New Mediabrands CEO Carroll sees future of media with ‘fresh set of eyes’

December 04, 2013  |  Chris Powell  |  Comments

When Harvey Carroll resigned as president and partner of Toronto creative shop Grip Ltd. in October, his plan was to take some time off to recharge and evaluate his career options.

Harvey Carroll

That plan sure changed in a hurry. Carroll was introduced Monday as the new CEO of IPG Mediabrands in Canada, with responsibility for its main UM, Initiative and M2 Universal networks, as well as its search engine marketing division Reprise, programmatic buying arm Cadreon and barter organization Orion.

He succeeds Peter Mears, who departed Mediabrands earlier this year to take on the role of CEO of Initiative North America.

Guy Beach, chief operating officer for IPG Mediabrands North America, said that Carroll was chosen from among several candidates with backgrounds in creative and media agencies, as well as marketing leaders from Canada, the U.S. and other global markets.

“We wanted the very best talent, and were patient to find the right person,” Beach told Marketing in an e-mail interview. “Harvey stood out for his vision of what the future of a media agency group can be, given the systemic changes taking place in our industry as a whole.

“He keenly understands what clients are looking for from a content, experience and broader communication point of view,” he added. “Equally important, he is the kind of person who fits the culture of Mediabrands.”

It is Carroll’s first time working on the media side of the business, having spent the past five-and-a-half years with Grip. Prior to that, he worked client-side with InBev and Labatt Breweries in various marketing roles. He started his career in packaged goods, working with Kraft in progressively senior roles from 1993 to 1997.

No Experience Necessary

“If you had asked me five years ago or three years ago, ‘do you think you might end up on the media side of the business?’ I probably would have said no,” said Carroll. “At the time it just didn’t seem like the next place I might move my career to grow, to learn to take part in this evolution that’s going on, but right now you’d be hard-pressed to find a place that’s more exciting in the marketing landscape.”

Guy Beach

Beach said there were no qualms about hiring someone with no previous media agency experience, noting that Mediabrands’ other Canadian leaders come from similarly diverse backgrounds. “We believe that diversity of experience drives better outcomes and leads to more holistic thinking about how to solve our clients marketing challenges, today and in the future,” he said.

“I hope I bring a fresh set of eyes and a different way of thinking,” added Carroll. “I hope I’m in a position to ask some questions that haven’t been asked. I’m going to be comfortable asking ‘Why has it always been done this way?’”

An admitted numbers guy, Carroll said that media holds considerable appeal, particularly as the abundance of data continues to reshape its role – and its importance – in the marketing-communications realm.

“It’s a time when you have at your fingertips this unbelievable amount of data and information about consumers: what they’re doing and how and why they’re doing it, what works and what doesn’t,” he said.

“A good gut [instinct] will always be important in the marketing business, but it’s nice that more and more we have actual data and specifics to support some of the decisions we make and we’re able to quickly see if they’re actually driving business results. If you want to be a valuable partner to your clients, having those tools at your disposal only makes you better poised to really drive that business.”

Canada is a key part of Mediabrands’ global offering, its fifth largest office behind the U.S., the U.K., Germany and Australia. It has grown to more than 270 people thanks to a combation of organic growth and the recent wins of key assignments including Hershey and H&M.

“Our market position has never been stronger,” said Beach. “Not only have we built strength in media planning and buying assignments with a slew of recent wins, but we have also built capabilities in new areas which leverage data and technology platforms to further improve performance of the media investment our clients are making.”

Carroll said that in meetings with IPG executives he was impressed by the company’s commitment to innovation. “In the media space I’ve always been very impressed by people taking a different approach, people looking for innovative and different ways to add value for clients, and as I thought more about that, this seemed to be a group that is very committed to that,” he said.

“It’s a really impressive, inspirational and motivational group that’s looking to take advantage of how the landscape’s evolving and looking to change and evolve and innovative in an entrepreneurial sort of way,” he said. “In very short order I got very inspired and very interested in the potential of the company, the opportunity and media as a space.”

Mega-Merger

There has been speculation about IPG’s future in the wake of the massive Publicis-Omnicom merger announced early this year, a deal that will see several leading networks including OMD, PHD, Starcom MediaVest Group and ZenithOptimedia all housed under the newly named Publicis-Omnicom Group.

Carroll said he’s confident that Mediabrands will continue to be competitive. “There will continue to be a great opportunity for anyone who’s doing great work and really driving client results to ultimately continue to grow their business,” he said. “I think there’s a bit of a misperception that size is the most important thing in the media world; maybe there was a time when that was more valid, but I think the reality now is you need to have a certain critical mass to be successful in this space, and IPG is well-positioned.

“Once you hit a certain critical mass, it’s less about how much bigger you get and more about how much smarter can you get and how much can you line up and drive against client objectives. I feel like IPG Mediabrands is in a fantastic position to capitalize on the evolving market here in Canada.”

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