Group M drops mPlatform brand in shake-up to improve 'consistency'

WPP media buyer is focusing on operations, shared services and tech innovation.

Juhl: became global chief executive of Group M in October
Juhl: became global chief executive of Group M in October

Group M’s new boss has shaken up the WPP media group’s operations and is disbanding mPlatform, its data and technology division.

Christian Juhl, who became global chief executive of Group M in October, has made a string of internal appointments with new job responsibilities that focus on several areas, including improving operations and creating a shared services centre and a tech innovation unit.

Juhl wants the group’s technology offering to be more "consistent" and to build "a powerful collective intelligence capability" to support its four media agencies – Essence (which he used to run), MediaCom, Mindshare and Wavemaker.

He stressed that it was important that Group M is "accountable" to its agencies, so that they can "deliver consistent tech and services" and then "adopt those and shape them in the image of their clients".

Juhl described the reorganisation as "a pretty big" realignment because a lot of agencies currently use "different tools and services", even on a country-by-country basis.

"We've got to get everyone working from the same playbook" in areas such as search, campaign management, ad ops and measurement, particularly as media becomes more "addressable" and personalised, he said.

Juhl also plans to announce details "soon" of a "new business aimed at helping our clients who want help with in-housing", in recognition that a growing number of brands are bringing some digital media planning and buying in-house.

There are 35,000 people working across Group M, the world's biggest media buyer, and both insiders and observers have warned in the past that it has become complex and difficult to navigate.

Juhl’s decision to split mPlatform’s resources and drop the brand name is one of the most significant changes.

Close to 5,000 people currently work at mPlatform, which was created at the end of 2016 under the leadership of Kelly Clark, Juhl’s predecessor.

Around 4,000 practitioners in search, social, programmatic and digital advertising operations (known as ad ops) will move to become an independent team within Group M's shared services centre.

Most of the rest of the mPlatform team will join staff from 2Sixty, Essence’s innovation unit, in a new, as-yet-unnamed technology innovation arm with about 1,000 staff.

Group M added: "The shared services delivered to clients are unaffected in the reorganisation and these internal changes will be seamless to clients."

Leadership changes

Mark Patterson, Asia-Pacific chief executive of Group M, is moving from Asia to New York to take a global role as chief operating officer to improve internal operations across the group.

He will be "responsible overall for Group M’s regional and country leadership and the investment, services and IT functions".

That should allow Juhl to be more client-facing, to oversee the agencies and to focus on pitches and new business.

Colin Barlow, who was the previous global chief operating officer and had a narrower remit than Patterson will have, becomes global president of Group M Services, which will include search, social, programmatic and ad ops.

Andrew Shebbeare, co-founder of Essence, will become acting chief technology officer in charge of the new tech innovation unit that brings together experts from 2Sixty, mPlatform and some of the media agencies "in one holistic team".

Essence’s 2Sixty (which is named after the speed of thought – 260mph) has developed products such as Olive, a campaign management platform, and has been selling some of them on an enterprise basis across Group M and WPP.

It is thought that the enlarged Group M tech innovation unit will function in a similar way. Shebbeare will run it on a temporary basis until a permanent leader is appointed.

Brian Gleason, who has been in charge of Group M’s performance businesses, will take an expanded role as chief commercial officer, overseeing Xaxis, Finecast, Motion Content Group, Kinetic and the new in-housing support business.

Group M’s revenues grew in the first half of 2019, despite other parts of WPP declining, and its performance improved slightly in the third quarter, according to Mark Read, WPP's chief executive.

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