As the glamor and glitz of 2019’s TV upfronts season transitions into the nitty gritty making of that ad sausage, the world’s largest buying organization has named new leaders in its most important market.
Today WPP media network GroupM rounded out its U.S. C-suite with three promotions and one hire as North American CEO Tim Castree continued his plan to streamline the business after taking over for Brian Lesser, who now runs AT&T’s ad platform Xandr.
Matt Sweeney, former North American CEO at programmatic platform Xaxis, is now GroupM’s U.S. chief investment officer; president of investment Lyle Schwartz has been promoted to chief integration officer; Beth LeTendre, co-founder and CEO of search and social agency Catalyst, is now chief of GroupM Performance, where she will oversee Xaxis and related functions; and Jill Kelly, who spent the past several years as chief marketing and communications officer at Publicis Groupe’s Digitas, has joined GroupM as U.S. CMO.
Positioning played a role in the timing of this announcement.
“We’ve decided to announce this change now, in the middle of upfronts season, but I think it’s important for the marketplace to know that Lyle is in charge of negotiations,” Castree told Adweek. Sweeney, on the other hand, will transition into his role over a period of several months.
Castree also said all the changes GroupM has made since he came on board are in keeping with WPP CEO Mark Read’s single-minded focus on simplification.
“What we are doing is really about accelerating our progress toward the larger goals for GroupM: simplifying the complexity brought on by media fragmentation and supporting clients with the best digital data performance available,” he said. “The U.S. market is not only the largest in the world, it’s the most advanced. The giants of digital media and ecommerce were born here, and their impact ripples out worldwide from here.”
Approximately two years ago, GroupM launched a program called “Project Fit” that consists of an ongoing search for efficiencies across global operations. (As of 2018, the network employed 32,000 in 400-plus offices around the world.) Castree said the effort, which resembles programs at Omnicom and Publicis, “is really about an internal transformation inside GroupM” that aims to give clients “direct access to all the talent they need.”
LeTendre and Kelly now join the network’s North American executive committee as Jim Meyer, who became GroupM’s first CMO in early 2017, leaves the company.
Regarding the new executives, Castree said Sweeney is “brilliant at removing silos,” which is particularly relevant as more clients emphasize a “programmatic migration.” On the other side of the equation, he described Schwartz as “our foremost expert in using advanced audience data to optimize traditional media.”
“Beth knows how to grow and build businesses,” he said of LeTendre. “All of U.S. performance marketing reports to her, including specialist units and integrated agency units.”
While Castree said “there’s plenty more change happening inside the company,” today’s news does solidify GroupM’s U.S. leadership for the time being.