Plucking leadership from one of his former companies, S4 Capital executive chairman Sir Martin Sorrell has named former GroupM executive Michel de Rijk as his APAC CEO.
De Rijk was APAC president of GroupM's [m]Platform effort from 2016 until earlier this year when he became global chief growth officer of the same company's Performance Media Group. He will be based in Singapore and starts with S4 in early 2019.
Among de Rijk's first priorities will be expanding the operations of S4's first major investment, MediaMonks, which is active in Singapore and has a small team in Shanghai at the moment. S4 will be "aggressively building out" MediaMonks in China, de Rijk told Campaign Asia-Pacific this morning. "We're focusing on key markets where already right now we know there is demand for the services MediaMonks is offering, mainly focusing on India, Australia and Japan."
The company plans to have operations in all those markets by the end of 2019, he said.
"We're looking at some small to mid-sized acquisitions in this area to fast-track the growth of our content pillar within S4, which is MediaMonks," de Rijk said. "Conversations are ongoing."
However, don't expect S4 to act like another WPP. "At the moment that Martin starts a new company, as he's quite known for doing acquisitions, there's an influx of companies that raise their hand and say 'Hey, I might be of interest'," de Rijk said.
"I assume that conversations with some of these companies are taking place or have taken place. Right now it's a question of what are strategically the right decisions. Because what is not going to happen is that S4 and/or MediaMonks is going to be an aggressive acquisition company like WPP. There's a few key assets that we're looking for."
Prior to [m]Platform, de Rijk headed up WPP's programmatic platform Xaxis, as APAC MD starting in 2012 and CEO starting in 2014. At S4, he will have operational responsibility for the APAC operations of all owned businesses across S4's three key areas—digital content, digital media planning and buying, and first-party data.
While MediaMonks lives in the first space, de Rijk's pedigree aligns more with the other areas.
"Obviously the second and third [areas] are more my forté," he said. "Neither of those businesses are active right now in market. So we're looking, both globally as well as regionally, at potential acquisitions in these areas. But with my previous history of building businesses like that from the ground up, that's obviously an area where we're also going to focus. How can we build our media buying and data sides of the business from scratch, or with some small acquisitions, or by acquiring a bigger company globally that has some operations in the region?"
Acquisitions on the global level might change the regional strategy by the time de Rijk formally starts work in January. "I think Martin has been clear in the media that he hopes to do one or two deals quite soon in these areas, and the plan is to build the rest of the APAC media and data elements on top of that," he said.
The synergy of the three pillars of the business is what most interests de Rijk, he said. "How do we make relevant creative that helps optimise and deliver better ROI in the programmatic and ecommerce space? And how do we make sure that we have enough measurement and learning out of that, which can be plugged back into the creative process to again optimise the media execution, so you have this closed loop?"
S4 is trying to play in what de Rijk sees as a new space. "It isn't an agency," he said. "It isn't an agency trading desk. It isn't a publisher. It isn't just production. It melds these components together, which plays in a new area that—not only in APAC but I think globally— doesn't exist right now."
“I’m delighted to welcome Michel to S4 Capital," Sorrell said in a release. "He has the network and the skills to help MediaMonks and all of our future businesses in the region maintain impressive growth, while identifying further opportunities to grow by acquisition. No one could be more qualified to represent the S4 Capital difference.”