Johnston will replace outgoing CEO and co-founder Sarah Wood, who announced in October 2017 that she would be assuming the role of non-executive chair of Unruly’s board. Johnston, based in London, will report to Rebekah Brooks, CEO of News UK. In 2015, News Corp acquired Unruly for a deal worth more than $90 million.
Unruly operates a video advertising marketplace, UnrulyX, which promises “brand safe” placement on premium sites and social media on behalf of clients.
“Norm’s data-driven approach and deep understanding of marketers’ requirements will be invaluable to Unruly clients and the wider News Corp business,” Brooks said in announcing the hire, adding that Johnston is “a programmatic pioneer with truly global experience.”
According to News Corp CEO Robert Thomson, Wood’s transition to chairman of Unruly will provide “cultural continuity at a time of upheaval in the ad market, which has been polluted by unreliable content and become, in part, a valley of the bots.” Wood co-founded Unruly in 2006.
Johnston has been involved in digital marketing since the ’90s. In 1997, he launched Modem Media UK, one of Britain’s first digital agencies. After Modem was acquired by Publicis Groupe in 2007, Johnston joined GroupM’s Mindshare, where he has been global chief digital officer as well as CEO of its FAST business unit, which has a over 2,000 employees worldwide.