WPP has appointed Publicis Groupe's Laurent Ezekiel to the newly created role of chief marketing and growth officer.
Ezekiel, who grew up in London and is half-British and half-French, brings technology and client-facing experience – two key areas that new WPP chief executive Mark Read has named as priorities.
He will split his time between New York and London – in a similar fashion to his most recent role at Publicis as North America and international president of Digitas and working on new business.
Ezekiel is the most-high profile external hire that Read has made since taking charge of WPP in September.
He will report to Read and work alongside Lindsay Pattison, WPP’s chief client officer.
In a memo to staff, Read said: "Laurent’s combination of skills – as a modern marketer with experience in technology, data, client services and new business – is rare in our industry and this is an important new role for WPP as we continue to reshape our company around the needs of our clients."
Read also highlighted Ezekiel’s business development role at Publicis, where he was responsible for major pitches and global client relationships such as Samsung and American Express.
Ezekiel recently played a leading role in Publicis’ successful pitch for GlaxoSmithKline's $1.7bn (£1.3bn) media account, defeating rivals WPP and Omnicom in the process.
He spent 16 years at Digitas and its predecessor LBi, where he worked with Luke Taylor, who also quit Publicis last year for a senior role at Omnicom.
Ezekiel, 44, started his career at Saatchi & Saatchi and went on to work at Grey London before its acquisition by WPP.
Read said at WPP’s investor day this week that he wants to focus on four core areas – communications, experience, commerce and technology – and earmarked £15m to invest in hiring creative talent, particularly in the US.
Ezekiel's experience of North America is likely to be important because WPP's operation in the US, its biggest market, has been shrinking.
WPP’s net sales have fallen 3.7% in North America in the first nine months of 2018, following a 3.2% decline in 2017.