by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) Instead of the Omnicom Group hosting the fourth virtual session of the AdForum Worldwide Summit 2020 on Thursday 2 July with all of its agencies, it opted to focus on one of  its specialist agencies, Sparks & Honey.


This agency, which was started eight years ago, is a “culture-centric organisation with the ability to transcribe the cultural zeitgeist into hard numbers and trackable metrics”. What does this mean?

It has Q, a system that collects data — big data and human data — from more than a million global data sources in over 140 countries in over 50 languages 24/7. It then can relate this data to a topic or to a brand, and it looks at what’s influencing culture. This is all done through algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI), and then the agency will apply predictive analytics to see what might happen in the future.

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The AdForum pitch consultants were suitably impressed — dazed, even — and when Sparks & Honey conducted a demo in order to show us the practicalities, we chose health and wellbeing as a topic. The agency ran the Q system, then related it to Johnson and Johnson as a company to see what came up.

This kind of tool is useful to and is used by many of the agencies in the Omnicom Group, plus Sparks & Honey has its own direct clients and works on a licensed subscription basis. The agency always recommends that both agency and client subscribe to the system together so that they may constantly share data, insights and future predictions. We queried if there were privacy issues in the collection of this data and we were informed that it only collects data that’s in the public domain.

Laws of culture

AdForum Worldwide Summit 2020 Omnicom Honey & Sparks case study for global spirits leader

We were shown a case study on a global spirits leader and then we learned about the laws of culture.


  • Is horizontal
  • Moves at multiple speeds
  • Operates in three distinct layers
  • Is chaotic but can be structured
  • Has patterns that become visible to the trained eye
  • Exists as tensions
  • Requires perfect partnership between humans and big data

Lastly, culture-centric organisations require augmented humans to work in a world of accelerating change.

It was intense to cover all of this in 60 minutes, plus some questions from the consultants. The questions did help, however, to demystify what was a complex topic.

Our next session will be with MDC Partners today, Friday 3 July.

See also


Johanna McDowellJohanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is MD of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK. Twice a year she attends AdForum Worldwide Summits. Further information from Sparks & Honey will be shared at her IAS masterclasses for agencies and marketers on 14 and 21 July 2020.

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