Henry Tajer outlines grand plan for Dentsu

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 22 January 2019

Incoming CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) Henry Tajer wants the holding group to be perceived as more than just a media group as he examines its structure going forward.

Ahead of the top job, which he starts at the end of February, the former Amazon media boss tells AdNews he wants to drive better recognition of the creativity within the business.

“The first step for me for the business is become part of the team, to listen and be part of making a positive impact, whether that's change or maintaining things,” he said.

“I'm not going to assume anything before I go in and will give the business the opportunity to really allow me to understand it.”

Tajer's comments follow a wider shift within the industry that has seen creative and media agencies come together within networks such as WPP, with its horizontality strategy, and Publicis with its Power of One  model.

“The combination of the creative in the business, powered by some of the other parts of the business, is a really interesting recipe,” he said.

“We're at the beginning of an interesting cycle that starts with being creativity led.

“In the last decade, creative agencies were under a lot of pressure and there was an reshaping and reclassification of where and how creative agencies worked in the marketplace. However, in the discussions I've had with a number of clients, I think that's a huge opportunity moving forward."

Business is in good health

While some would argue that Tajer is now tasked with turning around the DAN network after 12 months of turmoil defined by account losses and people moves, he argues the business in good shape and he won't be making drastic changes from day one.

“It's unfair to say I'm going to go in and shake it up. I know a lot of people in the group, both from a creative side of the group and the media business, that I've worked with in the past that I respect and am friends with,” he says.

“Every business in advertising has wins and losses. It's part of how the industry works. Sometimes the timing of wins and losses work in your advantage. Sometimes it looks not as good. I don't think it's a turn around. It's definitely not."

He says the conversations he has been having within the Dentsu organisation have alluded to the opposite, despite the abrupt exit of former CEO Simon Ryan and several accounts losses including the $150 million Federal Government Master Media account, Adidas, Mondelez, Bega and this week the $15m AFL account.

“They're excited about the business. The talent base in all the businesses is producing really, really great work. It's nothing but upside. I'm excited to be part of it.”

Read more about the changes facing the DAN network here.

Lured back in

Having spent four months heading up the Amazon Media Group, some have questioned why the top exec chose to leave one of the most innovative brands in the world to return to a challenged holding company.

Tajer says the lure of the industry was too strong, despite having once thought he wouldn't return to ad agencies after spending more than 10 years within the IPG Mediabrands network.

“When I first came back to Australia, I felt pretty strong about not going back into agencies. I felt that I had spent a great number of years in agencies and that I wanted to do something different," he says.

He credits Amazon as a great company, however, leading the advertising solutions division reconnected him with the marketplace through interaction with clients and other agencies.

“I thought I didn’t want to get back into agencies, but every time I went into an agency for a meeting, the energy in the offices that I was going to reminded me of why I loved advertising so much,” he says

"I didn't plan to do it, but I'm excited to be back in the market in this role. I'm excited to be in a position where I'll be able to work with companies like Amazon when they do launch in the market."

Brain drain part two?

Despite his infamous siphoning of Australian media talent into the US, Tajer tells AdNews he has no specific plans to replicate the move at his new gig. 

Tajer made industry headlines in 2015 after he left his Sydney-based top job at IPG Mediabrands for a New York-based global CEO role at the network. He subsequently airlifted a batch of top Aussie talent over to the states including former UM Australia MD Mat Baxter; Starcom Mediavest chairman John Sintras; Cadreon's Marc Lomas; media auditor Charles Godbold; Dianne Richardson and Travis Johnson.

“I don't have any set plans at the moment with any specific individuals but what I can say is our industry is all about human beings,” Tajer says.

“It's all about people and I feel really lucky that I'm going to an organisation that already has great people in the business.”

Tajer says it’s about getting to know the current team and if there are opportunities for some of those people to get more responsibility and to be repositioned.

While he’ll be looking at opportunities to explore and attract new talent into the business he says he’s definitely doesn’t “have a playbook with 10 names in it” that is part of his “people masterplan”.

Most of Tajer’s top tier army of talent that joined him in New York have moved on from their roles, with Baxter and Godbold remaining. Coincidently former Ansible global president Travis Johnson, who was part of Tajer’s ‘brain drain’, now works at Dentsu New York.

However, Sintras, who also relocated back to Australia and went on to work at SBS before leaving in October last year, and Richardson, who also relocated Down Under and subsequently left OMD late last year, are still thought to be in market for new roles.

See: The return to Oz: Tajer and Sintras to relocate back to Australia

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