Simon Ryan on Carsales move: 'I don't miss the agency world'

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 15 May 2019

Former Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) ANZ boss, turned Carsales commercial director, Simon Ryan says he "doesn't miss agency world" after joining the automotive platform late last year.

Ryan, who made a shock exit from the major holding group at the end of last year, told AdNews it was time for him to "move on from agency world" and take on a more challenging role with a publically-listed company.

He says the motivation to join Carsales came from his intention to help drive growth in the business, while also leading its data transformation.

"They wanted to bring my media experience into the business and work out how we can change the way we work with consumers and customers around data and our systems," Ryan says.

"What they wanted was a strategy around how the business could reformulate the way it went to market and re-package its media offering, creating a more 'bullet-proof' commercial model."

Ryan says the jump from a market orientated business into a listed company structure was "a big leap" that came with a new set of challenges but believes it was the right time, adding that while he doesn't miss the agency world, he "remains fond" of, and has great respect for that side of the business.

Since joining Carsales, Ryan's top priorities include creating a new structure for the commercial team to streamline processes, delivering on the new strategy expected to be completed by 2022.

The role also sees Ryan working closely with original equipment manufacturers and customers around what the platform can do to support new car sales.

“Data is also an absolute focus to help drive new thinking and sales outcomes. At Carsales, we have a huge amount of search data, so we know what people are looking for our sites, therefore can segment our customers well and provide a good user experience and sales outcomes," Ryan says.

“The focus on audience and driving outcomes for our customers and shareholders is paramount. This not only sets us up for the long term, but also demonstrates our absolute commitment to car buying and how we help consumers in their purchase journey.”

Agencies need to "reassess" their priorities

As with any move from agency to publisher, Ryan is now dealing with the world he left behind on "a daily basis".

Ryan says the media agency landscape, in particular, continues to work under increasing pressure; an ongoing trend that he believes is only getting worse.

He believes some agency groups need to "seriously reassess" their priorities, adding that more focus needs to be placed on "chasing capability and investing in talent".

"My philosophy was always to reward high performance very well and I think that needs to continue, which basically means that agencies need to evolve capability and maybe focus less on the bottom line and more on the culture to create and maintain great business," Ryan says.

"Agency groups need to reassess their priorities and focus on culture, wellbeing, mental health, work/life balance and have a very real perspective on people because if agencies don't focus on all those things, they run a risk of losing high performing talent to tech businesses and other categories."

Since Ryan's exit from DAN, the holding groups' media agencies have struggled with maintaining clients, with major clients including Virgin Australia, Super Retail Group, The Good Guys, AFL and Asahi all moving their accounts to other agencies.

See: Dentsu Aegis Network names Henry Tajer as new ANZ CEO

Ryan says despite this, he is confident in the DAN business and what he established during his time there.

"I'm really proud of where I left Dentsu, there's no doubt it's still a good business and it will be interesting to see how that business goes in what is a slightly different market," Ryan says.

"However my message to agencies, in general, would be to invest hard in your people and retain your talent."

While Ryan would not rule out a return to media down the track, he believes his place is with driving Carsales and ensuring the business develops its own talent pool.

He says the concern around losing media talent out of agencies is "very real" and that as he continues to grow his own team of "industry heavy hitters", Carsales will be looking to take talent "from all areas of media".

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