WPP PLC has promoted Christian Juhl to global chief executive officer of GroupM, its massive media-buying operation, continuing an effort to modernise its business units.
Juhl, 46 years old and currently CEO of GroupM ad-buying agency Essence, will assume the role on Oct. 1, according to WPP. He succeeds Kelly Clark, who will become an adviser to both WPP and GroupM.
GroupM, which buys tens of billions of dollars of commercial space on behalf of advertisers, houses media agencies Mindshare, Wavemaker, Mediacom and Essence, as well as digital buying group Xaxis.
Essence is known for its digital chops and its relationship with its largest client, Google.
“Christian has the right combination of leadership, people and technology skills to build the modern media company, something he has demonstrated extraordinarily well at Essence,” said WPP CEO Mark Read in a statement.
Mr. Juhl will work with the individual agencies to figure out which data and technology functions to centralize, and what technology to invest in.
“We have an incredibly good leadership team at the agencies,” Mr. Juhl said. “What we need to do at the GroupM level is make their jobs a little easier to be efficient, the best in their industry, around certain things that we can centralize—emerging fields around data, measurement, AI based learning and cloud-based computing.”
The biggest challenge, he added, is creating centralized approaches that work better for the agencies than their existing solutions.
He will also work to evolve the company’s partnerships with technology and ad vendors. “We have the global scale to be number one on every partner around the world,” he said. “We should be setting the bar on what works and what doesn’t work and push them.”
WPP has taken steps in the last year to simplify its structure and reignite growth. This month, WPP agreed to sell a majority stake in market-research firm Kantar to Bain Capital Private Equity, raising about $3.1 billion.
The ad giant late last year combined creative agency J. Walter Thompson with digital agency Wunderman to create a new shop called Wunderman Thompson. The company also merged creative agency Young & Rubicam with digital ad firm VML to form VMLY&R.
Within WPP, GroupM also has seen its share of changes, including the departures of longtime executives Rob Norman and Irwin Gotlieb in recent years. Both continue to advise or consult for WPP.
In 2017, the ad buying group reorganized, eliminating its Maxus agency brand and moving the shop’s operations into both Essence and MEC (now called Wavemaker).
Before joining Essence as North America CEO in 2013, Mr. Juhl was president of the western region of Publicis Groupe’s Razorfish.
Mr. Clark, who will help Mr. Juhl during his transition, had committed to three years as CEO of GroupM when he took on the role in 2016, the company said. Previously, he was CEO of Maxus.
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