Arvind Hickman
Jul 5, 2022

Former GroupM leader becomes inaugural Origin CEO

Tom George will assume full-time leadership of the project as it move into a build and test phase.

Tom George
Tom George

ISBA has hired former Group M UK chief executive Tom George as the first CEO of Origin, the UK’s cross media measurement project.  

George is charged with leading the project as it moves into its third phase of development, moving from proof of concept to building and testing the measurement tools.

In May, ISBA secured £11m of funding from more than 40 different organisations, including 25 brand advertisers, Group M, Dentsu, IPG Mediabrands, Publicis Media and Omnicom Media Group, responsible for more than 80% of the UK’s annual media billings, and eight media owners and platforms, including Facebook, Google and Amazon. 

George brings more than 25 years of  experience at media and marketing groups and currently runs Everclear Consulting, which advises businesses on strategy, transformation and growth. 

Previously he was chief executive at GroupM UK, stepping down in 2020 when Karen Blackett took over, and has held several leadership roles including UK and Europe chair for Wavemaker Global and chief executive for Wavemaker UK.

“I remember the early discussions around what was to become Origin. It was an impressive and brave idea and so much has been achieved since that time,” George said. 

“The opportunity to be involved with and help shape what I believe is a ground-breaking business providing solutions to advertisers., media owners and agencies alike, was too good to turn down. I am looking forward to working with the team and all stakeholders to help them achieve the project’s North Star principles.”

ISBA director general Phil Smith added: “Tom’s appointment is hugely significant. Origin is now in its third phase, build and implementation, Tom is a highly skilled advertising and media professional, and his wealth of experience will be invaluable to Origin.”

George’s skills and diplomacy leading UK media agencies and groups, where he has worked closely with advertisers and media owners, will be tested by some parts of the industry that are yet to fully embrace Origin.

The project has received broad support from ISBA members, including FMCG giants like Johnson & Johnson, P&G, Unilever and Mars, as well as the largest social media platforms.

Five of the six major holding groups have signed up to Origin, but one part of the industry that has not thrown its support behind the project is the TV sector. Broadcasters remain concerned about whether direct comparisons between TV and digital measurement could devalue TV advertising metrics, often arguing that it is like comparing apples with oranges.

Although most media planners and buyers agree with the theory of cross-media measurement and efficiencies that are gained by de-duplicating ad impressions across different channels, some are sceptical about how it can work in reality because current measurement practices of TV and digital are vastly different.

These are some of the issues that will be in George’s in-tray when he takes up the role in September. 

Campaign UK

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