In Comeback Ploy, MEC Makes Flurry of Senior Talent Changes

WPP Media Agency's String of New Hires Includes Viacom's Mark Jones

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Marla Kaplowitz
Marla Kaplowitz

It's been a tough couple of years for WPP media shop MEC's North American operation, which has seen numerous accounts walk out the door.

But this summer marks the calm after the storm and Marla Kaplowitz's second year as North American CEO of the WPP-owned media agency. She's using it as an opportunity to make a flurry of talent changes as part of an aggressive new business strategy.

"We have put a razor-sharp focus on investing in top talent to ensure we stay ahead of our competition in this fast-moving marketplace," said Ms. Kaplowitz.

Eamonn Store, president of global solutions at MEC, has moved into the newly created role of president of agency development. "This is a new position focused on developing new and existing business for North America, and elevating the agency's strategic leadership," the agency said in a statement.

New hire Mark Jones will succeed Mr. Store as president of global solutions, overseeing the shop's global accounts including Accenture, BlackRock, Chevron, Marriott and Xerox. Prior to joining MEC, Mr. Jones served as a senior-VP at Viacom. Before jumping to the media side he worked at Publicis Groupe's ZenithOptimedia, where he led the global HP media business, and WPP's Ogilvy & Mather in the UK.

On the digital front, the shop is moving Social Practice Lead Kristine Segrist into a new dual role as global client lead on the agency's Netflix business and global digital product development director. She'll be focused on building relationships with key technology and publishing companies based in the San Francisco bay area, the agency said. Ming Linsley, a member of the social team, will succeed Ms. Segrist in her role. This structural change is the first by Carl Fremont's since he left Publicis Groupe's Digitas in April to join MEC as global chief digital officer.

The agency has also promoted Managing Director Rick Acampora to president of client services for North America, overseeing clients including Citi, IKEA and Scotts Miracle Gro, among others.

The hiring and promotions spree is the most aggressive move yet to try and revamp the shop's North American operation, which since 2011 has lost or parted ways with a number of clients, including Toys R' Us, Novartis, Activision, Pizza Hut and Macy's.

If the recent GE win, led by Mr. Store, is any indication, the shop is moving in the right direction. While it's an international piece of business – Omnicom's OMD held onto the U.S. – a North American team led the pitch. The group also won Marriott in late 2011 and has had more success with international new business.

The shop's worldwide revenue in 2012, at $777 million, was up 3%, according to the Ad Age DataCenter. It has international business to thank for that, with a 4.6% boost in revenue to $617 million. U.S. revenue, which accounted for $160 million in 2012, was down 3%.

Additional hires include a handful of managing partners: Scott Schwartz, most recently a VP at MediaVest; Michael Levy, who previously led the Johnson & Johnson portfolio of healthcare brands at UM 's J3 group; and Tej Desai, formerly a senior VP from Initiative.

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