Kirk McDonald, North America CEO of WPP’s GroupM, will leave the company. Read the internal email about his departure.

  • GroupM North America CEO Kirk McDonald is set to leave the company, the ad firm confirmed.
  • He joined the WPP-owned media investment division in 2020.
  • GroupM North America lost several key accounts and new business pitches to rivals in recent months.

Kirk McDonald, the North America CEO of WPP’s media buying division GroupM, announced his departure on Monday.

GroupM manages more than $63 billion in annual media investment globally. It owns and operates agencies such as EssenceMediaCom, Wavemaker, and Mindshare. WPP’s largest market is the United States.

McDonald will remain with GroupM Global until the end of the year, said GroupM Global CEO Christian Juhl in an email to employees in the United States and Canada this morning.

According to Juhl, Mindshare Global CEO Adam Gerhart will take on additional responsibilities as GroupM North America CEO while the company searches for a permanent replacement.

“I’d like to thank Kirk for his numerous contributions to our organization. He has been a strong and inspiring leader for us and our industry as a champion for innovation and responsible investment,” Juhl wrote in an email. “He has also been a valuable partner to me and the global GroupM leadership community more broadly.”

WPP’s revenue growth has been hampered this year by a slowdown in marketing spend from its technology clients in the United States. Its net revenue in the United States fell 4.2% in the third quarter.

GroupM North America has lost several key accounts and new business pitches to competitors in recent months, fueling speculation both inside and outside the company that McDonald may be leaving soon.

Earlier this month, a source told Insider that GroupM CEO had a plan for GroupM, and that “part of that is going to be to address the underperformance in the US.”

WPP CEO Mark Read stated on the company’s earnings call this week that the company intends to further simplify GroupM and will provide more details in January.

Insiders are questioning WPP CEO Mark Read’s recovery strategy following a chaotic period of mergers, account losses, and a stock slump.

GroupM recently won PayPal’s global media account, and WPP media agencies have taken on new clients from Adobe and Discovery.

McDonald became a member of GroupM’s global leadership team in 2020.

Some in the industry were surprised by his appointment because he had no prior experience leading media agencies. Throughout his career, he has held positions at various technology companies, most recently as chief business officer of Xandr, an adtech unit previously owned by AT&T. He had previously worked for the adtech company PubMatic as well as publications such as Time Inc, Fortune, and CNET.

GroupM North America, led by McDonald, has attempted to implement a “responsible investment strategy.” This year, the agency announced that it would devote 5% of its advertising budget to media outlets owned by or aimed at Black, Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and LGBTQ+ Americans. In 2021, it will launch a data ethics compass to assist advertisers in determining whether the data they are using is legal and morally sound.

In a press release issued by GroupM, McDonald said, “Since I joined GroupM a little more than three years ago, we’ve achieved incredible things — for our company, the industry, and our clients — living up to our promise of making advertising work better for people.”

Read GroupM Global CEO Christian Juhl’s email to employees about Kirk McDonald’s departure in full below:

Hello there, GroupM North America.

Kirk McDonald has decided to step down as North America CEO and leave GroupM at the end of the year after three years of driving significant change and progress across our business.

I’d like to express my gratitude to Kirk for his numerous contributions to our company. He has been a strong and inspiring leader for us and our industry, championing innovation and responsible investment. He has also been an invaluable resource to me and the global GroupM leadership community at large.

While Kirk will remain with us until the end of the year to ensure a smooth transition, I’m pleased to announce that Mindshare’s Global CEO Adam Gerhart will assume additional responsibilities as interim CEO for GroupM North America while we conduct a formal search for Kirk’s replacement. Adam is intimately familiar with our business, having begun his career with us in New York and progressing through a variety of roles before becoming Mindshare’s US CEO in 2016, and Global CEO in 2021. He’s already collaborated with many members of the NA leadership team, and I’m confident in the strategic direction he’ll provide during this transition.

I hope you will join me in congratulating Kirk and wishing him the best in the future. While we will miss him when he moves on to his next challenge in the new year, the region is fortunate to have such a strong leadership team in place.

Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication to our clients this year. I hope to see as many of you as possible in the office or at upcoming town halls.



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