OMD’s Julie Fleischer Brings a Pragmatic Approach to the Agency World

Former Kraft exec settles into new role

Specs

Who Julie Fleischer

Current gig Managing director, OMD Chicago

Previous gig Senior director of data, content and media at Kraft

Age 49

Twitter @jfly

Adweek: You famously said that "90 percent of data is crap." Do you still believe that? 

Julie Fleischer: Most third-party data is packaged, repackaged and scaled—and by the time you get something to use it's next to worthless in terms of accuracy. But first-party data is different because we collect it ourselves; it's validated and it's real. Third-party data is still necessary for scale, but you have to look at it with a grain of salt. As an industry, we have gotten ahead of ourselves in talking about the miraculous things data can do. The future is bright, but we are not there yet. There are a bajillion different parties selling third-party data. You feel super confident but, when you dig into it, maybe 40 percent is accurate and 60 percent is off-base.

What is the key challenge facing the retail world in terms of media strategy?

Retailers whose livelihoods have relied on people coming into their stores and browsing are really being challenged in a number of different categories. It's mind-boggling. There's so much more ecommerce and auto-replenishment subscriptions. Delivery services like Amazon Prime encourage people to make a decision once, and then they never have to make that decision again.

What role can media agencies play in helping them stay relevant?

We can help remind consumers why they go to a local retailer. We can help [clients] become more omni-channel and play into consumers' behaviors rather than reinforce legacy business models.

On the agency side, where should the data-related efforts be focused?

In the CPG field, we've gotten away from really understanding the consumer in terms of both insights and how the work we do via advertising, marketing and communications drives that consumer's purpose, because it's all so disintermediated. Agencies have gotten very reliant on third-party data. Our vision for the future is a 1-to-1 understanding of everyone who lives in the U.S., but we are not anywhere close to that yet. People are open to things that make their lives better. Consumer trust is a big piece of it. Disney MagicBands are a great example; they develop photos and sync data about your trip. Why are people willing to give this data to Disney? Because they get so much back from it. As we get to that level of value moving in both directions and establish secure guardrails for how we will use (and not misuse) this data, then we can use it to give consumers the most meaningful information. Some companies will get there sooner, and future success will not be evenly distributed.

How will the future model look to consumers?

I don't think brick and mortar will ever go away, because there's something important about the act of discovery that is different online. I'm a voracious reader; I like to look at different titles, and I often discover books I didn't go into the store to buy. My online buying, on the other hand, is usually very purpose-based. There are many categories—like décor, for instance—where discovery can take place on social media, but actually going to a store and thinking about how various items relate to your home is an important aspect of both how we shop and how we connect [to other people] in the real world.

This story first appeared in the June 13, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.

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