One-on-One With Sarah Fay, Carat's New CEO
"This is something that clients really want. We are merging structurally to provide one voice," says Fay, who will continue to carry her title as chief executive for the U.S. operations of Isobar, which include iProspect and Molecular. (Carat Fusion had fallen under the Isobar umbrella.)
"In the early days when we talked about digital, it was very much an add-on, along the lines of 'Well, do you want fries with that?'" she recalls. "The way the whole market approaches it has changed.
"We don't see this as diminishing the role the other media play," she adds. "When we say we're putting digital at the heart of the strategy," it's because the other media are all contributing to development of digital. But the move ensures that someone who understands digital strategies will lead their development.
"It's much harder when you're parallel-tracking because you're talking to the client on two levels," Fay says of the pre-merger scenario.
What differs now from 10 years ago, Fay adds, is that strategy development starts with a new question: What do we want the consumer to do--not what do we want the consumer to see.
Increasingly, data plays a role in strategy development, and "you can't have diversified data strategies," Fay says.
Online budgets are beefing up too, Fay says, as new avenues such as social media open up new opportunities.
"We're getting phone calls where budgets have not just been doubled, but are up five times," Fay says. "It will continue to happen because you're coming off a smaller base, but there are also so many new creative ways of targeting the consumer.
"Digital continues to be a complex, but exciting space where you can deliver impact," she says. "In many cases, TV still plays an important role. You can't just shut that off. But by incorporating digital into more programs, you're pushing out to reach consumers ... to spend more time with them.
"Budgets will shift just as the tides happen," she says. "We're really creating strategies to connect the dots between the media."
Joining Fay as president of the merged entity announced on Friday is Scott Sorokin, an interactive veteran of the earliest days, who had been the president of Carat Fusion and who Fay describes as "a huge operational talent. He's very smart and very centered on processes and how we get things done. He's a great talent manager."
The new Carat has about $7.5 billion in combined billings, and nearly 1,000 employees. (An estimated $500 million is from Carat Fusion clients.)