Colin Kinsella's Mindshare Makeover

WPP’s Mindshare has just created the new role of New York Office Lead and appointed agency veteran David Pullan to fill it. Pullan, who reports to Mindshare North America CEO Colin Kinsella, will also take on duties as North America Client Lead for Unilever.

The move is the latest step by Kinsella -- who joined the agency this summer from Digitas where he was formerly NA CEO -- to fashion a broad top-level management makeover at the agency that he believes will better align it to serve clients in what he calls the “always-on, always ready” consumer marketing era.

“We need to expand the view of what a media agency is,” said Kinsella. The overarching approach is focused on so-called “adaptive marketing” in which social, content and data will play huge roles. But Kinsella’s agency rethink goes even further—he's developing new hiring techniques that test not only for intelligence but personality attributes that he sums up as “grit.”



In his four-plus months at the agency Kinsella has already largely made over the C-level suite and taken steps to bulk up key offices outside of New York.

He named Bob Ivins, the former Comcast executive, as the agency’s first chief data officer. Among other things, Ivins is busy defining for each client the five key data streams (out of potentially thousands of such streams) that will make a major difference in their marketing approach.

Jordan Bitterman -- like Kinsella, a former senior Digitas executive -- has taken on the role of chief strategy officer and Mindshare veteran David Lang has been promoted to chief content officer. The shop has also promoted Renee Milliaressis to Chief Operating Officer. Most recently she oversaw the agency's Unilever account in North America.

Outside of New York, Kinsella has made it a priority to strengthen other offices and disciplines. David Adelman, a senior New York-based client account executive, has been promoted to head of the Chicago office. He succeeds Mary Carpenter, who is taking on a new North America role in which she is tasked with building out the agency’s Performance Marketing Group. Carpenter will remain based in Chicago.

Mindshare’s Los Angeles office is also being strengthened. The agency won the estimated $400 million consolidated Lionsgate media assignment earlier this year. Lee Doyle, the former MEC North American CEO who joined Mindshare in 2012 as president, client development, was a key player in the Lionsgate pitch and has relocated from New York to Los Angeles to oversee the agency’s office there.

There is more to come. The agency will be making announcements soon regarding a new North American communications planning post as well as a new approach to investment and buying.

On the talent front Kinsella said, “there are two things you can’t teach -- passion and intellect.” Clients, he added, “are in a battle every day and they need an agency that keeps coming to them over and over with ideas that can help them in every market against every brand.” To fulfill that mission, he said, “we need people with a certain stamina, stick-to-it-iveness and perseverance,” who deliver at a level of excellence. “We call that grit. And we’re in the process of putting together a program to hire for grit.”

Before any prospective hire is interviewed for a specific job, they will be tested for certain skills and “grit” traits. “It’s a media agency and people need to understand math” and related skills, Kinsella said. The shop is creating a test that the top 30 most successful people at the agency will take, and those results will be used as a benchmark to score potential hires.

Once the agency has determined that a candidate has the rudimentary intellect and character traits to succeed, said Kinsella, “we can teach them anything.” That approach, he said, “is our notion of how to align ourselves as a culture to help our clients day in and day out.”

The agency also needs to be speedier in almost everything it does, Kinsella said. Winning, he said -- paraphrasing former GE CEO and business guru Jack Welch -- is closely tied to “how much faster than the competition can an enterprise generate consumer insights and how faster can they put those insights into action.”

That’s why the agency is creating so-called “adaptive rooms” designed to monitor social conversations that the agency and clients can quickly decide whether or not to participate in. “Brands need to be connected to the social zeitgeist,” said Kinsella. The shop is working with outside content developers like Wochit, billed as a “video newsroom,” that can turn around a piece of content based on specs from the agency in minutes.

And sibling data management and demand side platform Xaxis will be a key partner going forward, said Kinsella. “They have proprietary audiences that other networks just don’t have,” he said. “They will expand to be the targeting engine for us across the agency and across a whole set of channels including addressable TV, mobile, digital and social.”

Looking ahead to next year, Kinsella says that one big “game changer” will be programmatic and “the power of targeting and buying off that targeting.”

And while marketers have been focused on developing owned and earned media assets, Kinsella believes that paid media will also be the subject of great debate next year. Paid media is still the core marketing asset for most major advertisers. The issue going forward, he said, is “knowing how much powder to keep dry. Agencies and clients that leverage that in the smartest ways will have the greatest advantage.” 

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