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WPP’s GroupM shifts Maxus chiefs Nick Baughan and Steve Williams to Essence

Essence's leadership team welcomes five new hires

Essence has announced five new hires to its leadership team, with Maxus US and UK chiefs – Steve Williams Nick Baughan – joining as part of GroupM’s merger of their former agency and MEC.

WPP announced the consolidation of MEC and Maxus earlier this month, explaining the decision to be one derived from tackling "a very competitive marketplace". It added that cost savings from the deal would be used to fund the expansion of digital ad agency Essence.

Nick Baughan, previously chief executive of Maxus UK, has been named chief executive of Essence EMEA, while his North American counterpart, Steve Williams, will become Essence’s North American chief.

Also joining from Maxus is former chief strategy officer Damian Blackden, who will transfer into the same role. Simeon Duckworth, meanwhile, is to join from GroupM as global head of strategy and analytics; he previously held the title of head of data and analytics strategic development within the parent group.

Rob Reifenheiser, currently chief executive of the Americas at Essence, will take up the newly-created role of executive director.

Williams, Baughan and Blackden will join Reifenheiser in reporting directly into global chief Christian Juhl. Duckworth will report into Andrew Shebbeare, chief product officer, along with Garrick Schmitt, the new global director, experience design, who has already joined the agency from outside of GroupM in June.

The new leadership team has been tasked with integrating offline capabilities into the agency’s offering, while continuing to place data at the heart of its client work.

Juhl said: “For years, Essence has harnessed granular event-level data to deeply understand audiences, moments and outcomes to deliver world-class digital advertising. Our firm intent is to apply the very same techniques, combined with machine learning and new modelling approaches, to inform targeting decisions and measurement across all media channels.

“This requires us to bring on leaders with a broad range of skillsets and experience.”

He added: “We have felt incredibly well-supported by GroupM since joining their ranks a year and a half ago, and this new infusion of truly top-tier talent into Essence is yet another example of WPP’s ongoing commitment to our success.”

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