‘We have made some big bold changes as a business’ Group M’s global chief investment officer, Nick Theakstone on his new role

Nick Theakstone, GroupM's chief investment officer

The nature of the relationship between media owners and media buyers will need to continue to change in the evolving new media sector, according to Nick Theakstone, GroupM’s new global chief investment officer.

Speaking to The Drum after the news of his new role broke, stepping up from chief executive of Group M UK, Theakstone explained the need for the creation of the role to meet the needs of the ever-transforming media marketplace and advertisers.

This is the latest installment of change to have taken place within the WPP-owned media group that has also seen the consolidation of MEC and Maxus to create Wavemaker and Mindshare also absorbed Neo Ogilvy during that period.

“The world of media is changing with great speed, fragmentation, engagement, data technology are fundamentally changing media buying disciplines and ultimately in a very complicated world with the power of Facebook and Google, etc.. it is critical that we organize ourselves to be able to deliver a great product to our clients,” said Theakstone.

“What sets WPP and GroupM apart is our investment potential in technology and people to be able to get the very best out of the media opportunities in the market that are out there. The job is to centralise all our people and thinking and to ensure that we can deliver the very best products and advantages to our clients in a much more data driven and technologically-enabled world. We are a huge organization.

"We’ve got some really good people already doing the trading roles in each of the individual companies. We’ve got senior heads of trading in each of the agencies and we have a centralized resource in GroupM. This is just saying ‘it’s getting bigger, it’s getting more complicated and we have senior resource in there to help the agencies, their people and our clients to get the very best out of the new media opportunities out there.’”

He added: “My role is to give all of our businesses the very best opportunity and deliver a product in terms of trading and investment and technology and data, so they can talk to their clients to show them they are gaining a much bigger advantage from working with GroupM than they have gotten in the past. We have made some big, bold changes that we think were necessary as a business. WPP is doing exactly the same and even though Martin [Sorrell] is really focused on delivering horizontality, part of that is Karen Blackett’s appointment into WPP in the UK role, and with myself and Tom [George]’s new roles, it’s a sign of a fantastic start to the year.”

Theakstone went on to talk about the development of relationships between agencies and media owners, stating his belief that an evolution has begun: “The relationships are going to change within media somewhat. We all recognize and media owners also recognize that we need to work together. We are always going to have difficult conversations with big media owners because they are coming from a different side of the table. We want to buy it as cheaply as possible and they want to sell it as expensively as possible and there is a recognition that we all need to work together and that we need each other. We’ll be looking at some inclusive relationships that involve our clients, the main media owners and ourselves to try and make sure that we work in a more join-up and collaborative way, albeit there will be times when we have some difficult and pointed conversations.”

Asked as to how he viewed the evolution of television in the coming years as an advertising platform, Theakstone pointed to it continuing to be “a really important” platform.

“It’s about how you use television. The launch of Finecast, which is going to hook into the addressable side of television, and is about us looking ahead to what television is going to look like and how we can really enhance all aspects, whether it’s the basic linear product, the addressable product or the digital aspect. Joining those three together and delivering a strong product is going to be the key. I can’t see any reason why television can’t go from strength to strength.”

Finally, Theakstone also admitted that while his core experience has been within the UK’s media scene, the new global role would offer him the challenge of working within North America, a country he described as “exciting” due to its size and the level of opportunities it will afford him.

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