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Digital Transformation Digital Organization Brand Strategy

The octopus principle: how to fast-track digital transformation

By James Coulson, Managing Partner



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April 18, 2023 | 6 min read

Digital transformation has revolutionized marketing’s technological firepower, says Kepler’s James Coulson – but business models haven’t kept up. Here’s how Coulson’s distributed-power ‘octopus model’ can help.

A paper-lantern octopus on a high street

Kepler’s octopus principle: the answer to digital transformation concerns? / Christian Ladewig via Unsplash

In the last 10 years, digital advertising has come a long way to meet our complex world with new legislation and technology.

With all this innovation, advertisers now have at their disposal far more tools than they know what to do with. This has resulted in greater fragmentation and blurring of the once-clear lines that divided advertisers and agencies, resulting in a complex myriad of operating models and responsibility allocation.

Having just a few marketing leads is no longer enough to successfully curate digital advertising campaigns. We now need an interconnected system of technology, analytics, and campaign management processes, which many advertisers understand but have failed to implement.

The upshot: an advertising company’s success depends more and more on its technological infrastructure. Measurement is also more complex, as we can longer rely on AdServers or analytics platforms; instead, we need a multi-layer approach incorporating tech, manual processes, old-school analytics, and a deeper understanding of our businesses. Campaign operations now need to align set-up with an advertiser’s owned data and must drop into a wider customer engagement strategy.

How effectively you combine technology with analytics and a solid campaign management process directly impacts the success of your marketing efforts.

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The octopus model

Marketing leaders can make their companies more adaptable in the long run by adopting what I call the ‘octopus mindset’: distributing command and intelligence throughout your organization, rather than concentrating all the power in the C-suite executive office.

The octopus model is a reorganization that requires the democratization of power and control so that all the moving pieces can act autonomously, just like an octopus and its tentacles.

Management at the top of the business can still exert control by defining KPIs, budget guardrails, and objectives the rest of the business can adhere to while letting teams communicate and execute their instructions in their own way.

Chief among the model’s advantages is that it allows teams to pool resources and communicate more freely without interference from the top down, giving greater agility and adaptability. This way, the whole organization can learn more quickly, adapt to changing times, come up with new ideas, and share them with each arm of the business.

It also makes for a more equitable distribution of authority between employees, allowing them to move toward the same goal more efficiently while being entrusted with the same level of responsibility.

Octopus-enabled digital transformation and digital marketing councils

For a company looking to fast-track its digital transformation approach, this approach can work wonders by allowing your team to adapt to the constantly changing environment. A more fluid approach means that different arms can engage with the outside world and gain new insights that they can share with each other as well as the central office: a faster and more efficient way for the company to evolve and navigate the increasingly complex climate.

In smaller organizations, this sharing of knowledge is easier, accelerating digital transformation. In larger companies, the process can take longer. To speed this up and boost your technological transformation process, consider creating a central digital marketing council to oversee work on digital advertising projects from relevant teams.

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To keep this council informed, there should be a central hub of knowledge that all employees can always contribute to and access. This can help give the central council a comprehensive bird’s eye view and supply them with a source of information to make decisions and go back to their own teams and make sure everything gets done in the best way possible.

The octopus principle can set your company up for success in contending with the rapid pace of change in the digital marketing arena, making it faster, more responsive, and, ultimately, more agile.

Digital Transformation Digital Organization Brand Strategy

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