WPP’s GroupM has named Karen Blackett as its new chief executive for the U.K. She’ll begin her new role in April.
As GroupM U.K. CEO, Blackett will be responsible for leading strategy and operations throughout the country across GroupM’s media agencies, including Essence, MediaCom, Mindshare, m/Six and Wavemaker. The U.K. represents GroupM’s third largest market, with the group responsible for 43% of all U.K. media spending, according to data consultancy COMvergence.
“Karen has been an influential leader and change agent over the years, and we are thrilled to have her onboard,” said Christian Juhl, who succeeded Kelly Clark as GroupM global CEO last October, in a statement. “She is the perfect example of someone who brings to life our vision of making advertising work better for people.”
“This is an exciting time for the advertising industry,” Blackett added, and looking forward to keeping up “the amazing pace GroupM has set in the U.K. I feel we’ve only just begun, and see so much opportunity across our agencies.”
Blackett succeeds Tom George, who is stepping down from the role he has held since 2018 and leaving the company.
“We’re grateful for all Tom has done to help GroupM achieve the success it has seen during his time, both with GroupM and MEC. We wish him the very best in all his future endeavors,” a GroupM spokesperson said.
George previously held positions as U.K. CEO and chairman of Northern Europe, as well as head of global business development for MEC.
Blackett previously held a role as chairwoman for MediaCom U.K. and Ireland. She first joined MediaCom in 1999, working her way up to the role of chief operations officer of the EMEA region in 2008, and then U.K. CEO in 2011 before being elevated to her most recent role five years later. She was also named U.K. country manager for WPP in 2018, responsible for delivering growth, and attracting and retaining talent.
In 2012, she launched MediaCom’s Apprenticeship Program for 18- to 24-year-olds, followed by a coaching course for women in partnership with the organization Shine two years later, which went on to form the basis for GroupM and WPP’s Walk the Talk. Since becoming WPP country manager in 2018 she introduced Your Bridge, a mentoring and reverse mentoring program in partnership with GroupM, and Your Roots, a cultural inclusion program focused on attracting and promoting multicultural talent within WPP which was inspired by Ogilvy Roots.
Blackett was recognized as an Inspirational Leader at the Ethnicity Awards in November 2018, and was appointed a Race Equality Business Champion by the U.K. government. She also serves as chancellor of the University of Portsmouth and recently became a became a nonexecutive director of the U.K. government’s Cabinet Office.
She has been featured in the Power List of Britain’s 100 Most Influential Black People five times, topping the list in 2015. In 2014, she received her OBE title in the Queen’s Birthday honors.