New GroupM Chief Digital Officer to Avoid Silo Effect

rob-norman-imageRob Norman was just named to a newly created digital position with one of the biggest media buying agency networks in the world, but don’t expect him to build out a new digital unit. Indeed, the GroupM veteran aims to avoid the proverbial digital silo and facilitate a simpler path for dissemination of good digital ideas throughout the WPP-owned network.

The current North American CEO has worked with various GroupM media firms since 1998 and has been named to the new chief digital officer role.

“We have a very large community of people who do things that are digitally focused all the way through the media communications value chain” from planning and strategy to implementation, said Norman in a call with ClickZ this morning. “There is a view that what we need to do is connect together those groups as a community…and use those connections for a couple of key purposes.”

For one, Norman (photo above) wants to ensure that innovations are propagated throughout GroupM’s global offices more readily. He also hopes to make the media buying behemoth – which he said has 21,000 people on staff in around 80 countries – easier to work with.

“You can understand why we need to bring some kind of structure and order to it,” he said. “It’s kind of difficult for a Google or a Facebook or an Apple or a Twitter, to say nothing of a venture capital funded startup to engage with,” he said of GroupM’s sprawling network.

Norman has held several positions at GroupM firms, and for more than two years has served as CEO North America where he oversees GroupM, Mindshare, MEC, Mediacom, and other firms in the network in the U.S. and Canada. He started with GroupM’s search marketing agency Outrider in 1998.

Kelly Clark, global CEO of GroupM’s Maxus, will fill Norman’s shoes as GroupM CEO, while his position at Maxus will go to Vikram Sakhuja, CEO of GroupM in India and South Asia.

Norman, Clark, and Sakhuja will report to GroupM Global President Dominic Proctor.

In his new role, which he will transition into over the next few months, Norman said he “will be much more active directly with our clients and markets.” He said he has already structured specific groups around the world specializing in things like social media, mobile, and search.

Norman stressed the need for clients to focus more on developing mobile assets, and integrating across digital and traditional media. “There’s a desperate need for clients to build mobile assets as well as mobile advertising,” he said. “There’s also a very big focus on what I will call the symbiosis between social media and analog media like television…social action around TV as a proxy for engagement.”

GroupM reported in April that worldwide Internet ad spending in 2011 rose 16 percent over the previous year, and increased 12 percent in the U.S.

The agency predicted global web ad spending will hit around $98 billion in 2012, a 16 percent leap over 2011. That number would represent around 19 percent of overall ad spending, said GroupM. The average amount spent by advertisers per Internet user doubled between 2006 and last year, GroupM said in April.

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