Neve named new SMG Canada CEO

MEC's Bruce Neve talks to MiC about accepting his new job as CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group Canada. (Updated)

The rumours have been swirling around the industry for days, but now it’s official: MEC’s Bruce Neve will be the next CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group in Canada.

Neve starts at the agency May 30, reporting to Iain Jacob, president of dynamic markets, Starcom MediaVest Group. In a phone interview last evening, Neve said he was excited to start a new chapter in his career.

‘For me it was a new challenge. I’ve been with MEC and Y&R before that for 20 years when you add them all together. So it’s not like I’m a jumper! It had to be something special and I think this is something very special.’

Noting that opportunities such as this don’t come up very often in Canada, Neve says familiarity with the agency, and its substantial client base, were both reasons he accepted the CEO job when SMG approached him.

‘I felt that the culture and core values of the company were very much in line with MEC and what I believe in. I know quite a few people there and I respect Anne Myers and Alex Panousis – they have an outstanding record. [SMG] has won about 12 new pieces of business in five years, agency of the year twice recently, and quite a few MIAs, so I just felt I was joining a winning team and it was a real opportunity, with such a strong global network, to really keep the momentum going.’

Starcom MediaVest Canada has been without a CEO since Lauren Richards departed last fall to become CEO of Media Experts. Since then, the agency has been helmed by its two group presidents, Alexandra Panousis for Starcom and Anne Myers on the MediaVest side. The agency’s client roster includes RIM, TD Bank, Wind Mobile, Kellogg’s and Kraft, and recently won the Microsoft account for Canada as well.

In naming Neve, SMG once again looks to one of the more prominent members of the Canadian media agency community to carry the agency forward into a new year. Neve has been at the helm of MEC (formerly Mediaedge:cia) since 2008, when he assumed CEO duties from Bruce Grondin. Prior to that, he was SVP, managing director with the agency.

Neve also sits on the Canadian Media Directors Council and was named strategy magazine’s Media Director of the Year in 2008. MEC clients include Molson Coors and the Royal Canadian Mint, both of which executed high-profile campaigns for the Vancouver Olympics last year, the latter of which won a Mediaweek magazine award for Media Plan of the Year.

The move carries Neve to a much larger agency – MEC has approximately 70 people to SMG’s approximately 150 – and one with, overall, a higher-profile client base as well. SMG’s overall billings in 2009 were pegged at $396 million (#8 in Canada) and MEC’s 2009′s billings at $262 million (#10 in Canada), according to RECMA.

Admitting starting a new role in a new company is always a challenge, Neve says the second challenge will be keeping ahead of the game in today’s fast-paced media world, and ensuring SMG’s clients are at the forefront of it.

‘You can’t stay still or you’ll get passed by someone else. That’s the challenge,’ he says. ‘I see lots of opportunities [at SMG] and in the industry in general, in terms of offering integrated communications solutions with social and mobile and retail, measuring the new media platforms, keeping up on where are mobile and location-based services are going, using data to drive a return on investment, and [in the arena of] content and content development, defining the role of media agencies in the area of branded entertainment.’

The last year has seen a seismic shift in leadership in the Canadian media agency community. Veteran media pro Hugh Dow retired last fall, and OMD’s Lorraine Hughes announced her retirement recently after 35 years in the industry. Neither agency has publicly named successors. In addition, MediaCom saw a new CEO in its midst last year, with Jamie Edwards taking the reins from Amanda Ploughman (and subsequently hitting two major account win home runs in March), and Richards taking over CEO duties from Mark Sherman.

Posted at 5:30 p.m. April 26. Updated at 9:30 a.m. April 27 and May 5.