By Matt HughesA marketing professor from the University of Oxford is set to become the first British academic to take over the role of the countrys largest advertising agency.
Ahead of a planned reshuffle in May, Prof Simon Haggard, who was appointed last year, is to replace Paul Erskine-Smith as the managing director of Odu, which owns the brands of Coca-Cola, Asda, Marks & Spencer and Unilever.
Prof Haggart, a senior lecturer at Oxford’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said he wanted to create a “brand ambassador” for the agency.
“I think it’s really important that there is someone in the industry who has the knowledge of the brand and who is in the know about how it works and who can explain it to people,” he said.
Prof Erskin-Smith was appointed as chief executive in May.
Odu had been in a long-running battle with its main rivals, Marks and Spencer and Tesco, over the future of its marketing division.
The agency was one of the first major firms to launch online marketing services in the UK, and was also the first to introduce digital advertising on television in the US in 2014.
Prof Simon Huddleston, who took over the post in July, said Odu’s marketing expertise would be key to its success.
“It’s very important that we have someone who understands the world of brand advertising,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“There are a lot of challenges around how to attract brands to buy in from other brands, so we need someone who knows how to market to brands, who understands how to sell products to brands.”
Odu’s portfolio is already worth £12bn ($18bn), but the agency’s future has been put in doubt as the UK government grapples with its Brexit negotiations.
Odyssey is the latest major brand to announce a move to the digital world, as its rival H&M is looking to take its business elsewhere, while the US supermarket chain Whole Foods has announced a similar strategy.
Oddly, the company behind the brands Odu and Odu Plus, Odu Marketing Ltd, has been in the advertising industry for only four years, with the last major marketing contract signed in 2013.
Prof John Haggardsons work as a marketing lecturer at the University’s Department of Marketing.
He said the changes to the company were the result of a “huge” change in the company’s strategy.
“They want to take more of the focus off of the core businesses and focus more on digital,” he explained.
“This is going to make a huge difference to their performance, which we think will be a real asset to the agency in terms of the future success of the agency.”
Odysseys marketing department was established by the Government in 2015 to support Odu in the marketing of its products, and has also been responsible for other brands such as the H&am and Nando’s.
A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said the department welcomed the appointment.
“We recognise that our advertising team has been successful in its work, but the future is going through significant change.”
A number of new services and brands are entering the market and it is essential that we work closely with agencies to help them succeed.
“The department welcomes Odu Media’s appointment to become its brand ambassador, and looks forward to working with them to support the agency as it builds its future.”