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Edelman Creeps into Paid Media with Appointment of Vivaki's Chris Paul

Will Formalize and Grow the PR Shop's Buying Capabilities

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Chris Paul
Chris Paul

Independent PR giant Edelman is joining the big leagues of paid media as it hires Chris Paul, general manager for Publicis Groupe's central data and media trading hub Audience on Demand.

Mr. Paul will assume the newly created role of head of global paid media, starting Dec. 9.

The hire signals a growing demand for paid media to support campaigns that start with owned content and earned media.

"The volume of paid work we're doing is increasing," said Kevin King, global chair of Edelman's digital practice group. "It's happening organically."

The PR shop conducts much of its paid work around social media campaigns and clients' social communities, he said.

Mr. Paul will report into Mr. King as he works to formalize and grow the PR shop's buying capabilities through a three-pronged approach: new hires, new paid-media processes and technology investments, said Mr. Paul.

"One of the last things I was working on in my media-agency life was building a real-time marketing and communications capability," he said. "I'm a big believer in it. I want to work with an agency that has a heritage in real-time connection, and work from that lens out -- media helps amplify that -- versus [starting with] broadcast the way media has done historically."

His move to a large independent comes as Publicis Groupe and Omnicom prep the largest merger of its kind. He said the merger, which is awaiting regulatory approval in various global regions, had no impact on his decision to leave.

Real-time buying is on the agenda for Edelman, he said. But that doesn't necessarily mean Mr. Paul is looking to replicate media agencies' real-time-bidding capabilities or invest in a full-fledged trading desk -- systems through which agencies buy online inventory and optimize the buys in real-time based on the location of their target audiences.

"I want to be able to take advantage of what real-time media buying provides in terms of efficiency and speed but you don't necessarily need a trading desk to do that," he said. "For large [media] agencies, having that centralized buying capability with a trading desk is the right strategy. For what Edelman is trying to achieve in the near-term, there's the ability to do addressable, data-driven buys without trading."

At AOD, Mr. Paul oversaw strategic vision and operations, reporting into Kurt Unkel, president of AOD parent group VivaKi. Prior to joining AOD, he led the media team for American Express at Digitas and earlier in his career he held roles at Trilogy Software, Be Free, Publicis' MediaVest and 24/7 Real Media.

Earlier this year, Edelman dipped its toe in the media-buying space with the appointment of Mindshare's Cassel Kroll.

In 2012, Edelman Digital, which operates as its own group within the PR agency network, achieved $71 million in revenue in the U.S. and ranked 40 on a list of the top 50 digital agency networks in the U.S., according to the Ad Age DataCenter.

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