GroupM Nexus CEO Ryan Menezes: ‘We Talk About Tech, Data & AI But We’re Still A People Business’

GroupM Nexus CEO Ryan Menezes: ‘We Talk About Tech, Data & AI But We’re Still A People Business’

The last 12 months have been a “bumper” year for GroupM Nexus’ Australian CEO Ryan Menezes (pictured) both personally and professionally. At B&T’s Best of the Best Luncheon, presented by GroupM, we caught up with Menezes to learn more about his and his team’s challenges and growth and why recognising individual brilliance is just as important as whole-company efforts.

Previously the chief technology and transformation officer, he was promoted to the top job this time last year. However, with barely any time to pause, GroupM Nexus embarked on a significant transformation at the same time as his second child was born.

“It was a year full of ups and downs!” he said, laughing.

“For me, it was challenging to balance but, on the other hand, it was a phenomenal learning experience. If I learned one thing, it’s that the entire change management component comes down to building psychological safety for any teams going through change. That was a core facet for us.”

L-R: Ryan Menezes, GroupM Nexus’ Australian CEO; Tom Fogden, editor, B&T.

We’re chatting with Menezes before the main festivities at the Best of the Best Luncheon, where his boss, Aimee Buchanan, GroupM’s overall CEO, also took to the stage with Polly Blenkinship, global head of brand media at Audible. He’s relaxed, but it’s clear that the last year will remain one he won’t forget.

“Nexus symbolises the next phase of our group transformation. Christian Juhl, our global CEO, talks a lot about GroupM becoming more like a software company, how we enable that and become a simpler org to navigate, bringing forth the best capabilities and solutions for our clients,” he said.

“Nexus is the performance engine within that for the entire group. It’s where all of our data, technology, AI and amazing craft talent are incubated. Our vision is very simple. How do we lead the next era of media performance.”

While that vision is simple to write down, it presents a multitude of challenges once unpacked. How is the next era of media performance different from this one? What is the next era of media? But for Menezes, meeting that vision is straightforward.

“Regardless of channel – digital, outdoor, addressable TV, influencer, We make sure that people are really good at the craft of what they do, with consistent market leading processes, tools and technology,” he said, which sounds simple enough.

“But the focus is more around holistically delivering on an omnichannel end state, to achieve the best outcomes for our clients,” he said, which sounds far more complex.

Menezes explained that GroupM Nexus had undergone a significant simplification process in the last year, grounded in delivering consistent craft expertise and data, tech and AI capabilities across all GroupM agencies. He led this transformation, having been given significant autonomy by Aimee Buchanan to make sure the right choices were made for the agencies locally. Everything was on the table to be transformed by technologies such as generative AI and machine learning to automate processes and systems.

L-R: Polly Blenkinship, global head of brand media, Audible; Aimee Buchanan, CEO, GroupM.

“It’s all centred around reducing distraction so we can be more client-centric.”

People can start to worry when they hear words like “automation,” fearing that it is code for job losses. However, for Menezes, this entire enterprise is about improving GroupM’s performance — not cutting costs. He was committed to ensuring the psychological safety of GroupM’s people was not compromised during any of the transformations.

How? He listened, conversed and celebrated personal achievements — that last part has become a core tenet of his leadership during the change and why the Best of the Best initiative has been so valued by him and his colleagues. In fact, there were 10 GroupM staff listed in the top three spots across the 29 different categories in B&T’s Best of the Best lists last year — 11 if you include Jane McPhillips, WPP’s Melbourne campus experience manager.

“I feel very lucky that the psychological safety component is very strong. If you can build psychological safety while you’re managing change that means that staff will play a more active role in how we articulate and deliver our vision, our behaviours and strategy.

“At the end of the day, as much as we talk about data, tech and AI, we’re a people business. It all comes down to people being the core ingredient in our clients’ success. We’ve focused on creating a culture of recognition because it’s incredibly important for elevating our top talent. It builds their confidence and it makes them feel the impact they have in the industry and world around them.”

At a time of flux within the advertising and media industries and rapidly changing expectations from clients and staff themselves, Menezes’ and GroupM’s strategy is likely to pay dividends. After all, if you have the Best of the Best staff, they can make the best of the technology — not the other way around.

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