Abruzzo, who joins MPG as executive vice president-director of research, comes from WPP Group's Mediaedge:cia unit, where he was a managing partner overseeing the agency's vaunted MediaLab, as well as its Competitive Edge and Ohal North America research practices. But unlike Mediaedge:cia, which offered some of those services as a la carte options for both the agency's clients and outside customers, Abruzzo will offer a similar suite of services to MPG's clients as part of its basic package.
"One of our points of differentiation here is that our knowledge center is a core offering," boasts Charlie Rutman, the CEO of MPG North America, who considers Abruzzo's appointment a key missing piece in his reorganization of the media shop's product and brand in the U.S. marketplace. He said it took the agency more than a year to find the right candidate to replace Tonya Deniz, who left to take a similar position at WPP's MediaCom unit, because it was looking for someone who could offer an integrated view of marketing and media research.
"Ten years ago, the research department was a support area that basically ran the numbers. Half the time you didn't know those people's names. And now it is an absolute lead function," says Rutman. "If you think about a paradigm shift, the old-fashioned media research was so narrow, because it was really about running numbers."
Among other things, Abruzzo will be North America's liason with MPG's Madrid-based research headquarters, reporting jointly to Rutman and Hernan Sanchez, MPG's global director of research in Spain.
In the U.S., Abruzzo will oversee a 15-person research organization, that includes both conventional media research, as well as advanced marketing mix modeling capabilities, communications planning research, and an array of new marketing and media analytics.
"It's about total communications planning at this point," Abruzzo says of the modern-day media research function. "it's about understanding how the media build upon each other and interact with each other."
Abruzzo began his career in marketing at clients such as Lever Brothers and Pepsi before joining marketing researcher ACNielsen. He later moved to head of research at the Network Television Association, and subsequently joined the team that created Mediaedge from the remnants of NW Ayer's media department, which was ultimately merged into WPP's Mediaedge:cia unit.