Ogilvy Names Seasoned Web Marketer Maheu as Digital Honcho

WPP Group’s Ogilvy North America has named Internet veteran Jean-Phillipe Maheu as its chief digital officer, picking a man whose online track record includes stints as CEO of Razorfish and Direct Revenue.

Ogilvy said the Paris-born Maheu will report to co-CEOs Carla Hendra and Bill Gray and will be tasked to “lead digital innovation, manage change and work with clients who are evolving in the digital space.”

Company spokeswoman Toni Lee said Maheu was traveling and unavailable for comment.

In announcing Maheu’s hire, Ogilvy said the chief digital officer position was newly created. It said Maheu will work closely with the company’s existing digital and interactive practices, including the recently launched Neo@Ogilvy, a digital and direct media planning and negotiating arm, and the company’s two-year-old Digital Innovation Group.

Maheu will also “collaborate with Jan Leth, Ogilvy’s Chief Creative Officer who has led digital creative at the agency for the past 10 years.”

Maheu spent most of that decade at Razorfish, the Silicon Alley interactive design shop that served as a poster child for pre-dotcom-bust flair and post-dotcom-bust re-organization. Having served as Razorfish’s chief operating officer during the company’s glory days, Maheu replaced co-founder Jeff Dachis in early 2001. At the same time, Razorfish’s chief strategic officer Craig Kanarick, who founded the company with Dachis, also departed.

Razorfish’s stock price declined from a high of $58 in early 2000 to a closing price of $1.61 before Maheu took the reins. Maheu spent six years at Razorfish “driving its business development, operations, international expansion” and deals with big-name clients including Ford, Cisco, AT&T and Time Warner.

When Razorfish issued an IPO and was sold to SBI, Maheu left to become an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business. He resurfaced on the Internet scene in May 2005 when he was named CEO of Direct Revenue, a New York company with a notorious record for spreading adware and spyware that made it the focus of a highly-publicized investigation (and pending lawsuit) by the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

When he was hired, Maheu told ClickZ he was intent on abandoning Direct Revenue’s vilified focus on pop-up ads. He said Direct Revenue was developing a new adware application that was to be bundled with software publishers’ free offerings and he insisted the company was starting from scratch to build a user base, complying with strict disclosure and privacy guidelines in compliance with TRUSTe’s Trusted Download program.

Ben Edelman, a Harvard Business School assistant professor who specializes in analyzing methods and effects of spyware, told ClickZ yesterday that Maheu did a good job at the company. “During Mr. Maheu’s time at Direct Revenue, Direct Revenue substantially ceased operations — ceased ongoing installations of its software — and hence ceased the improper installation practices at issue in consumers’ complaints and in litigation,” Edelman said.

While Edelman appreciated the reforms, he questioned whether Direct Revenue’s investors were similarly pleased. “I don’t know that this is a full success for Mr. Maheu — certainly that’s not what investors had in mind when they bought an interest in Direct Revenue from its principals, and when they hired Maheu to run the company,” said Edelman. “But it did stop longstanding bad acts that were causing great harm to others.”

In announcing the hiring of Maheu, Ogilvy did not mention Maheu’s work for Direct Revenue. “He was there for all of three months,” explained Lee. She said the job would have been mentioned “if it had been significant.”

Instead of listing Direct Revenue in the announcement, Ogilvy said Maheu, since leaving Columbia University, “led digital startups in software applications and online media.”

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