The Player: Schrijver looks to whip up some magic in WPP kitchen

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Though intriguingly diverse, the career track of Robert Schrijver, newly appointed CEO of the Food Group, does not include any jobs as a professional chef. Prior to his early February arrival at the New York-based company within WPP Group's Specialist Communications unit, the job most related to food he'd ever held was at PepsiCo Wines & Spirits International in the early 1990s. There, he helped launch a new line of flavored vodka for Stolichnaya and designed its on-premise marketing program. But Mr. Schrijver is an avid home cook. "If I were to be defined in the kitchen," he said, "I'd be a saucier."

It's an apt choice. Just as a saucier chooses and mixes the proper proportions of ingredients at a precise temperature to create a tasty complement to a meal, so must Mr. Schrijver take from his former jobs to build the Food Group, a marketing communications firm with $90 million in billings which consults for food companies on new products, marketing and promotional programs.

He started at General Foods Corp. in the late `70s, moved to new-product development at Bristol Myers Squibb in the `80s, then went to PepsiCo. In the `90s, he was head of new business development at J. Walter Thompson, New York, then moved to lead expansion as vice chairman at corporate identity branding firm Siegel & Gale. Most recently, he was head of corporate new business at Bcom3 Group's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York. So he's approached advertising and marketing from client and agency perspectives.

"Bob is a very creative guy," said Peter Kendall, chief executive of Coors Brewers Limited, who hired Mr. Schrijver back at PepsiCo. "His passion for getting things done is infectious."

Throughout February, as he settled into his new role, Mr. Schrijver visited each of the company's four U.S. offices, met employees and learned more of the company's expertise. He also initiated an internal competition, asking each staff member's opinion on the Food Group's expertise. "Every agency has its magic," he said. His goal is to redefine the "magic" of the 22-year-old Food Group, and translate it into a new business program.

Both he and his boss, John Zweig, CEO of WPP's Branding & Identity, Healthcare and Specialist Communications arm, expect some opportunities for the Food Group will come from other WPP companies. "It could be by collaborating in pitches, or in helping clients understand how they can do more than address consumer needs," said Mr. Zweig. The Food Group has, for instance, worked with clients to develop recipes for Rose's Lime Juice (owned by Mott's), then reached out to educate restaurateurs and bartenders on how to mix it.

"Say a client needs to sell more fish. One of our chefs develops a recipe within cost constraints. We consult on naming the dish, promoting it, advertising it and putting it in the marketplace." Mr. Schrijver said. "We're media indifferent; we just want the program to work."

Fast Facts

Name: Robert Schrijver

Age: 50

Now: CEO, WPP Group's Food Group

Challenge: Redefining the company's "magic" and translating that into a successful new business program

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