5 Minutes with Carat CEO Paul Brooks

08/05/2017

Six months ago, Paul Brooks took the helm of Carat, one of Australia’s largest media agencies. He succeeded Simon Ryan, now Dentsu Aegis Network AUNZ boss, at a challenging time for media agencies and the industry. AdNews caught up with father of three to find out how he has transitioned from Amplifi and his views on the industry’s most pressing topics.

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How has your first six months at the helm of Carat been?
I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been with the Dentsu Aegis Network for three years and I think that really helped with the transition, already having that connection with people and the senior leadership team. We’re at an interesting stage from an industry perspective where I think a lot of businesses need to evolve so we’ve spent a lot of time listening to our people, clients and stakeholders how we go about that.

You’ve spent a bit of time getting to know clients – what have you learnt in these meetings?
I think as an industry we often try to second guess what clients want and deliver services that they potentially might not want. I think we can be a lot better at arranging our business around client requirements, making sure they’ve got the right type of client leadership. This involves really trying to understand their business and not just from a media lens.

There was a lot that came up about data capability and data-led marketing. Everyone has got more data than they know what to do with, it’s about how you organise that and make it more meaningful and part of their communications.

The other part was the converging of media. There’s a huge debate about traditional versus digital but in reality consumers don’t think like that. Businesses still do and I think we are about two to three years behind as industry to what consumers are doing. We need a really convergent mindset, an omnichannel approach to media that doesn’t operate in siloes.

What have you learnt about leadership in your first six months as CEO?
You need a very aligned leadership team with the right people around you, and you need to be really consultative. It’s changed from how it was to lead a company 10 to 15 years ago. A command and control environment doesn’t work. You can’t be an expert on everything and you need to listen to those around you.

What do you think is the biggest issue in the industry today?
There are several. Firstly, the industry doesn’t come together enough, I don’t think we’re collaborative enough. Secondly, growth is harder to find for everyone – our clients, publishers and for agencies to win new business. Then you’ve got complexity and issues around brand safety, measurement.

What we’ve done is been too negative and down as an industry and I think we should come together more and think about how we tackle these challenges together. We’ve not done that well as an industry.

Why is that?
It’s very competitive. There’s lots of publishers out there and lots of media agencies. If you look at other industries out there, they’ve consolidated and it’s for a reason. I think we will see more consolidation. We’ve already seen that with Ooh!Media and APN Outdoor looking to merge and there’s lots of talk around other organisations. I think that will help … there’s arguably too much competition.

You’ve also got big global players, like Google and Facebook, taking a slice of the market which is adding pressure for everybody.

What about the transparency issue – where do you see the problem and how do we solve it?
I only talk from a Carat perspective here. We work transparently with all of our clients. We are audited by any third party for any of our clients.

Do you think there is a real issue or is it more of a perception issue?
It’s been talked about as a catch all but I think it’s more complex than that. We’re very bad as an industry at using sweeping statements too much and not really understanding how complex the world is. Brand safety is a good example of that. We’ve seen that manifest itself into uncomfortable territory for lots of organisations, but the brand safety issue isn’t one size fits all. You need policies in place, there’s different mediums and different channels that require different approaches.

 

*This article originally appeared in the May edition of AdNews.

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