Josh Jacobs Out As CEO Of Omnicom's Accuen Trading Desk

jacobs-march15The longtime chief of Omnicom Group's trading desk operation is leaving the company after nearly four years.

Josh Jacobs will move on to unspecified pastures after his lengthy stint as global CEO of Accuen, where he helped grow Omnicom's revenue from programmatic buying activities to $140 million in 2014.

Reached by phone, Jacobs cited personal motives, including a desire to spend more time with family in Los Angeles, where he lives, and less time traveling. He said his job had him living in New York for half the year.

Jacobs said the parting was amicable and he will stay involved as an adviser for the near term.

His departure comes two months after rival Publicis Group's trading desk, VivaKi AOD, underwent a major reduction in staff – dramatically shrinking its headcount and integrating its capabilities within Publicis' operating agencies.

Accuen has long advocated for closer alignment between its trading desk operations and Omnicom's two major media agencies, PHD and OMD. "One hundred percent of our US business is serviced by people who are sitting in-office at the media agency," Jacobs said in 2013.

Nevertheless Accuen has persisted as a standalone business unit within Omnicom, and there is no immediate indication that Omnicom intends to change that approach. The company is recruiting for a replacement for Jacobs, who will be based in New York.

Programmatic contributed $20 million in incremental revenue to Omnicom's top line in Q4 2014 (earnings story), bringing the year's total to $140 million. That's good money, but still only about 1% of the holding company's $15.3 billion in total revenues. CEO John Wren tamped down expectations for future programmatic revenue growth during the company's last earnings call.

"I'm expecting good growth from [programmatic] but not the type of growth we had as we were starting it up," he told investors.

Recent months have brought significant changes to many trading desks. In addition to the dissolution of VivaKi AOD and Jacobs’ exit from Accuen, Interpublic Group's Cadreon trading desk has lost much of its global leadership (Brendan Moorcroft, Quentin George and Michael Brunick, who disembarked to launch consulting firm Unbound together).

Only WPP Group's Xaxis has held onto most of its senior leadership in recent years. CEO Brian Lesser, COO Mark Grether and GM of performance Paul Dolan are among its long-standing power players.

That may speak to WPP's investment in talent retention in its ad tech business, or it could have more to do with the resilience of the Xaxis model – which in the words of Lesser is "transparently non-transparent." That model is to take a margin on the media it buys on behalf of marketers, charging a CPM or CPA without disclosing its own costs.

Before running Accuen, Jacobs worked on the publisher side at Yahoo, where he was a VP overseeing ad tech platforms, and at Mode Media (née Glam Media).

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