Online All Stars 2010: Carl Fremont

FremontExecutive Vice President and Global Media Director, Digitas

Even as digital has revolutionized the media business in disruptive ways, the career of Carl Fremont has been a logical evolution. The foundation of his career was built at direct marketing shop Wunderman, where, unlike most of his traditional media counterparts, he was charged with building campaigns that were meant to deliver concrete results. "For me, [digital] was a natural progression of direct marketing," he explains. "Which was getting consumers to take action."

His transformation from media-focused direct marketing expert to digital has given Fremont an extremely potent set of skills. Says Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategy and innovation officer of Publicis' VivaKi: "Carl has both the historical knowledge of how media, direct and digital have evolved, and the ability to help guide clients - and Digitas - on where they will go. This combination of roots and wings is rare."

But enough with the career retrospective, already: Fremont is deeply focused on the here and now - and whatever's ahead. Around Digitas, he explains, this is described as "the age of now." To him, that's signified by how technology has not only enabled consumers to get information on any product or service, but transformed the relationship between consumers and brands. That, in turn, has meant major disruption to the media business; everything, from metrics to ad units, needs to be rethought. He explains, "We need to be, in this era, much more flexible in terms of how we invent new models of marketing."

Even if Fremont has long been on the cusp of the digital revolution, he's done it with the kind of job tenure, and relatively low profile, that's uncommon among many of his peers. Fremont joined Digitas a decade ago, after 16 years at his former shop. While he's known in the industry for being one of the most thoughtful experts on digital's big picture, he seems wary of being known solely as a prognosticator. He couldn't have a firm grasp of what's going on, he says, without being in the trenches with clients; he oversees business for American Express, Delta Air Lines, Mead Johnson, Mars, Kraft, Sears, Aflac, Goodyear and AstraZeneca. "At the end of the day, I'm a media planner, a communications planner and a media buyer at heart," he explains.

Still, there's a difference between being hands-on and hogging glory. Explains long-time client Nancy Smith, vice president, global media, content and community at American Express, "He's the kind of great leader that puts the team's success first." To her, another quality about Fremont that stands out is his ability to think beyond mere marketing, and she should know - she first worked closely with Fremont years ago when she was at Wunderman sister shop Young & Rubicam. "He really understands all of the parts of the marketing funnel in a business and ROI sort of way," she says. This, she continues, makes him not just a marketing person, but a business person, who understands the bottom-line ramifications of the marketing he oversees. Coming from a client, there's no higher accolade.

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