* Group names WPP's GroupM Italy head as Publitalia chief
* Stefano Sala to replace Giuliano Adreani from Jan. 2013
* Moved aimed at reviving advertising sales
MILAN, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Italy's No.1 commercial broadcaster Mediaset has named an executive of the world's largest advertising group, WPP, to be head of its advertising unit as it seeks to revive advertising sales hit hard by the crisis.
Stefano Sala, currently president and chief executive of WPP's media investment management arm GroupM in Italy, will replace current Publitalia head Giuliano Adreani starting from Jan 1, Mediaset said in a statement on Thursday.
Publitalia generates most revenues at Mediaset, which is suffering from competition from larger rivals such as News Corp's pay television channel Sky Italia.
Mediaset posted a 73.5 percent fall in first-half net profit, dragged by a 11.9 percent fall in advertising sales and by its unprofitable pay-TV business.
Shares in Mediaset, which is owned by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, have risen strongly over the last few days on the back of speculation about foreign investors' interest in Mediaset's loss-making pay-TV operation.
Analysts at Mediobanca say a joint venture in pay-TV makes sense and would allow Mediaset to partly offset a steeper-than-expected fall in advertising sales.
Mediaset delayed on Wednesday its board meeting to approve its nine-month results by one week to Nov. 13, without providing the reason for the move.
Shares closed down 2.99 percent at 1.59 euros on Thursday before the statement was released.