Burnett's Andrew Swinand: Race Is On for Shops to Beat Consultants

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Leo Burnett North America CEO Andrew Swinand
Leo Burnett North America CEO Andrew Swinand Credit: Courtesy Leo Burnett

Leo Burnett has launched The Core, a new offering that brings together the group's existing data, analytics, research, CRM and search technology capabilities with the goal of creating more personalized content for clients.

The Core, which will serve as a resource for the entire Leo Burnett Group, including Leo Burnett, Arc and Rokkan, is being led by John Lowell, former VP-product strategy at Uptake. Mr. Lowell previously co-founded Ardent with Andrew Swinand, who joined Leo Burnett North America as CEO earlier this year. Upon Mr. Swinand's appointment, Burnett acquired Ardent and The Abundancy, two digital shops from the portfolio of Abundant Venture Partners, an accelerator network of startups and tech firms that Mr. Swinand began when he left SMG in 2011.

Ad Age discussed with Mr. Swinand exactly "The Core" is and why he believes it can provide a competitive advantage for the Leo Burnett Group in going up against other agencies and consultancies.

Ad Age: Where did the idea come from for The Core?

Mr. Swinand: I spent the last eight years focused on data and analytics. When I got to Leo, I saw that we had hundreds of specialists and I looked at all of these capabilities that weren't consolidated or integrated and immediately had the idea for an integrated team and offering to create simplicity and transparency because clients want a single source and a single view of their data.

Ad Age: The offering houses the agency's capabilities, such as Personifi, HumanLab and Ardent search technology. What does it do beyond serving as an umbrella unit for these capabilities?

Mr. Swinand: The thing that's really cool about it, for example, is HumanLab has been doing segmentation research and customer lifecycle and lifetime value research. What we'll be able to do by bringing it all together is link all of that segmentation work with data management platforms, so working with Adobe and Krux to integrate their segments to ours, but also taking their segments and actual ad propensity metrics and emotional metrics on top of behavioral analytics. So for me, it's the ability to marry EQ and IQ and that creates a huge source of competitive advantage for us, as well as being able to leverage behavioral data and insights and add emotion and persuasion on top of it to inform more personalized creative messages and content.

Ad Age: Is this a way of also competing with the Accentures and Deloittes of the world?

Mr. Swinand: One hundred percent. The race that's on is: can creative agencies learn to integrate data and analytics into their creative culture faster than consultancies can buy creative agencies and become creative content producers? The idea of putting data and analytics at our core basically leverages that. Leo Burnett has the largest creative department under one roof in the country and feeding all of those creatives with behavior analytics and insights will allow us to produce more personalized content, allowing us to compete and win against consultancies and other competitors who are trying to use data to their competitive advantage.

Ad Age: Why is John Lowell the right person to lead The Core?

Mr. Swinand: Uptake was Brad Keywell's startup, who was the founder of Groupon, and John was in charge of all of the analytics. John has a huge amount of experience, managing huge data sets and he helped me cofound Ardent and he basically was the head of product at Flite, which is the dynamic video content technology that became the platform standard for Procter & Gamble and Microsoft. He's a data rock star. I'm excited because it's a much bigger group with more capabilities than anything else I've seen, and having John with his diverse experience leading it will be something really special.

Ad Age: Will you be trying to tap more into media with The Core?

Mr. Swinand: For me, the big idea is an integrated view. What's interesting right now is that creative agencies have their creative analytics team, search agencies have their search analytics teams and media agencies have their media analytics teams, and by creating The Core, we're bringing together all of these skills. Content and context are so intertwined. I don't think it's about media planning and buying. For me it's about providing clients with a holistic view of what consumers want and do and I believe that holistic view includes content and context and clients want an integrated view more and more and they want partners that can deliver that.

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