Edelman Hires Former Leo Burnett Exec, Moves Further Into Ad Agency Territory

Mark Renshaw to lead global brand practice

In 2013, Edelman stunned the public relations industry by reversing its opposition to paid media placements as the world's largest communications firm effectively pivoted into marketing.

Today the company further strengthened its dedication to working both sides of the paid/earned model by naming longtime advertising executive Mark Renshaw as the global chair of its brand practice. Renshaw, who spent more than 18 years with the Leo Burnett organization and most recently served as the Publicis agency's chief digital and innovation officer, joins Edelman in New York to lead an international team of more than 1000 employees. He succeeds Michelle Hutton, who was named COO of Edelman Europe in February.

Edelman renamed its former Consumer Marketing group to mark both Renshaw's arrival and its new status as a marketing and reputation firm with a focus on digital media.

"Getting Mark is a huge confirmation of our strategy," president and CEO Richard Edelman tells Adweek. "His remit isn't just CPG [consumer packaged goods], it is actually to move the evolution of Edelman forward. He's like the orchestra leader."

Over the past year, Edelman has hired a growing number of ad agency veterans to lead its content practices as it competes more directly with both "traditional" shops and digital consultancies like Deloitte in new business pitches. It is one of very few large PR organizations that has begun creating broadcast ads and other forms of paid content for general audiences rather than simply securing editorial placements or producing sponsored content. Renshaw says, "I don't believe that I am making a shift from a creative agency to a PR firm; I am going to a creative company."

Yet Edelman is still focused very intently on managing consumers' perceptions—a responsibility that has only grown more valuable in the social media age as brands and their audiences gain more power to shape a given narrative. "There's a huge gap between what people can do for or against a brand on their own versus how marketers think about it now," Renshaw says. "Communications and marketing can come together as consumers move from buyer to [brand] protector or defender."

The new global chair will spend much of his time serving Edelman clients in disparate locations like China and India. "I want to reiterate our confidence in him because of his global background," Richard Edelman says, adding, "A lot of this innovation is not necessarily U.S. driven."

Renshaw tells Adweek that his decision to accept the Edelman job was not related to the larger Publicis Groupe's recent restructuring moves, some of which coincided with the loss of certain major accounts like McDonald's and P&G. "Discussions started back in April, so it's been in the works for a long time," he says.

Regarding his new position, Renshaw says, "I am looking at marcomms from a new angle, reframing my experience and talking to clients to ask them about what they need to succeed in the future." He adds, "Paid media should still come from a place of authenticity."