Milland (pictured) joins Portland as a partner, leading a team of research, data and analytics specialists in London, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Doha, Singapore and Washington DC.
The Omnicom agency said that with Milland's arrival, it will launch an expanded Opinion Research unit providing focus groups and in-depth interviews for corporate and government clients. Portland said it has grown its research capabilities significantly in the last few years; it became a member of the British Polling Council in 2020.
Milland has worked at Public First, the public policy and research consultancy, since 2017 - Public First founder James Frayne previously worked at Portland. That period included five months as a temporary special adviser to the Prime Minister on COVID-19 comms.
Previously, he worked in Whitehall as head of external communications at the Ministry of Justice and head of communications at the Department for Education. He was also deputy director for the Government Communication Service.
Before Whitehall, Milland spent a decade in journalism as a political correspondent and foreign editor at The Express.
Mark Flanagan, Portland chief executive, said “Good research with actionable insights increasingly underpins the work we do, and Gabriel’s arrival will take this to a new level. His impressive credentials in media and politics will also be invaluable in the counsel we can provide to our clients.”
Milland said: “I'm hugely excited to be joining Portland. It has never been more important for organisations to know what people really think - whether that be the public, important stakeholders or their own staff. It shapes everything from corporate reputation to government policy. I'm looking forward to working with the brilliant Portland team."
Other hires at Portland this year include former government special advisers Salma Shah and Anita Boateng, and Reuters bureau chief Luke Baker, as partners. Rooney Anand, former chief executive of pubs and brewing group Greene King, also joined as a senior adviser.
Public First has recently been in the news over the issue of the awarding of government contracts. In June, the High Court ruled that the award of a £560,000 contract for COVID-19-related comms and research to Public First was unlawful. The contract was issued without tender under emergency Cabinet Office provisions.