Mr. Rutherford, who had been responsible for digital-media strategies at the packaged goods giant, will report to David Kenny, chairman-CEO of Digitas Inc., who will now hold a seat on Publicis' executive committee.
Well-known media expert
Mr. Rutherford, one of the best-known media experts working for a major marketer, will continue to be based in London. His task as CEO is to expand the digital agency, concentrating on the major markets in Asia and South America with a combination of acquisitions, launches and partnerships.
At Unilever, the world's No. 2 marketer after Procter & Gamble Co., Mr. Rutherford presided over $4.3 billion in annual measured media spending and spearheaded major changes in communication channel planning.
Last month Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy said his objective is to achieve 25% of total revenue from digital by 2010 against an industry average of 10%.
$1.3 billion acquisition
Publicis Groupe bought Digitas, a U.S. digital and direct marketing agency (which also has a London office) for $1.3 billion in December 2006. Digitas includes the Digitas and Modem Media brands. Modem Media became Publicis Modem, attached to the Publicis Worldwide agency network, while Digitas became a stand-alone network within the Publicis Groupe.
Digitas specializes in digital- and direct-marketing communications and was founded in 1980. Clients include General Motors Corp, American Express and IBM Corp.
Mr. Rutherford in a statement said, "It's always been a personal ambition to be at the leading edge of brand communication and a privilege to help instigate worldwide communication channel planning for Unilever. I'm equally privileged to be asked to lead the global expansion of Digitas and to bring my experience to bear on its world-class organization, people and portfolio of clients."
Prodigious Worldwide, the Publicis Groupe digital productions company, will report to Mr. Rutherford along with Digitas London President Norm Johnston and Digitas' media operations and technology head, Greg Green.
Mr. Kenny in a statement said, "We're fortunate to capture Alan's expertise to lead our talent in creating global scale for Digitas so that we continue to help drive our clients' worldwide digital success."
Mr Rutherford joined Unilever in 1998 but he also has a lot of experience on the agency side. Before joining Unilever, he worked at WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Europe, at one point serving as the European account director for Sony PlayStation and Kodak, and began his career with Dorlands Advertising in 1984.
A Unilever spokesperson confirmed that Mr. Rutherford is leaving and that the company is looking for his successor.