Ari Bluman, chief investment officer for digital at GroupM and a WPP employee for nearly 20 years, has passed away at age 44, the company announced on Wednesday. The cause of death was an undisclosed illness.
Bluman arrived at GroupM in 2012 after four years as President, North America at Real Media Group, a unit of WPP’s 24/7 Media. Bluman joined 24/7 in 1997 and held various roles.
Among media executives, Bluman had a reputation as an outspoken defender of transparency in digital advertising, and helped lead the fight against fraud. In 2014, he was at the forefront of GroupM’s decision to pull out of real-time bidding and focus on private deals with publishers, a move designed to avoid paying for fraudulent views.
"There’s a lot driving this, but overall accountability is a big factor," Bluman told the Wall Street Journal at the time. "If the stats are right and 30% of traffic in exchanges is fraudulent and 50% of ads are not viewed, then ad rates are irrelevant because anything is too much. We’re looking at accountability overall. It’s one big massive cleanup for us."
In a note to company employees, GroupM Global Chairman Irwin Gottlieb praised Bluman for his "principles and his relentless pursuit of truth in digital advertising."
"He worked until the very end," said a GroupM source not authorized to speak for attribution. "He was a force."
Below is the note Gottlieb sent to company employees.
Friends and colleagues,
As some of you may have already heard, it is with the greatest regret that we inform you of the passing of Ari Bluman.
Many of you will be aware that Ari has been terribly ill for many months and know that he has been brave, almost beyond imagining, in the face of circumstances that few could tolerate.
Ari's contribution to our business survives him. His work on bringing order to chaos in digital marketing led the industry and created unique value for us all. Ari was a pioneer and innovator, brashly demanding higher standards, better performance, and accountability. He did this not to benefit himself, but to improve the industry he loved and helped to create. Ari changed the lives of literally thousands of people in our industry who attribute their success to his principles and his relentless pursuit of truth in digital advertising.
We can only hope to leave a similar legacy as business people and friends. We can only hope to live our own lives with the same determination and effect.
The passing of a friend is always tragic. It surfaces emotions that are profound and personal. This could not be more true than today.
Today we honor Ari Bluman. We mourn his passing, we cry for his wife, the indefatigable Deb, his family and we celebrate all he did with us, for us and what he leaves us.
There will never be another Ari Bluman. He was "always working," but more importantly, always leading, and always improving the people around him.