Dentsu Aegis Network is a multinational media and digital marketing communications company headquartered in London, a subsidiary of the Japanese advertising and public relations firm Dentsu. Its principal services are communications strategy through digital creative execution, media planning and buying, sports marketing and content creation, brand tracking and marketing analytics.
How did you end up in the your current role for Dentsu Aegis?
I worked for All Ireland Media and the business was purchased by Dentsu Aegis Network in 2001 with AIM rebranding as Carat. This was followed by the launch of Vizeum, iProspect & ISOBAR. When Pat Donnelly, AIM’s founder, left the business in 2005 I was appointed COO and a couple of years later promoted to CEO. Prior to that I held board positons with Irish International Advertising and Saatchi & Saatchi Dublin. Before that I worked with Des O Meara and Partners, having started my career as a runner for Michael Bowles in the Media Bureau.
What does your usual day look like? Are there doughnuts and coffee binges…
I’m trying to confine my binges to fruit and herbal tea with the odd pint thrown in although there are helluva lot of pizzas and sweets consumed around the office. The great thing about this business is that there are no “typical” days, you can plan for what you think will happen but it rarely pans out that way, that’s why I still have the same enthusiasm for it so many years later.
How does the Irish market differ to other markets like the UK/US/EU/Asia within the Dentsu Aegis context?
Scale is clearly a challenge in terms of investment and specialization but in my experience, while we don’t have the same budgets as the bigger markets we do punch above our weight and often receive international recognition for our work. As part of an international network, we also leverage the learnings and investments of colleagues worldwide. The combination of local and international gives our clients the best of both worlds.
Ireland is a unique marketplace, we tend to have to be well rounded and competent in all areas of our business. We don’t have the same level of deep specialisms either on brand levels or in people skills. On the plus side, this means that I know everyone in our group personally and can have greater understanding and involvement across opcos. By utilizing our global network we can offer our clients the best of our local knowledge fused with our international learnings and continuous investment in content, technology, data and analytics. The scale of our global investments would simply not be possible to do on an Ireland only basis.
Where is Dentsu Aegis headed in the future? Is this Irish business plan different to the rest of the world?
The Irish economy is increasingly being driven by globalisation and convergence and we are investing heavily in our people, technology and services in order to help our clients take advantage of the new economy. Content creation, data analytics, production and a market leading e-commerce capability are the latest areas in which we have invested. Our ambition is to double the size of our business by 2020, its ambitious but achievable, and as I always say it’s better to aim high and slightly under-deliver than aim low and slightly over-deliver.
We are growing the business organically and by acquisition. We take the best of our network and combine it with our local resources so it’s an a-la-carte approach which is best suited to the Irish market.
What would you change about the Irish business landscape? Are Irish markets a tougher sell than anywhere else (or easier?)
The ad business gets a lot of bad publicity in Ireland being blamed for everything from obesity to anti-social behaviour. But it gets very little credit for positively affecting almost every aspect of Irish life – from growing economic activity to helping people to stop smoking. Our industry, through our representative body IAPI, is working hard to promote the business as a positive influence on our society.
More generally, I think business per se in Ireland seems to get a similarly bad rep especially when you compare it to the USA and this something that I’d like to change. From an operational perspective, Irish business people are tough to deal with but you definitely know where you stand. For all our talents though I think indigenous companies should be more aggressive when it comes to marketing their own businesses.
Are you a workaholic? Multitasker? Slacker? What’s your working style?
“I’m a slackaholic” I work reasonably hard but work even harder at becoming a better listener and good delegator. Delegation is often misdiagnosed as not having to do very much or dumping for short, but it’s a trait we all aspire to at Dentsu, we can’t nurture talent and future proof the business if we don’t have an empowered workforce. It took me years to be able to effectively delegate. I believe you have to allow people to be brave, sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t but brave embraces risk and our business requires a balanced but healthy attitude to be brave, embrace risk and try new things.
My style is a consultative one where the team comes first. I believe that a successful team is one that is open, honest and constructive, and that shares common values which encompass diversity, simplicity and accountability. Effective listening is hard to master but is vital in providing a real understanding of what is truly going on within the team and the business which, in turn, enables me to offer support and guidance at the most appropriate time.
What’s the favourite part of the job?
Seeing my colleagues succeed and grow within our group and producing work which has a tangible impact on our clients’ businesses.
What do business owners and marketers need to know about how Dentsu Aegis can help them sell their stuff?
That Denstu Aegis Network Ireland, through our operating companies Carat, Copernicus, iProspect, ISOBAR and Vizeum, can help them as they navigate the digital economy by providing assistance across media, consumer insight, brand planning, data analytics, advertising, production and e-commerce solutions.