LONDON—Digital head Marshall Manson has quit Edelman to take on social media leadership at rival agency Ogilvy.

Manson is the most prominent of a series of exits from Edelman’s EMEA HQ in London, which also includes global mobile MD Marcus Dyer.

Manson will become EMEA MD of [email protected] in October of this year. He exits Edelman after eight years, including five in London, where he led the agency's 200-person EMEA digital practice. Previously, Manson launched Edelman's digital public affairs presence in Washington, DC.

Dyer leaves five years after selling Spook to Edelman, an acquisition that transformed the US firm's digital presence in London. Dyer served as Edelman UK's digital MD before becoming global MD of the firm’s mobile practice last year.

In addition to the exits of its top two digital executives, which are understood to be unrelated, Edelman's London office also lost digital director Robyn Hamman earlier this year. Hamman returned to Dachis Group to become Europe MD.

Separately, research head Laurence Evans has also left the firm, to launch a consultancy called Reputation Leaders. Evans spent almost eight years at Edelman, heading international operations for research unit StrategyOne, which relaunched as Edelman Berland last year.

Of the digital departures, Manson’s exit is likely to prove the most surprising, given the instrumental role he played in Edelman’s growth into a $20m digital operation across EMEA. He told the Holmes Report that the attraction of [email protected]’s integrated model was too good to resist.

“It's because I get to look after social across the whole of Ogilvy Group,” said Manson. “They have a huge range of skills and disciplines all in the building. In the UK at least, and probably in Europe, Ogilvy Group is Edelman's biggest and strongest competitor.”

“This role was irresistible to anyone who understands that an integrated approach to paid, owned and earned media is the future for marketing and communications" added Manson. "Given all the changes that social media is driving in our industry, there is nowhere I’d rather practice creative, edgy and effective campaigns for brands than an integrated communications firm full of smart people which is enjoying great growth and winning awards." 

Manson will report to Ogilvy PR EMEA MD Stuart Smith, and will have a dotted line to [email protected] global head John Bell. “We are past the pioneering stage," said Bell. "Now we must scale and innovate in social at the same time. No simple feat and Marshall brings great skills doing just that."

Edelman Digital global chair Kevin King said the firm is currently seeking replacements for both Manson and Dyer. He noted that Manson's departure would give the firm an opportunity to "re-look" at how it manages digital across the region.

"I'm really upset to see him go," said King of Manson's exit. "For Marshall's replacement, we're going to be looking for somebody that is really focused on non-UK markets. I would like to see our growth in Europe to be a lot faster — we haven't had the breakthrough in markets like France and Germany."

Regarding Dyer, King said that "Marcus is a very entrepreneurial guy, but it's a different business now," adding that "mobile is a key priority this year." 

Despite the exits, it is understood that Edelman UK’s digital operation has stabilised under the leadership of former Badoo comms head Leah Katz, in whom King said the agency has "every confidence."

Katz has hired numerous digital executives to the UK team, including former Headstream director Julius Duncan, who has arrived as head of corporate social media after a short-lived stint as Southampton FC's director of communications. In addition the firm has also appointed ex-Pretty Green digital head Ravi Matharu as a digital director, and named former AKQA exec Jonathan Nott as chief creative officer.  

Edelman recently announced a restructuring of its UK leadership under CEO Ed Williams, who joined the agency in 2011. Ruth Warder, MD of consumer arm JCPR, takes on responsibility for creative and planning, while Alex Bigg takes on similar duties for corporate, financial and public affairs.

Earlier this year, the firm named McKinsey's Michael Stewart as Europe CEO, filling the vacancy left by the departure of Robert Phillips.