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Montgomery Keeps GroupM on Digital Track

Mar 12, 2008  •  Post A Comment

At WPP’s GroupM media unit, John Montgomery has to keep track of a lot of digital assets.
GroupM has been investing in companies in areas ranging from gaming to behavioral targeting to social networking.
In his new job as chief operating officer of GroupM Interaction, North America, Mr. Montgomery’s mandate is to ensure that the company’s operating units—MindShare, MediaCom, Mediaedge:cia and Maxus—make the best use of those assets.
“This area changes fast. WPP digital and GroupM digital are forming relationships and acquiring companies at a rapid rate,” he said. “We’re ensuring that our operating companies know what’s out there and then how to use it and have access to it, and that they’ve continually got the best information about each of these individual areas in digital.”
The other important part of his job will be to establish best practices across the group in a number of areas.
“It just seems silly for us to be doing things differently across all of the agencies when we can be learning from each other and applying the best possible solutions across all agencies,” he said.
Mr. Montgomery is looking to standardize systems for organizing and analyzing the vast amount of data that comes from campaigns that use digital media.
“We can use one piece of software, for instance, to analyze all of our data across the databases rather than having to triplicate everything,” he said. “We can get a center of excellence together for data and then each of the agencies can benefit from that.”
Managing digital campaign data is something in which GroupM has invested heavily.
“That data needs to be managed and we need to be able to optimize our campaigns as quickly as possible. The planners need to know what’s happening day by day, what to do about it, how to change it. We need to be able to report to our clients, and so creating a centralized system that does that—which is part of what I’ve been doing for the past few months—enables us to invest more in a larger and better and more comprehensive system, and then each of the individual agencies then have access to that for their particular clients,” he said.
Mr. Montgomery grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, where like all young men he served in the military for 18 months. He was part of the engineering corps, stationed at the border with Angola, which was something of a hot spot at the time. While he never faced enemy fire, he did have to clear minefields, “which was not the best job in the world,” he said.
After leaving the service, he worked at a newspaper while taking advertising classes at the University of South Africa. He landed a job at Lintas, then quickly moved to Ogilvy, where he got involved in strategic media planning.
He shifted out of media to general agency management, running direct-response agency Ogilvy One, and then moved to Cape Town to head Ogilvy South African Group.
It was the late 1990s, and digital was just starting to take hold in South Africa.
“We opened Ogilvy Interactive, which I was responsible for establishing,” he said. “I just became extremely interested in the whole digital area in the late ’90s, and like everybody else, we did extremely well extremely quickly. But then, like everywhere else in the world, when the crash happened in the early 2000s, we had to scale right down, and we rebuilt it again into a nice agency.”
Mr. Montgomery got the itch to see more of the world and took a job at Ogilvy in Amsterdam, but he had his eye on New York. Midway through his posting in Europe, a job opened up at M1, the digital media agency that’s a joint venture between Ogilvy and MindShare, and he was able to make the jump to New York four years ago.
“I wanted to live and work in New York very badly,” Mr. Montgomery said. “It feels for me the center of what’s happening in the digital revolution in media and advertising. If you’re an advertising guy and you’ve got advertising in your blood, I just think New York is the epicenter of that.”
M1 split up and Mr. Montgomery stayed with the MindShare half, helping the agency build a global digital presence.
Mr. Montgomery and his wife live in Jersey City, N.J., where they can stare at New York all day. “For half the price you can look at New York, rather than for double the price look at New Jersey,” he said.
Mr. Montgomery enjoys visiting the jazz and blues clubs in the city.
“Being from South Africa, we were starved of great entertainment,” he said, because many artists stayed away due to the country’s apartheid policies. “It’s been a real feast for me to see all the artists I so badly wanted to see over the years and all the new great artists.”
He also travels a lot and has become more interested in photography, taking a course at the International Center for Photography.
He also loves auto racing and drives his car in events sponsored by a motoring club.
Who Knew: Mr. Montgomery said his great-grandfather, Robert Montgomery, was a stowaway on the ship that brought him from Ireland to South Africa. But he quickly married into a South African family and got involved in local politics in the late 1880s.

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