Digital 40 Over 40 2017: Christian Juhl, Global CEO, Essence

Christian JuhlChristian Juhl
Global CEO, Essence

Christian Juhl has been on a winning streak for years.

Back in 2011, he was part of Vivaki CEO Jack Klues’ handpicked team of executives from Optimedia, Digitas, Razorfish and Mediavest, that won the $1 billion Disney account with a 12-slide presentation. That came shortly after Juhl helped win the $80 million Travelocity account. Then, in 2015, Juhl put his agency, Essence, in the center of a holding company bidding war that WPP’s GroupM eventually won. During the two years it took to close the deal, Juhl brought in new clients such as GrubHub and Viber.

The Essence acquisition took place the same week that GroupM named Brian Lesser, former head of Xaxis, as its new CEO. Together, the two moves were seen as a declaration of the WPP unit’s digital future. Today, with advertisers pulling their content from risky environments en masse and marketers demanding greater viewability, the acquisition of Essence and its transparency-first approach is looking more and more prescient.

Under his watch, Essence has forged closer ties with its biggest client, Google, and won the Target account in conjunction with GroupM’s Team Arrow. Essence also picked up two global pieces of business—FrieslandCampina and DAZN. Overall, the agency has seen a 30 percent spike in billings year-over-year that has propelled it past the $1 billion mark.

Juhl, a graduate of the University of California, San Diego, began his career as services director for GE Capital, where he managed the help desk, e-commerce and procurement systems for Levi’s. Juhl then went on to marchFirst and Avenue A, which were later bought by Razorfish. During his time at Razorfish, Juhl held various roles before ascending to president, overseeing the agency’s Western region. Juhl joined Essence, a then-8-year-old agency, in 2013 as CEO of North America, and then become Global CEO the next year. At the time, the agency claimed to be the largest independent buyer of digital media, with billings exceeding $500 million. In addition to winning business for the agency, he also built an all-star leadership team that included MediaVests’s Rob Reifenheiser, GREE’s Kyoko Matsushita, EA’s Oscar Garza and Razorfish’s Cathy Carl, which helped clinch the GroupM sale.

When not making deals, Juhl enjoys golfing, fly fishing and hanging out with his 9 year-old son, Luke.

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