Nine's Matt James to lead ZenithOptimedia as Ian Perrin steps down

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 12 October 2015

Nine's Matt James will lead Publicis-owned media agency ZenithOptimedia as Ian Perrin steps down from the agency he has led for four years.

Perrin is likely to take on an as yet undisclosed role within the ZO network, but it's not known whether this is in Australia or overseas. It's thought that he could be heading to the US.

James, who is currently group director of NEC Sales at Nine Entertainment and leads its Powered division, will take over as CEO towards the end of this year and will work with Perrin on a smooth transition of the leadership.

In terms of priorities, James told AdNews today that he would first and foremost be looking to get to grips with the foundations that Perrin has laid, as well as the current clients' needs. But, as with any new leader, he will be taking a look at talent and structure within the agency, how it is harnessing global assets, and new acquisitions and new business down the track.

James has a heritage in media agencies and spent a long period of time within the Publicis Groupe in the UK. Before relocating to Australia four years ago, he was MD of Starcom in London. Prior to that he was MD of Omnicom International based out of London.

Having spent four years at NEC, he said today that experience allows him to see “more deeply into the lens that media owners see around their own data.”

His experience spans creative from leading NEC's Powered unit, data, from his Mi9 role, and being part of the team that set up data house Tipstone - and more broadly from a focus on performance and ROI marketing throughout his time in agencies.

Perrin has steered the agency into a more digital and data driven performance marketing space over the last 12 months, chasing a different kind of client than the agency previously relied on. In part, this was driven by the loss of a number of FMCG and big brand accounts, such as Nestle and Qantas, but it is also to chase higher margin, more data-driven clients.

He has also led a number of acquisitions in the last few months, most recently FirstClick, and earlier this year the acquisition of John Preston's Match Media. and launching Blue 449.

“From ZO's point of view, we've put the foundations in place and evolved the agency from a corporate point of view with the acquisitions, and evolved from a product point of view and we're getting some good work out there – which our Effies success as the best performing media agency over the last two years shows," Perrin said. "With Member’s Own, Appliances Online, Singapore Airlines and FitBit, it feels like we've got some good momentum with new business; it's perfect timing for someone new to come in and put their foot on the accelerator and drive growth from those strong foundations."

Gerry Boyle, APAC chairman of ZenithOptimedia, said he would like to thank Perrin for his leadership, openness and close collaboration over the years.

"Ian had always been clear with us that he planned to move on after four years leading the business, and that time has come," he said.

"We are so pleased to have a leader like Matt to succeed Ian, and I look forward to working with him. With ZenithOptimedia, our brand new performance business and the Match/Blue 449 proposition, we have a group that is in great shape for the future”.

There is an unprecedented number of new agency CEOs taking up posts this year. The former chairmen of all three major networks, Starcom MediaVest's John Sintras, IPG's Henry Tajer and GroupM's John Steedman, have all exited. 

Every agency at GroupM has a new CEO, excluding Mindshare where Katie Rigg Smith remains in charge. MediaCom is yet to name a new CEO following Mark Pejic's exit, although it is understood that James was in the running for that spot too. Mark McCraith replaced John Chadwick at Maxus and James Hier took over from Peter Vogel at MEC who moved to regional. 

Similarly at IPG Mediabrands, Initiative’s CEO, Leigh Legget, is the only one in place for more than a year, with new head honchos in Mnet, Anomaly, Cadreon, UM and in the top spot. Danny Bass is expected to start towards the end of this year, or early 2016. Ross Raeburn will take over as CEO of UM when Mat Baxter relocates to the US.

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