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First Mover: Dominic Proctor

GroupM Worldwide's new president wants to bring creativity into the media business

Photo: Elizabeth Lippman

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How will you and GroupM global CEO Irwin Gotlieb divide responsibilities?
It’s a straightforward division of labor. Irwin will concentrate on the big picture, the strategic future, questions as they relate to data and digital. I will focus on operations, the day-to-day running of the company. This will mean more time in New York because that is still the center of gravity. We now have upwards of 20,000 people around the world, and I’ll try to make sense of what the optimum organization and structure will be.

How did you get into the media side of the business?
It was a fluke. I got a job at a full-service London ad agency, not knowing what a media job was. I thought I was going to be a copywriter, but they gave me a calculator instead of a pen. The first 10 years or so of my career were in media. Then I moved into general management, running full-service JWT in London before being asked by (WPP CEO) Martin (Sorrell) to come back into media to start Mindshare. I’ve always been surprised more people have not worked on both sides of the road.

What are your priorities in charting GroupM’s future growth?
One of our challenges is that we have a very high market share around the world, touching 30 percent, so we have less headroom in which to expand billings. We still intend to do that, but as the market leader, we have just as much opportunity to expand more broadly. Content is one area where we intend to invest to broaden our skill sets beyond a supply-and-demand business. We’ll hire people from different backgrounds. We’ve already been recruiting from studios, and we’ll continue to reengineer the talent pool.

How are you selling marketers on the value of strategy and insight and not just price?
It’s been a constant battle the last two, three years. The world changed when Lehman Brothers toppled. We’ve had to do it by investing in good strategic products and the talent to sell them to clients. That‘s what the agency business is about: giving clients what they can’t do for themselves, adding to their brands. It’s something we have to do. Otherwise this will descend into a commodity business, which it used to be.

So what is the potential for creativity in the media business? 
It’s huge, and it goes back to talent. We’ll have an integrated account team with a scientist who does heavy-lifting ROI and math sitting next to a creative or artist who looks at content, communications planning strategies. It’s not a creative community in the sense of an ad agency, but we have more people from liberal arts coming in to sit next to the scientists.

What’s your personal technology of choice?
It’s multiple varieties of Apple right now; I’ve migrated from being BlackBerry-reliant. Depending on what I’m doing, I’ll either have an iPhone or an iPad or a MacBook Air or sometimes all three.

What did you think of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography?
It was a wonderful book with really interesting content. I knew Jobs was difficult, but I didn’t know there was such a dark side to him. The thing you end up admiring is his absolute focus on his business and refusal to accept anything that was sub-par. Everything had to be on strategy, and the strategy had to be simple. He had the same challenges of working with heavy-tech geeks and talented designers. It’s that same crossroads of creativity and technology that we stand at.