy onboarding. Everybody understands that there’s a higher cause that we are responding to, which is business continuity for our clients while having deeper empathy across the board.

How did you view your this role coming into it and how has that evolved?

We are in the business of serving our clients and ensuring that we have the best product in the market at the right time for the right people. My career has not been in client service. I grew up in media, I’m a hands on keyboard person. I have performed multiple roles from search to social to performance media to running an office to running investments nationally to running global pitches.

My last role was at Digitas, which is a full-service agency with media as one arm. [Osborn] also comes from a larger background beyond media. That’s the perspective which I brought and which OMD appreciated. It was a more holistic view on how to go to market.

Now it feels like I’ve joined NASA as Apollo 13 is launching. But at the foundation is my knowledge of our landscape and understanding of clients across the portfolio and an empathy for the people, both client-side and internally. We are working in a very different environment right now and the question is, “How do we bring all these elements together and keep business continuity?”

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