Can Tajer turn Dentsu around?

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 21 January 2019

After a long-awaited search, Denstu Aegis Network (DAN) ANZ has today appointed globally renowned media executive Henry Tajer to lead the major holding group. 

Tajer takes over following the departure of Simon Ryan, who held the top spot since February 2016, after seven years leading the group's main agency Carat. See: Dentsu CEO shock exit, Simon Ryan steps up

With Ryan out, and joining Carsales in a commercial management role, Tajer is left with the task of leading DAN's ailing media agencies, which have each been rocked by major account loses over the past 12 months.

In a previous interview with AdNews, Ryan spoke of a “sluggish” 2018 for Carat, Dentsu X and Vizeum, indicating that a key part of 2019 would be focused on rebuilding the “traditional” media division.

In April last year, Dentsu X was shaken by its biggest client loss, when the $150 million Federal Government Master Media account was handed to UM.

What followed was several major global account losses for Carat in Adidas and confectionary giant Mondelez, while locally, Bega, which owned Vegemite, shifted its media account to Thinkerbell after 10 years with the agency.

AdNews understands Bega shifted the account and held an independent-only pitch following frustrations with the larger network agency model-style, specifically related to its diversified services.

To fill the $150 million Federal Government hole in Dentsu, Ryan then announced a direct client services division, InvestDirect@DAN, which was built to service the growing SME market. Some in the industry criticised the move for being PR spin.

Leadership shakeups

Each DAN agency has also undergone its fair share of leadership shuffling, with national MDs and CEOs exiting from each agency.

In July 2018, Vizeum’s Travis Day exited the business with Stephen Deane taking over the role, while Carat’s CEO Paul Brooks departed in September.

After less than 12 months in the national MD role, former iSelect marketer Angela Tangas became the latest Dentsu agency boss to depart, as she takes on a larger role within the network.

With so much movement within the holding group, as well as key client loses, industry sources have told AdNews that concerns have been raised about stability within DAN. 

As many of Ryan’s acquisitions, including With Collective and Soap, approach their earn out period, Tajer is tasked with bedding down these businesses and their leadership.

Prior to being poached for the global CEO role of IPG Mediabrands, the media executive had introduced several strategies to boost the Australian side of the business, shaping it into becoming of the best performing regions within the business.

Leading Mediabrands in New York, Tager quickly poached fellow Australian media agency leaders, including the current Initiative global CEO Mat Baxter, as well as John Sintras, who also recently relocated back to Australia for a short-lived tenure with SBS.

At the time, many referred to the talent hiring spree as an Australian 'brain drain'. Most of the execs who initially went over have since left their roles in New York.

Former Ansible global president Travis Johnson, who was part of Tajer’s ‘brain drain’ coincidently now works at Dentsu New York.

Tajer hire Di Richardson also left her exec VP chief strategy officer role at IPG Mediabrands' agency UM in New York and joined OMD Melbourne as MD, but left last November.

It remains to be seen if and who Tajer may pluck from the local market to help him steer DAN forward, or if he will be content with current division leaders. Will Richardson or former colleague Sintras, who is in the market for a role, be prospects?

There are also currently more than 10 top senior advertising, media and marketing execs in market for roles such as Mike Connaghan, James Warburton and Anthony Fitzgerald – as well as Joe Pollard, Andy Lark, Tony Kendall, Guy Dobson – and more.

Tajer’s own return to Australia late last year including a brief stint with Amazon Media Group, which is the e-commerce giant's advertising solutions division spanning display, search, mobile, video, programmatic, and out of home. Tajer also features on the AdNews Power 50 'Ones to Watch'. 

Industry speculation had hinted that Amazon’s strict communications and media strategy had begun to frustrate Tajer, who had started to look for a way back into agency land.

Despite the turbulent times within the company, DAN says it continues to grow its profits through its diversified services division, which includes sports and entertainment marketing business MKTG, as well as the recently launched InvestDirect@DAN.

AdNews understands that clients have become frustrated with this model due to cross-selling within the holding company.

The business also launched its own government media service division, headed up by Nick Swifte.

It remains unclear as to whether Tajer will look to shake-up this area of the business, with the industry questioning the purpose of a government division, as a large majority of government media accounts are currently not up for tender.

It’s clear that the hire of Tajer is a statement to the market, one that indicates a need for a safe set of hands, as well as an abundance of experience in rebuilding agency structures.

However, it also shows that DAN is looking for a leader with extensive local industry landscape knowledge and experience, even though sources had previously told AdNews it was likely the replacement would come internally from another market.

Tajer commences in the role 18 February.

Tajer previously took part in AdNews video series talking about talent, the US vs Australia and tips for success. Check it out below.

Keep an eye on AdNews for more.

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