Sky Media raids Omnicom and Dentsu for new leadership

Sky Media poaches chief executive of OMD Group and Dentsu Aegis Network's Ruth Cartwright.

Pearson (l) and Cartwright: joining Sky Media
Pearson (l) and Cartwright: joining Sky Media

Sky Media has hired OMD Group chief executive Tim Pearson as its new managing director, replacing John Litster.

In his new role, Pearson will run Sky Media’s UK operations and will report to Patrick Béhar, the former McKinsey leader who joined as chief business officer UK and Europe in 2019. Pearson will also be responsible for Sky’s European agency relationships.

Pearson, who will start at Sky in March, has featured regularly in Campaign's top 10 media suits and was shortlisted for Media Week's Media Leader of the Year and Campaign's Media Agency Head of the Year in 2020. He wrote an essay for Campaign's Year Ahead feature last month, predicting 2021 will be "brighter and better" than 2020.

Sky Media has also hired Ruth Cartwright, managing partner, delivery at Dentsu Aegis Network, to the role of director of investment. She replaces Duncan Wynn, currently director at Sky Media, who will leave the broadcaster later this year. When she joins in April she will lead the sales team’s efforts across all platforms. 

At Omnicom for 21 years, Pearson has run the OMD Group since June 2019 when he rose from his previous position as chief executive of Manning Gottlieb OMD. At the same time the former chief executive of OMD UK, Dan Clays, became chief executive of Omnicom Media Group. 

After beginning his career in TV sales at ITV sales house Carlton, Pearson joined Manning Gottlieb Media as a TV buyer before moving into planning. He was promoted to chief executive in 2015 ahead of the departure of Robert Ffitch, who also crossed the divide to a sales role

Pearson is the second Omnicom Media Group leader to switch to TV in the past few months: PHD UK chief executive Veriça Djurdjevic started at Channel 4 as its chief revenue officer in November.

Pearson said: “To take on the role of MD at Sky Media is a huge honour. With the organisation in a position of real strength, the potential to bring new, exciting and effective ways of connecting and converting audiences is immense.”

In addition to selling advertising on Sky-owned TV channels, Sky Media represents third-party media owners including Channel 5, Viacom, Discovery Networks and, since beating Channel 4 to the contract last year, BT Sport. 

As well as ads in live shows and on-demand, Sky’s proposition includes targeted advertising within the live broadcast, AdSmart; OneCampaign, which allows brands to buy live and on-demand airtime in a single campaign; and C-Flight, the cross-platform audience tool developed by Comcast sister network NBCUniversal.

Cartwright also started her career in sales, at Channel 4, before moving to media agencies, working at MediaCom and Starcom Mediavest Group (as it was then). At Maxus for six years, Cartwright rose to broadcast director before joining Dentsu as head of AV in 2016. 

She said: “I have long admired Sky as a business, having worked and collaborated with Sky’s talented teams for many years. I am really excited to be joining a team and business that is as future facing and as innovative as Sky.” 

Béhar joined Sky in 2019 after the Comcast takeover in a new senior role that included oversight of Sky Media. 

He said:During two decades of monumental change in advertising, John and Duncan have been fundamental to Sky Media’s success. John has driven the evolution of Sky Media, encouraging innovation and developing the business into the best performing advertising sales house in the UK.”

A Sky stalwart since 1995, Litster will continue working for the business until the end of the year. He was promoted to managing director from director of trading in February 2014 and has featured regularly in Campaign’s list of the UK’s top commercial chiefs.

Litster said: “I have loved my time at Sky. I have spent 25 years in the best of media businesses, working with great clients and colleagues a lot of whom have become great friends. It has been a pleasure and privilege to have the best job in town, and I look back with pride at what the Sky Media team have achieved knowing they are in very good hands in Tim going forward.”

Omnicom Media Group will not replace Pearson directly. In December it promoted Laura Fenton to chief executive of OMD UK and Natalie Bell to chief executive Manning Gottlieb OMD. Fenton, Bell and Paul Knight, chief executive at OmniGov, will now report directly to Clays.

Clays said: "Tim has had a truly outstanding career over many years and we wish him the very best of luck at Sky, not that he will need it.

"One of his many achievements has been helping to establish brilliant leadership teams in the agencies who will continue his great work and we look forward to working with him in his new role at Sky."