New GroupM Global CEO Christian Juhl Has Big Ambitions, But Faces Challenges

GroupM has a new global boss.

Christian Juhl, the former global CEO of Essence, was named global CEO of media buying giant GroupM on Tuesday. Juhl takes over for Kelly Clark, who joined as global CEO in 2016 with a three-year commitment to the role.

Essence has not yet named a successor for Juhl, but is expecting to announce one within the next month.

At GroupM, Juhl will oversee 35,000 employees and $48 billion of client media billings. He will focus on helping the group’s agencies deliver client success, while continuing to attract and nurture top talent.

“We have to continue to invest in our clients,” Juhl said. “We have to look at the culture to make sure that GroupM and WPP is the number one employer of choice.”

As CEO, Juhl aims to leverage technology at the group level to automate the more mundane work done at agencies, like collecting and normalizing data prior to analyzing it. That will free up talent to focus on strategy and solving client business problems.

That effort starts with continuing to invest in mPlatform, GroupM’s proprietary data and identity stack.

“We need to look at technology at a holistic level,” Juhl said. “If we develop global systems for all of our agencies, that will provide efficiencies for us and our clients.”

Juhl wants to replicate Essence’s expertise on the Google stack, gained as its agency for record, across all media and tech platforms. Today, agencies must be proficient not just on Facebook and Google, but a host of emerging platforms across channels like TV.

“When you look at the scale that’s required to be the best at every single one of these platforms, that has to be done at a group level,” Juhl said.

While technology will be a focus, Juhl does not believe GroupM needs to purchase a data asset like some of its competitors have done recently.

“I feel the opposite,” he said. “Our clients will increasingly rely upon us for unbiased advice. If we start buying proprietary data, our objectiveness gets called into question.”

One immediate challenge will be getting GroupM back to growth in North America, where it has lagged due to cost-cutting clients and business losses over the past few quarters. Juhl will continue to support GroupM North America CEO Tim Castree’s efforts to modernize the group’s capabilities and make them easier for clients to access.

While GroupM’s agencies will work more collaboratively across tools and platforms, there are no plans to merge any more of GroupM’s agencies. In 2017 GroupM merged media agencies MEC and Maxus to launch Wavemaker.

But even without further consolidation, GroupM will focus more on cross-group collaboration under parent WPP CEO Mark Read’s strategy to create a more unified company.

“When you look at Mark’s vision, it’s very much about the overall company versus the holding company,” Juhl said. “I can see us working more holistically within that strategy at GroupM. It will take time to figure out exactly were that line is drawn.”

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