Philippe Krakowsky will take over next year as CEO of New York ad giant Interpublic Group, the latest of the world’s big marketing-services conglomerates to enact a succession plan as the industry grapples with seismic changes in the way its business is conducted.
Krakowsky, 58 years old, was named chief operating officer of the ad-agency holding company in September of last year. He is widely seen within Interpublic as one of the architects of a strategy that is taking this longtime backer of big Madison Avenue shingles like McCann Worldgroup, MullenLowe Group and the agency once known as Foote Cone & Belding and putting it into the world of curating data that helps its clients understand where and how best to place promotional efforts before consumers. Interpublic in 2018 purchased the bulk of Acxiom Corp. for $2.3 billion, a move that gave it access to new expertise in using anonymous consumer data and tailoring commercials to audiences based on that information. In May, Interpublic launched Matterkind, an agency that specializes in so-called “addressable” advertising often placed in front of consumers based on data known about their viewing and purchasing habits.
Michael Roth, Interpublic’s current Chairman and CEO, will become executive chairman of the company’s board of directors in 2021. Some of Interpublic’s biggest clients include General Motors, Microsoft and L’Oreal.
Krakowsky “is a brilliant strategist and effective leader,” said Roth, in a prepared statement, who has helped in “modernizing our data, marketing services and media solutions.” Krakowsky has also been chairman of Mediabrands, Interpublic’s suite of media buying operations, and has thus had an influence on how marketers purchase ad inventory from TV networks, web portals, search engines and print and radio operations, among other media venues.
Two of Interpublic’s main rivals have changed leaders in recent years. WPP abruptly parted ways with its founder, Martin Sorrell, in 2018, after the executive began to feud with the company’s board of directors. Mark Read, a longtime Sorrell lieutenant, now leads the company, which operates the GroupM media-investment operation. France’s Publicis Groupe in 2017 named Arthur Sadoun, the company’s creative chief, to succeed Maurice Levy, its longtime chief and leader. Only Omnicom Group, another large advertising holding company, has not articulated or set in motion a succession plan in recent years. Its CEO, John Wren, has served in his role since 1997.
Krakowsky’s path to the top is not the normal one. For many years, he served as Interpublic’s top communications officer, articulating the company’s strategy to media, investors and the public. During that time, however, he helped shield Interpublic through a rough patch, a probe of the company’s financial-reporting structure by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission combined with a need to pare debt due to an acquisition spree of various advertising agencies. Krakowsky served as an aide-de-camp, of sorts, to three different CEOs: John Dooner, David Bell, and Michael Roth, helping them deal with some of Madison Avenue’s most outsize personalities, including maverick operators like Donny Deutsch, Howard Draft and Brendan Ryan.
Like its rivals, Interpublic is operating in an environment where the effectiveness of many of the traditional tools of the trade – TV commercials and print ads – is in question. As more consumers migrate to mobile devices, streaming video, social media and search, agencies need to devise new tools and capabilities. Already, some big advertisers like Procter & Gamble are placing new emphasis on controlling their own media negotiations, while PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay has begun to rely more heavily on an internal creative agency.
“I am looking forward to working with our fifty-thousand people and all our clients around the world at this unique time, where we are seeing changes in media and consumer behavior accelerate at incredible speed,” said Krakowsky, in a statement. ” We have great opportunities ahead to help clients deepen their relationships with their customers, doing so efficiently, creatively and at-scale.”