WPP's Mindshare Overhauls Leadership in North America

Ernie Simon Will Run North America as CEO; Adam Gerhart Will Lead U.S.

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Mindshare is overhauling its North American leadership, replacing its existing Publicis transplants with a handful of home-grown vets.

Ernie Simon in 2013.
Ernie Simon in 2013. Credit: Courtesy of GroupM

Ernie Simon, an early Mindshare staffer and current president of GroupM Consulting, will succeed Colin Kinsella as CEO for North America; Mindshare West Coast Lead Adam Gerhart will assume the newly created role of U.S. CEO; and Cindy Gustafson, managing director of Mindshare North America Invention Studio, will replace Jordan Bitterman as chief strategy officer in the U.S. Mr. Bitterman was North American Chief Strategy Officer.

Mr. Kinsella and Mr. Bitterman joined from Digitas in mid-2013. Under their leadership, the U.S. operation won General Mills, retained Unilever and introduced new offerings like The Loop -- a social content offering that brings together staffers from Mindshare and WPP sibling agency Possible.

Mindshare declined to comment on their departures.

As for the new team, Mindshare Global CEO Nick Emery said, "They understand the company, and bring experience and news and energy and creativity and data in a way that is important for a modern media agency to work. They have to be about collaboration and integration, and all four are, but at the heart they're also provocateurs who challenge the status quo. We shouldn't as an organization be restrained by convention."

Mr. Simon has spent more than 10 years at WPP media agency network GroupM. For seven of those years he was at Mindshare, where he started as a global strategic planner and later ascended to chief strategy officer for North America. He also left for a few years to serve as chief strategy officer at Omnicom's OMD.

What Mr. Simon brings to Mindshare is the ability to analyze broad business problems, said Mr. Emory. "Very few people can form the dots between understanding marketing, analytics, data and segmentation, and take it through to trading and investment, and in middle of all that make sure you're coming up with compelling ideas," he said. "We have the lofty ambition to be a client's business partner. As we increasingly move to a world where leisure is shelf space, we have to be able to shift product in a granular, addressable way. Ultimately we need to be making sure we marry brand marketing and perfomance marketing."

Mr. Gerhart brings regional leadership and global client experience, said Mr. Emery. "Adam Gerhart -- I've jokingly said he will run the company one day, and I'm pretty sure he will." Prior to taking on the lead role on the West Coast, Mr. Gerhart ran big accounts in various regions, including Unilever Europe and Nestle global.

Ms. Gustafson complements the others with her "obsession with creativity," said Mr. Emery. The 30-something worked on a new planning process that the company rolled out globally. "Comms planning is boring; she made it exciting. That deserves recognition," he said.

"We've invested in a lot of people who are younger than the company," he added. "They are ambitious and good at what they do, so we put them in big roles quickly."

Moving forward, Mr. Emery also said that the agency will continue to invest in its long-standing Mindshare Entertainment group, but instead of focusing on creating and buying the rights to long-form content, there will be much more of an emphasis on short-form content.

Mindshare in 2014 was the largest shop within GroupM in terms of revenue, according to the Ad Age DataCenter.

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