Facebook has poached Nick Baughan to be director of agencies in the UK and Ireland, looking after revenue and relationships for both media and creative agencies.
Baughan, the EMEA chief executive of Essence and former UK chief executive of Maxus, has spent 13 years at WPP’s media buying division, Group M.
He will report to Steve Hatch, vice-president of Facebook in northern Europe. The pair worked together at MEC a decade ago.
Baughan is in effect filling a gap left by Ed Couchman, who departed to be general manager of Snap UK earlier this year.
Facebook and Essence confirmed Baughan’s move.
Hatch said: "Our business in the UK was built on our relationship with agencies and, 11 years on, agencies remain our most important partner. Our goal is for us to be theirs.
"Every part of our industry is changing and I am thrilled that someone of Nick’s experience, insight and reputation has chosen to join us in this key leadership role.
"His understanding and knowledge will be invaluable in our partnering with agencies to drive business value for advertisers."
An Essence spokesman said: "Nick has made a huge contribution over his 13 years at Group M and we wish him every success with what’s next."
There was no immediate word from Essence on how Baughan will be replaced.
He is the latest in a long list of senior agency executives, including Hatch, to join the owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Nicola Mendelsohn, vice-president of EMEA, came from Karmarama. Ben Wood, director of agencies EMEA, joined from iProspect, while Leigh Thomas, director of global brand partnerships, EMEA, was lured from Dare.
Facebook UK’s revenues jumped 50% to £1.3bn last year and it has overtaken Channel 4 and Sky Media to become the country’s third-biggest media owner by ad revenue, behind Google and ITV.
However, the social media giant’s reputation has been dented by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when about 90 million Facebook users’ data was wrongly accessed.
Facebook hired Nick Clegg, the former UK deputy prime minister, to be head of global policy and communications in October.
Baughan has looked after some of the UK’s biggest advertisers, including Google and BT, during his time running Maxus from 2014 until 2017 and Essence since January 2018.
He brings experience of integrating teams, following WPP’s decision to break up Maxus in 2017 and merge some of its assets with MEC to form Wavemaker and to move the remainder into Essence.
Essence was shortlisted for Agency Team of the Year at the Campaign Media Awards this year.
Some industry observers believe agencies are at risk because of the growing trend for advertisers to bring some of their marketing services in-house and to buy directly from Google and Facebook.
However, Mendelsohn told Campaign’s breakfast briefing, "Back to the Future: When Sorrell Met MediaMonks", in association with Results International, earlier this month: "I’m a lover of agencies and always have been. Where the industry is now, I think we need agencies more than ever... to cut through complexity."
Facebook is a Group M client.