GroupM names Brian Lesser CEO

Brian Lesser.
Brian Lesser.

Former Xaxis global chief takes over world's largest media firm in sign of digital ascendancy

The disruptions of the media-buying space reached the top levels of WPP Group on Thursday with the appointment of Brian Lesser, formerly global CEO of Xaxis, as North American CEO of GroupM.

The news comes two days after Kelly Clark announced he was stepping down from the role to spend more time with this family.

As part of the management shakeup, global chief digital officer Rob Norman will also assume the position of chairman, North America.

Xaxis is the programmatic media-buying arm of GroupM, the largest media-buying company in the world, with $106 billion in annual billings. By appointing a chief executive from a digital-buying shop, GroupM is signaling its intent to place programmatic at the center of its business, said GroupM global president Dominic Proctor.

"Brian will be a huge part of our future and his appointment reflects our values and ambition, as well as WPP’s drive to achieve 40% to 45% of revenues from digital in five years," he said in a statement. "Our future is being built on tech, data, talent and scale. Brian absolutely gets that and is perfectly suited to help us shape that future to best serve advertisers. We’re very fortunate to have him leading our business in the world’s biggest market."

Xaxis will now be taken over by North American CEO Brian Gleason.

Though the changes represent seismic shifts in the industry that are years in the making, the appointments themselves appear to have been made quickly. On Tuesday, speaking exclusively to Campaign, Clark said the future of the CEO role had yet to be determined.

"There may be a single CEO, there may be multiple management roles that are announced as a result of my transition," he said. "We’re looking at how we need to set ourselves up for success over the next five years."

As for his own new role, he said, "I will focus on clients, I will focus on specialist business and key people that we think can be future leaders of the company."

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