GroupM Names Evan Hanlon US Chief Strategy Officer In Simplification Push

GroupM is still trying to be simpler for clients to navigate.

To propel that effort, the WPP-owned media buying arm promoted Evan Hanlon to the newly created role of US chief strategy officer on Wednesday.

Hanlon, who was previously president of data and technology unit mPlatform, will focus on making it easier for clients to access talent, technology, data and resources across GroupM. He will also chair GroupM’s Operations Board, a new group of 80 experts across specialist areas like ecommerce and performance marketing.

The Operations Board, which reports directly to GroupM’s executive team, will work with agencies to understand and build products around client needs. The board will also support Hanlon as he leads GroupM through nine transformation efforts set out by CEO Tim Castree, including maintaining strong agency brands, embedding specialty expertise on accounts, creating a unified technology and data stack and increasing employee retention.

“This is not about vision and PowerPoints,” Castree said. “It’s about structural change we need to make in our business in order to get simpler.”

GroupM will also embed project managers, change management specialists, financial analysts and communications staff on each account to ensure the agencies are adopting transformation initiatives on an ongoing basis.

“Transformation is not a static thing,” Hanlon said. “What we do today is going to change rapidly. We want to constantly manage that and make sure we’re not caught flat-footed.”

Hanlon’s role will expand on his position at mPlatform by pushing tools like analytics and audience science across GroupM. He will also lead the group in developing new products in emerging areas like advanced TV and ecommerce.

But Hanlon mostly wants to put the focus back on GroupM’s roots in media planning and buying. Under his leadership, GroupM will build software that bridges various walled gardens and platforms in the ecosystem to drive value for clients.

“The industry has gotten obsessed with moonshots that were not necessarily ready for prime time, from AI and blockchain to identity management,” he said. “I want to think more about how we refocus our attention on where we came from originally.”

Hanlon’s new remit is part of a broader transformation effort at GroupM to grow in North America. Parent WPP saw revenues decline by 4.2% in the region last year.

“We’re obsessively focused on the simplification of our business,” Castree said. “Evan will be very focused on getting GroupM to where it needs to go.”

GroupM’s efforts plays into WPP CEO Mark Read’s broader strategy to turn around the struggling business. Eventually, GroupM’s data and technology expertise will be accessible across all of WPP.

This is not the first time GroupM has reorganized to keep up with a shifting market. GroupM Connect, launched in 2015, joined the group’s digital and addressable practices globally. And mPlatform, launched a year later, centralized data and audience capabilities across the group.

“It’s a continuation of transformation we’ve been on for the last five years,” Castree said. “This time we acknowledge we’ve got to pick up the pace.”

This approach is different than in the past, Hanlon said, because rather than mandating how the agencies should approach data and technology, the Operations Board will allow client needs to surface from the ground up.

“Historically it’s been about moving people from the front lines and putting them off to the side to best operate at scale,” Hanlon said. “We’re trying to get into an experimentation mindset, rather than a prescriptive mindset.”

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