Ross to Head Mediabrands’ Emerging Media Lab

NEW YORK Interpublic Group’s Mediabrands has named John Ross to the new position of president of its Emerging Media Lab, a Los Angeles-based facility.

Ross (pictured) joins the firm from The Home Depot, where he was most recently vice president, advertising, marketing and consumer incentives. He is now tasked with expanding the lab’s purview to include a retail practice that Mediabrands intends to develop into a major new offering.

Ross, who reports to Mediabrands CEO Nick Brien, had been with Home Depot for 12 years. Previously, he served as interim CMO after the departure of Roger Adams in November 2007 and until the arrival of CMO Frank Bifulco in April 2008.

Earlier this year, the Atlanta-based retailer conducted a review of its $600 million account and Initiative, one of the two big media shops overseen by Mediabrands (the other being Universal McCann), successfully defended.

Commenting on the appointment, Brien said: “The performance John Ross has accomplished with the Home Depot brand is impressive and his deep understanding of retail marketing and digital media make him the perfect executive for this new and important leadership role.” Ross has the “necessary fusion of skills and experience to help reinvent strategic planning as it stands today,” he said.

For now, Ross will remain based in Atlanta. A Mediabrands rep said Ross’ arrival is “phase one” of the company’s effort to develop a “Retail 3.0 solution.” Phase two will be unveiled in a month, the rep added.

According to Ross, part of the attraction of the new job will be building a practice to help clients better understand how “power has shifted to the consumer, who frequently knows more about the products in a retail store than the sales associates do.” He added: “I look forward to leveraging my retail marketing experience to provide actionable solutions for our clients.”

As he develops the new retail offering, Ross will work closely with the heads of Mediabrands units that focus on local efforts, including Dave Walker, president and CEO of Mediabrands’ newspaper buying arm NSA, and Geoff Kehoe, president, Wahlstrom, a shop that specializes in directory marketing as well as mobile, search and social networking. Ross will also work closely with other units such as search ad specialist Reprise Media.

“Emerging technology is increasingly global, but the retailer’s business is local,” said Ross, who believes that marketers must begin to view retail outlets as channels. “They have to understand the level of information consumers have not just at the point of purchase but throughout the journey that got them there,” he said.

Lori Schwartz, who had been the top executive at the Emerging Media Lab as svp, will continue to manage the operation, reporting to Ross, Mediabrands said.