"Restructuring sounds like we're just moving some people around," says the CEO of MindShare North America. "I like to call this a reinvention plan."
With Mr. Neslund's announcement last April, his became the first region to initiate major structural changes at MindShare. Those changes will be implemented in North America by the end of 2008 and across MindShare's global network in 2009.
"We can no longer organize media agencies around buying and planning," says Mr. Neslund, who led the team that's developing the blueprint for North America. "We have to blow up the old model."
Mr. Neslund and his team are streamlining almost a dozen separate units into four areas: client leadership, business planning, invention and the exchange. The goal is to offer clients fully integrated solutions and services, including content creation, intellectual property and business consulting.
Mr. Neslund, 42, calls the job of reassigning more than 1,100 employees to these new areas "quite the task." But Dominic Proctor, CEO of MindShare Worldwide, says he doesn't doubt that the "open, broad-minded and determined" Mr. Neslund will get the job done -- and then some. "Anyone who's prepared to embrace change and lead from the front has the opportunity to be a real hero in the business."
MindShare North America reports an estimated $9.96 billion in billings. Under Mr. Neslund's leadership, the WPP Group-owned agency has snapped up accounts including Motorola, LG Electronics, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and UnitedHealthcare. Recognizing that clients' multicultural media needs would continue to expand, Mr. Neslund launched MindShare's multicultural unit in 2007, the year he became CEO.
"There's a misperception that media agencies are going to inherit the future," says Mr. Neslund, who joined MindShare's Chicago office as managing director in 2005. "The truth is that they'll have to earn the future by moving faster than changes in the media landscape."
Marketers must stop "trying to persuade consumers" and instead "negotiate with them to earn a meaningful place in their lives," Mr. Neslund says. One example: MindShare Entertainment's "In the Motherhood." The consumer co-created webisode series, developed for Sprint and Unilever's Suave, features real-life stories that moms submit and vote on. In the second season alone, it averaged 3 million viewers per episode. The series was broadcast online and on Sprint phones.
Futurist though he may be, the former president of Starcom MediaVest Group's StarLink digs programming with old-school roots when it comes to his sci-fi media consumption: "Battlestar Galactica," "Doctor Who," "Star Trek." "But I don't do conventions," Mr. Neslund says. "I draw the line at conventions."