WPP’s GroupM Promotes Brian Lesser to North American CEO

Xaxis chief's move is latest step in company's digital evolution

In a move that underscores GroupM's comittment to data and programmatic technology, the WPP company has elevated Brian Lesser to CEO of its North American operations.

Lesser had served as chief executive of GroupM's tech-focused Xaxis division. He will be followed in that role by Xaxis Americas chief Brian Gleason. In addition, Rob Norman, GroupM's chief digital officer, adds the title of North American chairman.

Kelly Clark, who this week stepped down as GroupM's North American CEO, remains with the company as an advisor.

"Our future is being built on tech, data, talent and scale," said Dominic Proctor, global president of GroupM. "Brian absolutely gets that, and is perfectly suited to help us shape that future to best serve advertisers."

Also this week, GroupM, already the world's largest media buying company, took a majority stake in Essence Digital, an independent agency that counts Google among its key clients. That move was applauded by industry observers for adding both heft and expertise to GroupM's ever-expanding digital operations.

"GroupM has continuously evolved with clients through major shifts in the media landscape and consumer behavior with data and technology having always been part of the value proposition," Lesser said.

All told, WPP reported nearly $17 billion in digital revenue last year, about 36 percent of its total, and has said it wants to eclipse the 40 percent mark in the next five years.