WPP Hires Away Longtime Publicis Vet to Serve as First Chief Marketing and Growth Officer

Laurent Ezekiel was co-president of Digitas North America and international

Digitas' Laurent Ezekiel to take up role as WPP's chief marketing and growth officer. Publicis
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WPP has hired Laurent Ezekiel, a longtime Publicis Groupe and Digitas veteran, to be its first chief marketing and growth officer, WPP CEO Mark Read wrote in an internal email acquired by Adweek. The email states that he will report directly to Read.

A WPP spokesperson confirmed the appointment but declined to comment further.

Ezekiel joined Digitas in 2003, three years before Publicis acquired it for $1.3 billion and 10 years prior to its merger with LBi when it became DigitasLBi. In February, the holding company rebranded the global digital agency back to just Digitas.

He first came aboard Digitas from Grey as a senior account director and continued to move up the ranks over the last nearly 16 years, most recently serving in the dual role of co-president of Digitas North America, alongside Jodi Robinson, as well as president of international.

Update: Publicis declined to comment directly on Ezekiel’s departure but the company announced later in the day that Robinson will take over as the sole president of North America for Digitas. While continuing to report to Digitas global brand president Michael Kahn, she will now oversee all business in North America and picked up expanded sponsorship duties on several key clients.

“During his 16 years at Digitas, Laurent helped to build the business into a global marketing and technology agency,” Read said in the email. “Reporting to me as part of WPP’s senior team, he will split his time between New York and London. His priority will be to support WPP’s growth strategy, working alongside chief client officer Lindsay Pattison.”

In his most recent role at Publicis, according to the email, Ezekiel led some of the agency network’s biggest pitches and oversaw global client relationships including Samsung, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and American Express. He also held the title of global client leader on GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the $1.5 billion account Publicis won in October.

“Laurent’s combination of skills—as a modern marketer with experience in technology, data, client services and new business—is rare in our industry,” Read added in the email, “and this is an important new role for WPP as we continue to reshape our company around the needs of our clients.”

The new role Ezekiel will be placed in is significant to Read’s strategy he unveiled on Tuesday in repositioning WPP as a “creative transformation company.” As part of that strategy, WPP will be streamlining its global structure and reinvesting in tech assets and creative talent while also cutting 3,500 jobs over the next three years. At the same time, WPP said it would hire roughly 1,000 new staffers.

In October, Read started making moves to bring corporate closer to agencies’ new business efforts, mandating that its media networks report all pitches that could generate at least $20 million in revenue to WPP, so it can then decide if it would be beneficial to have any of the other holding company units partner on them, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Going forward, WPP will be focused on “fewer but stronger companies,” Read said on Tuesday, and will also work to “integrate further at a country level.”

@kitten_mouse lindsay.rittenhouse@adweek.com Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.