In what appears to be a first for an agency holding company, Publicis' VivaKi unit has created a chief social media officer role, and appointed a top public relations industry executive -- Edelman's Michael Wiley. The move is telling for several reasons, and illustrates how quickly big Madison Avenue agencies are reorganizing around the rapid ascent of social media as a marketing communications platform.
Wiley -- perhaps the biggest name yet to move from PR to a top role overseeing social media at a major full-service agency entity -- will work closely with Rishad Tobaccowala, the chief strategy and innovation officer at VivaKi, to whom he reports.
VivaKi is the holding company level unit that oversees all of Publicis' media agencies, including Starcom MediaVest Group, Zenith Optimedia Group, and its digital operations, including Digitas, Razorfish and Denuo.
Most recently managing director, Central region, for Edelman Digital, Wiley spent five years at the agency, where he played a key role in building the firm's digital business in the U.S. and Europe. He was an early member of the firm's global media lab, me2revolution, and oversaw social media and other digital work for clients such as Abbott, Disney, Harley-Davidson, Kraft Foods, Quaker and United.
Prior to Edelman, Wiley was a global communications director on the client side, spending nearly 10 years at General Motors, where his innovations included the 2005 co-development of one of the first company-written consumer blogs, "FastLane."
Such "engagement" activities, including RSS feeds and site comments, which he began doing at GM in 2000, were something "PR people could grasp," he recalled, and "top-down" marketing people "weren't comfortable with."
But in the past few years, Wiley noted, social media has moved beyond the early goals of "reputation management," awareness and viral buzz to the point where paid social media such as Facebook pages now drive the consumer engagement side. With PR people "not in position" to initiate that, the brand-side chief marketing officer has begun to win the social media struggle with the chief communications officer, he added.
With PR and advertising often encroaching on each other's social media turf, Wiley said he has agreed -- for a year -- not to work on any clients that may simultaneously be using a VivaKi agency for "owned" social media" and Edelman for "earned" social media.
He won't be dealing directly with clients, in any case, as that remains the function of VivaKi's individual agencies. "What I'm being entrusted with," Wiley said, "is making sure VivaKi agencies have the skills, platforms and talent" to own the "earned space." An overall goal is to have VivaKi agencies use social media to "create a path to purchase."
An initial aim, Wiley said, is "to increase the internal awareness of the changing media landscape and to do that with a global client base." His specific tasks include "upgrading the capabilities for client-facing agencies," working on standardization of product offerings, looking at potential mergers & acquisitions, developing best practices, and providing education and training.
Wiley said he would like to emulate an online distant learning system he instituted at Edelman. Called "digital belt," attendees earned "white belts" to "black belts" based on their levels of achievement.
He said he believes in "enterprise social architecture," a top-to-bottom approach to social media that includes everything from customer acquisition to social CRM (customer relationship management."
While he said that VivaKi agencies already have ample social media capabilities, Wiley added that those capabilities are "isolated and informal." "I want to get passionate people involved," he said, inviting such employees from across VivaKi properties to share with each other at regular twice-monthly meetings.
In addition to VivaKi's four agencies, Wiley is also expected to be heavily involved with Vivaki's Nerve Center, its digital platform think tank, and The Pool, which tests and creates new ad models.
His move reunites him with Curt Hecht, Nerve Center CEO, who was previously chief digital officer at Starcom MediaVest, with a dedicated client focus on General Motors.