MediaCom Worldwide Gets New CEO

Stephen Allan Moves Over From Group M U.K.

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NEW YORK ( -- When asked what WPP Group's MediaCom Worldwide, the agency where he was just named CEO, could be doing better, Stephen Allan said: "Everything."
Stephen Allan
Stephen Allan

"There's always room for improvement in everything we do, and anyone who doesn't say that is not being honest," said Mr. Allan, the former CEO of Group M U.K. "I would never give us 10 out of 10, because we always have to strive to do better. The world we are operating in is changing so fast that frankly what you were good at a year ago could be less relevant than what you should be good at today or in a year's time."

Immediate goals
Mr. Allan, who will be based in London, said he has some immediate goals that he is looking to tackle aside from the obvious one of growing the business. For starters he's looking to expand the relationships MediaCom has with some of its current clients. "Like many agency networks, we have roster relationships with a number of global clients," he told Ad Age. "So I'd like to grow those relationships with existing international clients and expand the work we are doing for them."

One of the key trends Mr. Allan said the media-agency business needs to be concerned with is the growing role of procurement and purchasing. "In many markets and regions we have seen the responsibility for appointing media agencies moving increasingly away from marketing and more towards purchasing and procurement teams," he explained. "And the [issue this raises] for us, and eventually clients, is to make sure we as an industry don't become commoditized."

The impact of a strained global economy is also weighing on his mind. "Inevitably we will face increasing pressure from our clients on our ability to deliver more for less, and we have to be very cognizant of that," Mr. Allan said.

Disparity in talent
The disparity in talent from market to market is another issue that is top of mind for Mr. Allan. "One of the things I'm immediately seeing is that the availability of talent differs dramatically depending on the markets you're in," he said. "Coming from a U.K. background, which is quite well developed in terms of media talent, resource and technology, I have probably been a bit spoiled and [the talent level] is not the same in many other markets. I wouldn't want that to come over in any kind of demeaning way, it's just the reality of the structures."

Mr. Allan got his start in the media business at an early age, joining The Media Business when he was only 18. He served as CEO in the U.K. when TMB merged with MediaCom in 1999 and as vice chairman of MediaCom Worldwide from 2003 to 2005. When MediaCom was snatched up by WPP in 2005, it became part of the holding company's media investment management operation Group M, and Mr. Allan was subsequently named CEO of Group M U.K., overseeing MediaCom, Mediaedge:cia and MindShare.

Mr. Allan, who is being replaced by former Group M Chief Operating Officer Nick Theakstone, will succeed Alexander Schmidt-Vogel, who has moved into the newly created position of CEO-global trading of Group M Worldwide.
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