Paul Brooks has been appointed chief executive of Carat Australia and New Zealand and will take the reins from incumbent CEO Simon Ryan on 4 October. Brooks is the president of Amplifi, the media investment arm of Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN).
He takes over one of Australia’s largest marketing communications agencies, which has gone through an exhaustive hunt for a new chief executive since Ryan took over as chief executive of DAN Australia and New Zealand in February.
Brooks joined Carat as national head of investment and partnerships in 2014 and has since been MD of investments and partnerships at Amplifi before becoming president at the end of March. His replacement at Amplifi has not yet been made public.
He has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and communications agencies in the UK and Australia, including at MediaCom prior to joining Carat.
"On a personal level I'm hugely excited to be re-joining Carat. I started at Dentsu Aegis just under three years ago at Carat before moving to the group role. It's a huge challenge and I'm humbled by it, but it's an exciting time," Brooks tells AdNews.
"There's lots of narrative to talk around new agency models and how we work with clients moving forward and I can't wait to get stuck in - to stop talking about it and start doing it.
"The honest truth is nobody has got the silver bullet or the answer at the moment (of the perfect agency business model). Lots of clients have got very different requirements in an evolving and challenging landscape.
"In my new role at Carat and with the team around me, we will make sure we are in the best possible place to get the right talent in to get the different thinking, skill-sets and capabilities to help, guide and support our clients in a very different landscape."
Building the right model
At Dentsu Aegis Network, the business model is about adding capability across the group and being able to draw upon that to better service individual client needs.
DAN has grown rapidly in the past year with a raft of acquisitions to strengthen its capability in certain areas. These include With Collective, Scorch and Search Factory. Since landing the top job at DAN, Ryan has been re-shaping DAN's senior leadership team, including promoting Matthew Crook to chief strategy officer, Rebecca Tos to CMO and CEO of Columbus and Philip Zohrab as chief data officer. Brooks' move to head Amplifi has been a key part of that, but he points out there is plenty of bench strength, including Carat's investment leader Ashley Earnshaw, while an Amplifi replacement is sought.
Brooks says these additions and the organisational structure puts DAN and Carat in a "superb position" to provide a more holistic service to clients. He tells AdNews his investment background will stand him in good stead to work across the media ecosystem and build solid relations with clients and media owners required to lead one of Australia's largest media agencies that brings in about 65% to 70% of DAN's media investment.
"That high level engagement, relationship and knowledge will be critical in dealing with clients but also that investment role has evolved quite a lot over the years. My recent role has been running across and helping lead four of five different businesses, which has put me in good stead to step up and run an agency," he adds.
A matter of trust
An issue that Brooks will have to tackle is ensuring there is a high level of trust in the client agency relationship. Recent events across the world, including the ANA report earlier this year and an overcharging scandal at Dentsu Japan, have raised questions about trust in the media buying ecosystem.
"I think everybody has a view on that and there have been some well-documented cases where potential trust has been eroded. From a Carat perspective it's about making sure we understand their business and their requirements as well as we possibly can to make sure we have the right people on their business to work with them," he says.
"It's also around how you spend time with clients to build that understanding and trust. You can only really do that on a case-by-case and client-by-client basis rather than a one-size-fits-all."
Making the situation more difficult, says Brooks, is an "explosion" of complexity around media and particularly digital media, which was in the headlines over the weekend after Facebook admitted to over-inflating video metrics.
"Again I don't think anybody has got the perfect answer, they wouldn't be telling the truth if they had," he adds. "It's about understanding what those client requirements are and making sure we understand them better than anybody else and help our clients navigate that. It's our role to demystify that and take the confusion out of the way for clients."
A 'natural progression'
Brooks will take the reins of an agency that has had a stellar year. Carat was named this year’s AdNews Media Network of the Year. In the past 12 months, it has won $125 million in new business and the agency was ranked number one in the most recent RECMA Quantitative Diagnostics Report. It has 450 staff across six offices.
Recent wins include Danone, Murray Goulburn, Greenstone and Tourism WA, while Carat’s clientele includes household Australian brands, such as Woolworths, Holden, David Jones, Mondelez, Schweppes, Medibank and Disney.
Ryan describes the appointment as a natural progression for a valued member of his leadership team.
“It recognises his consistent high performance and exceptional leadership abilities, traits I trust will see him steer Carat to new heights of success. It’s also gratifying to promote from within the network as testament to our depth and breadth of talent,” Ryan says.
Brooks says his immediate task will be meeting staff, clients and the leadership team to help him lay out a future vision for the agency.
"I want to meet with all of our clients and better understand how we can help them and genuinely partner with them. I also want to spend time with my leadership team and Carat, understanding what they want from an agency and a leader. There's a lot to do but I want to make sure I do that with visibility, knowledge and understanding," Brooks says.
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