Edelman has made one of its most visible investments in paid digital media yet by hiring Cassel Kroll to be exec VP-media strategy.
Mr. Kroll was most recently the director of social media strategy at WPP media buying and planning agency Mindshare. Prior to joining Mindshare in 2011, he was a social strategy director at Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group.
In his new role at a giant of public relations, Mr. Kroll will focus on the integration of paid media with Edelman clients' social media programs. While he reports in to Liz Lee Rzepecki, general manager of Edelman Digital New York, he'll work closely with Kevin King, global practice chair of the 800-person digital group, on building the firm's paid digital capability and hiring additional talent with similar experience in various regions.
It's the digital group's "first major foray" into hiring talent with paid experience, said Mr. King. "When we're managing brands in digital and social media, the paid components are unavoidable. We need to understand how to make good recommendations to clients."
So why is paid media "unavoidable?" According to Mr. King, it made its way to the PR giant organically, as opposed to the firm first seeking it out. "We saw it start with Google -- bidding [on AdWords] -- and Facebook, as it moved toward a sell-side model," he said. Now the firm is looking to capitalize on the opportunity with investments in talent like Mr. Kroll and seeking acquisitions in digital media-buying, as it said last March it planned to do.
New clients are also fueling the PR group's business in the paid space. Starz, for example, invited Edelman last year to pitch for paid digital assignments amid a larger media agency review. The company ultimately selected the PR shop, which was already supporting earned social media activity, to handle paid search and social for the shows "Boss," "Spartacus" and the forthcoming "Da Vinci's Demons."
The amount of Edelman Digital work that's steeped in paid digital media at this point is "fairly small but growing quickly," Mr. King said. Added Mr. Kroll: "We want people talking, and paid is a way to seed [content] out to the masses to get them engaging in conversation."