SXSW Sydney: GroupM global CEO says ‘I don’t think advertising is very good today’

GroupM’s global CEO argues that advertising needs to earn its place in the world, and to do so, it needs to be better.

Speaking at SXSW Sydney this week, Christian Juhl said he takes his responsibility as global CEO “really seriously” and one of the reasons he took the job was because he believes in the power of advertising, but wants to improve it.

Juhl (left) speaking at SXSW Sydney with Today presenter Brooke Boney

“I say it all the time, it’s not breaking news. But I don’t think advertising is very good today,” Juhl said.

“Advertising needs to earn its place in the world, and I think right now it doesn’t always do that.”

According to Juhl, advertising has the power to shape conversations, bring context to world discussions and mould the future of creativity, but without the right strategy, it will not positively influence the future.

“It is a reflection of current events of culture, and we’ve seen the industry change a lot over the last few years. During the pandemic, we saw ecommerce sky rocket and those brands create tremendous growth opportunities, and that was largely supported by advertising and awareness.

“This is the power advertising can have if it’s done right – it boosts brands and gives them those results,” he continued. “It has played an underappreciated role at the intersection of business, culture and technology, and we can use that to influence the future.”

So what can the industry do to make advertising better?

Juhl argued: “We should do a better job of rewarding the data that we give advertisers, the data that we give our partners, in order to get better personalisation and to get more value.

“We need to make brands trust us with their money, and look at all the different facets of what responsible investment looks like – transparency, or viewability standards or responsible journalism. And now, we’ve evolved to also look at sustainability, carbon neutrality, those sorts of things.”

Juhl was CEO of Essence in 2013, and described the small media agency as “very data and tech oriented”. It was then acquired by WPP in 2015. The company continued to work independently under WPP until 2019, then he became GroupM’s global CEO.

Last year, Essence merged with another GroupM media agency, Mediacom, and became EssenceMediacom. In Australia, it was led by then-CEO Pat Crowley. Crowley moved to a managing partner position in February this year, before going in-house at Commonwealth Bank in June. Now, Pippa Berlocher leads the media agency as CEO.


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