Dentsu's vision '80% complete' as it eyes content, CRM and data

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 27 September 2016
Dentsu Aegis Network ANZ CEO Simon Ryan.

Dentsu Aegis Network ANZ (DAN) is 80% along the path to achieving its 2020 vision of becoming a 100% digital economy business, the network's CEO Simon Ryan has revealed.

Ryan, speaking to AdNews about the appointment of Carat CEO Paul Brooks and DAN's broader strategy, says the network will now focus on building capability in content, CRM and data, with more acquisitions to come.

In Australia, DAN has 1,750 people across 17 businesses and has grown substantially since Ryan took the helm in February, particularly in the performance management and digital creative space.

This includes adding With Collective, Scorch, Search Factory, Liveposter and Barnes, Catmur & Friends in New Zealand.

Ryan has also stamped his mark on DAN's senior executive with the additions of Matthew Crook to chief strategy officer, Rebecca Tos to CMO and CEO of Columbus and Philip Zohrab as chief data officer. Brooks, had also been promoted to head DAN's media investment arm Aplifi before being tapped for the Carat CEO role; his replacement at Amplifi has already been chosen and will be revealed in the coming weeks.

“We're going to continue on executing our strategy through growth and M&A, and along with that we need to bring in additional capability sets to fulfil our strategy around our 2020 vision,” Ryan says. “I'm about 80% there in terms of the people we want to be bringing in.”

The areas that DAN is looking to strengthen includes content, which Ryan says is “a big area of focus moving forward”.

“We are building out Story Lab, as we have our other main creative businesses. We will do this via acquisition and other growth strategies including aligning to new acquisitions such as WiTH Collective.” Ryan adds.

“CRM is an evolving area for me. There's a $750 million spend in Australia that we're currently not having much to do with but with With Collective and a few other things that we are working on you'll see an expansion in the CRM space.

“Also in our data area, we've got Phil Zohrab and we're about to invest a lot of capital into building our data capability locally.”

When Ryan took over the DAN CEO role from Luke Littlefield in February, he had to juggle that with Carat CEO duties as he wanted stability in the business while re-shaping DAN's senior executive team and settling in.

This meant that the hunt for a new Carat boss didn't begin until the end of June. Initially, headhunters at DAN drew up a longlist of 27 candidates, which was whittled down to a shortlist of nine.

“You have to contact the world to fill a job these days,” Ryan says. “ I travelled across the world and we searched through a lot of candidates but my number one priority is succession planning and promoting from within.

“Paul's got a good understanding of where we are going to be and he is very aligned to myself and the rest of the management team.”

Although Ryan looked at “non-traditional” people to fill the role, Brooks' investment experience, relations with clients and media owners, as well as a close working relationship with Ryan and his executive team made him the ideal choice to lead DAN's largest agency.

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