Group M hires Dentsu COO to lead digital activation and evolution


Group M has appointed Dentsu UK COO Sam Hughes to a new role to lead digital media activation across the group.

He joins as managing partner of Group M Services in the UK and will report to Niel Bornman, Chief Products and Services Officer of Group M UK, and Lisa Humphreys, Chief Transformation and Integration Officer.

Hughes will be responsible for digital media activation and excellence in research, social and programmatic / display across the five M Group agencies as part of the newly formed M Services group.

He will lead a team of approximately a dozen Group M core staff and more than 1,000 digital media activation specialists working in Group M agencies, including MediaCom, Mindshare, Wavemaker, Essence and m / SIX.

This includes defining innovation, best practices and standards in areas such as brand safety, visibility and advertising fraud, as well as working with digital platforms and partners such as Google services, to establish standards and best practices in research, programmatic advertising and display.

Hughes has over 20 years of media and advertising experience at Dentsu, iProspect, Amplifi, Vizeum and Mediacom.

In his previous role, he led the operations and transformation for Dentsu UK’s media brands.

Bornman, who also previously worked at Dentsu, said Countryside “The Hughes experience speaks for itself”.

“Sam has been there and done it. It has grown not only in digital, but also in traditional agencies, including Vizeum and iProspect. He has seen firsthand the questions clients ask and the challenges we face in giving people a truly exceptional career, ”he said.

Aside from his change management experience in large organizations, Bornman said he is “frankly, just a really kind human being who is inherently motivated to make a difference … and contribute to the greater good of what we are trying to do. do as an industry “.

The evolution of digital

Group M Services is essentially a support network for all of its talents working in digital activation.

One of the main challenges for Hughes in his new role will be managing resources in an industry that is struggling with high churn rates, with industry estimates hovering around 35%.

“The big challenge facing our market recently and probably for another two years is resources,” Bornman said. “How can we offer our people great careers, help them develop and offer them opportunities to work on the best clients in the market?

“The second thing is that people want to go through the channel, outside of being in a silo, to get a broader experience. The third thing we’re all grappling with is all the changes that are happening around our data and technology, including cookies … Sam will be at the forefront of designing and achieving this for our people and ours. clients. “

Hughes joins in at an interesting time in the way traditional media groups deliver services. This includes automating and relocating repetitive tasks to make digital activation more efficient and enable staff to work in more meaningful roles.

Bornman said Group M is constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency through programming, research and social activation, and Hughes will be at the forefront of this evolution.

“The reality is that any future-proof model in how you deliver digital services has to consider the percentage of assets you can have in low-cost markets because they don’t need to be in front of customers. And absolutely, there is a percentage of what will become automated, simplified and process-optimized, “he said.

“And there’s a percentage of the work you have to do that is about human ingenuity, strategic thinking, creative problem solving, dealing with the customer in real time – the people-based work that stays in the market.

“We are looking into these things globally and locally … but we continue to grow every year and we need to make sure we offer people interesting careers and that they are not stuck doing what machines should or could do at a low-cost. market”.

Hughes, who will be joining in Spring 2022, added: “I am very excited to take on the role of Group M Services and rejoin Group M, where I started my career in the media industry.

“I look forward to working closely with all agencies to continue the next phase of their digital transformation journey and remain stuck in driving excellence through digital activation.”


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