Media Agencies: Trading Places

Daryl Simm, the Great Consolidator, begins life anew outside P&G
Daryl Simm knows you don’t have to raise your voice to attract attention. Not if you’re the honcho in charge of Procter & Gamble’s TV budget. Last year, Simm had some of the country’s foremost media chiefs fervently telling him why he should choose their shop to handle his business. His decision to deposit P&G’s $1.2 billion TV buying account at TeleVest after a heated competition assured Simm of a place in advertising annals.
Now Simm finds himself in the spotlight again: The 36-year-old Great Consolidator recently jumped to the agency side. This week he assumes his new posts as chief executive officer of worldwide media operations for the
Omnicom Group and president of Omnicom’s Optimum Media Direction, now dubbed the OMD Group. OMD operates in Europe and Asia and does not include Optimum Media in the U.S. That U.S. unit is the unbundled media department of DDB Needham and continues to be headed by Page Thompson, DDB’s U.S. media director. Omnicom sources say the domestic media operations of DDB and BBDO Worldwide will operate separately from the OMD Group. Simm says he was lured from Cincinnati by the opportunity to work for a company whose business plan focused on media rather than detergent. “That’s where the excitement comes for me,” he says.
Simm’s media-buying approach involves focusing on increasing scale and efficiency. How that philosophy will play at Omnicom is anybody’s guess. Displaying typical P&G discretion (old habits die hard), Simm declined an offer to lay out details of his master plan. He makes it clear, however, that all options will be considered as part of Omnicom’s publicly stated goal of attaining global media powerhouse status within 10 years. “At this point, I wouldn’t rule anything out,” he says.
Simm’s defection to Omnicom cut short his lightning-fast rise at P&G, where he was director of media and vice president and general manager of P&G’s programming business. His decision to abandon such a powerful job and a promising future surprised some. “Our mouths just dropped,” says an agency media executive who has worked with Simm. P&G executives are reportedly miffed that he is walking away with so much inside information. “I don’t know that I would call it competitive knowledge,” Simm says regarding the matter. But OMD’s rivals surely would; Simm’s leading role in last year’s media consolidations gave him a raw look at how they conduct their business. They are not pleased, to put it mildly.
A Canadian citizen, Simm has a marketing degree from Sheridan College in Ontario. He followed his college sweetheart, now wife, back to her hometown of Cincinnati, where a job search ended with a post as a national TV buyer at P&G. Still in his 20s, he wasn’t afraid to speak up, making a recommendation to move P&G’s media buying outside, which occurred in 1987.
Two years later, Simm was promoted to manager of network TV buying. In 1992, he moved to Brussels, Belgium, to become P&G’s European media director. There, Simm learned the advantages of concentration, presiding over a $450 million pan-European media consolidation. “From an advertiser’s standpoint, it was a realization of having the single best media resource available to an advertiser,” Simm says.
While Europe’s media system is far simpler to navigate than the U.S., which has many more outlets and more possibilities for conflict, Simm believes some European methods can be transplanted here. The principles and businesses confronted by buyers are the same on both sides of the Atlantic. “It’s how you make use of the resources of a diversified organization to provide greater and different services,” he adds.
Once he has found a new home for his wife and two children in the New York area, Simm’s first task for Omnicom will be to focus his attention overseas. “I start with gaining a deep understanding of European and Asian businesses, where the consolidation and leveraging of scale has begun to occur,” he says. “There’s only one way to do that, with your feet on the ground.” But the territory might look a little different from the side of the fence where Simm now sits.