Rob Norman

CEO, Group M Interaction

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Rob Norman is a Web 2.0 phenomenon.

Consider: Web 2.0, according to Wikipedia (naturally), aims "to facilitate collaboration and sharing between users"; Mr. Norman's role as worldwide CEO of Group M Interaction is to enable and join together the various digital arms and talent within Group M.
ROB NORMAN
WHY HE WAS CHOSEN:
  • In hot seat steering Group M's digital-media strategy across multiple agencies

  • Rising star who is part of $200 million Google space
The unit oversees WPP media networks MindShare, Mediaedge:cia, MediaCom and Maxus. Sound strikingly similar?

"It's my job to know everyone at WPP and Group M and join the dots," he says. "I catch bad things before they happen and good things before they're out of date."

Unlike the term Web 2.0, Mr. Norman, 47, is an online veteran. He started out at CIA (which became Mediaedge:cia) as a buying assistant in the mid-'80s but had a quick trajectory from reading an article about the internet in April 1994 to launching CIA Interactive that October.

His job has gotten more complicated. Consider that digital-marketing companies spent a collective $10 billion on acquisitions in two months earlier this year. After Google acquired DoubleClick, WPP closed the deal on 24/7 Real Media for $649 million.

That acquisition will bring search technology to the center of Group M's ad business. It also makes WPP Google's largest global customer, buying $200 million from the search giant annually.

The importance of search is not lost on Mr. Norman, a native Brit who's just as at home watching his beloved Mets ("I think I'm the only Englishman who can explain the infield fly rule," he says with a laugh) as he is at a Manhattan breakfast meeting in his custom-made suits.

This past year he united the search units for Group M agencies under the Outrider group, which he helped launch in 1998 and was acquired by WPP in 2001. Until recently, MindShare, MediaCom (through Beyond Interaction) and Mediaedge:cia (through Outrider) all ran separate search businesses.

"Not only does he understand the industry, but by spending time with clients, media owners and others, he knows what's going on in the business," says Mark Read, CEO of WPP Digital. "He's one of those new-media people who have a lot of those important traditional client skills."

BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW:
Mr. Norman is an avid collector of a very specific kind of book: artist-made books on the French colonial history of Indochina.
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