Robert Sawatzky
Nov 15, 2019

GroupM APAC chief executive Mark Patterson to leave Asia for global COO role

Promotion to a New York-based role is part of a global leadership realignment announced by global CEO Christian Juhl.

Mark Patterson
Mark Patterson

After nearly 20 years in the region, GroupM’s Asia Pacific CEO and China chairman Mark Patterson is leaving Asia after being promoted to a global role as GroupM’s new chief operating officer, based in New York.

The move comes as GroupM CEO Christian Juhl announces a new alignment of GroupM’s global leadership, which also involves new appointments to the roles of chief technology officer, chief commercial officer and a new president of GroupM services.

As the new COO, Patterson will be responsible for all of GroupM’s regions and markets, along with trading and investments, including all elements around media scale. He will also have oversight of GroupM’s platform services and IT functions.

While Patterson has already unofficially begun working in his new capacity, he will be transitioning to the new role over several months, splitting time between Hong Kong and New York until his family fully relocates next summer.

“It’s really exciting,” Patterson tells Campaign following global meetings over the last few weeks discussing the global vision. “I'm really very lucky that I’ve been given an opportunity. I’m really happy about it.”

Particularly gratifying to Patterson is that these management changes are not the result of any kind of crisis. “We’re doing it from a position of strength,” he said. “We’re still a vast, strong business, but you've got to keep pushing at every level.”

Here in Asia, Patterson’s successor as APAC CEO has not yet been chosen, but Patterson will be involved in putting new management in place. Instead of finding an immediate replacement, Patterson says the company is taking some time out to rethink the role and might repurpose it slightly based on changing needs and priorities, relying in the interim on what Patterson feels is already a strong team of agency leaders.

A new global team

In addition to Patterson’s appointment the three other global leadership changes are as follows:

  • Andrew Shebbeare, Essence’s co-founder and chairman becomes CEO of 2Sixty & GroupM’s acting chief technology officer, responsible for combining [m]Platform and Essence’s 2Sixty into one, holistic team to be leveraged across the global network. Shebbeare will continue to be based in London.
  • Brian Gleason, currently CEO of GroupM’s Performance Media Group, will take on a new role as chief commercial officer in New York, leading an expanded portfolio of specialty businesses, including Xaxis, Finecast, Motion Content Group, Kinetic and a yet-to-be named new business aimed at helping clients with in-housing.
  • Colin Barlow, who previously held the COO title in a different capacity from Patterson’s current remit, will continue to lead the services side of [m]Platform as global president of GroupM Services in New York, helping agencies with search, social, and programmatic expertise.
L-R: Brian Gleason, Andrew Shebbeare, Colin Barlow


While Patterson says the new team is still getting its collective intelligence together and honing priorities, it’s committed to an external vision of ‘making advertising work better’ and also to an internal vision of being an enabler and facilitator of technology, tools, services and products to its four global agencies and their clients.

GroupM has historically had a scale advantage in media buying and in partnering with major platforms, but Patterson says part of its future strategy will rely on leveraging scale in different ways.  

“When people talk about leveraging scale they quickly go to media buying," Patterson says. "It’s still important, but more importantly, leveraging scale smartly in technology, data or people is increasingly important, and we think that gives us an advantage.”

Leveraging Asia

While Patterson says he’ll be looking to learn from markets in the US, Europe and elsewhere, he’ll also look to transfer experience from Asia, both internally in building a collaborative team and externally in harnessing Asia’s momentum in digital and ecommerce markets.

“There’s been very much a ‘can do’ attitude here and movement at speed," he says. "If we could take some of that and translate that to other parts of the world that would be a good thing,” he adds, noting that is partly why he was asked to take the role. “We've got the fastest-growing most progressive digital markets in the world, in this region” and will be looking to translate some of the expertise and experience in mobile and ecommerce, he adds.

During Patterson’s two decades in Asia the media business and regional economy has undergone a complete sea change with the emergence of rapidly growing media markets like China, India and Southeast Asia where GroupM has enjoyed massive expansion. The explosive adoption of digital media opened new opportunities for GroupM to expand its programmatic technology capabilities and forge new partnerships with major platforms.

Patterson served as CEO at Mindshare from 2000 to 2006 when he joined GroupM as North Asia CEO and APAC COO before being further promoted to APAC chief executive in 2010. As regional CEO, Patterson navigated the media group through countless disruptions and a new industry drive for more media transparency.  In recent years, he oversaw the launch of the shared data [m]Platform in Asia, the consolidation of two major agencies Maxus and MEC into Wavemaker here, and the rise of a new fourth data-driven agency in Essence.

But asked what he was most proud of during his years in Asia, Patterson says it’s his feeling that GroupM got better as it grew bigger in the region. “We’ve managed to not rest on our laurels continually, but strive to be high performing.” He also highlights how the network took some risks in bringing in new blends of talent from brands, while launching in Korea was important to him personally since his wife is Korean.

“I’m refusing to say I’m leaving,” he adds. “I’ll still be connected."

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