Mr. Finnegan told Ad Age that the move had nothing to do with Vibrant but was more about his desire to tackle bigger projects. "Vibrant is a healthy company poised for the future and certainly a solution for brand and search," he said. "Over the time I was there, I realized I had some unfinished business and some desire in helping the large agency network migrate more towards the digital platform."
Changing with the times
He said one of his focuses will be helping the agency become better-suited to work within an existing marketplace.
"As clients' businesses start to become more accountable and audiences become more fragmented and harder to engage," Mr. Finnegan said, "I think the agencies are going to have to focus on supporting this different and dynamic space. And that has to be done slowly but certainly surely."
Prior to Vibrant, Mr. Finnegan was CEO of Omnicom Media Group Digital. At the time of his move, he talked of how people in the industry were moving back and forth from buy side to sales side. "Within our industry, it's par for the course where there are a lot of digital-marketing experts and veterans trying different things but not changing too much of their job descriptions," he said. "This is a real business now -- it wasn't 10 years ago."
It's a real business at Publicis, which has invested heavily in digital marketing since its $1.3 billion acquisition of Digitas almost two years ago. Mr. Finnegan moves into a role recently vacated by Curt Hecht, who moved from the chief digital officer role to president of VivaKi Nerve Center, a new Publicis venture that combines the assets of Starcom MediaVest Group, Zenith Optimedia and Digitas to create an online media negotiator with portal-size scale.
Relocating to his hometown of Chicago and moving to a company with a strong digital business weren't the only selling points for Mr. Finnegan. Another thing that attracted him was "having a global oversight, and as we know this is a borderless economy and landscape," he said. "Multiply that by the brands we are able to service and the smart people I'll be working alongside, and it's an exciting proposition."
Mr. Finnegan's move from Vibrant has been rumored for the past week and illustrates how tough it is to move from the buy side, where one arguably wields much more decision-making power, to the sell side. He said the move had nothing at all to do with making that switch, however.
But his time on the sell side at Vibrant did provide valuable insight into Starcom, he said, showing him that there aren't many areas in which the company needs to grow in or improve upon.
"But I haven't started yet," he said. "I will say that in being on the other side for a few months, [Starcom] certainly was out in the lead in terms of commitment to the future."