Merkle Newly Appointed Global CEO Speaks About Advertising

Michael Komasinski’s recent appointment to global CEO of Merkle comes at a pivotal time for dentsu as the business moves closer to its ambition of becoming the most integrated agency network.

Komasinski will lead Merkle, one of dentsu’s six leadership brands. He will report to Wendy Clark, CEO dentsu international and will join dentsu international’s executive team.

Dentsu international is made up of Carat, dentsu X, iProspect, Isobar, dentsumcgarrybowen, Merkle, and supported by its specialist brands.

Komasinski steps into his new role on January 1, 2022, with a thoughtful and planned succession through the end of the year when Craig Dempster retires after 15 years. 

Search & Performance Marketing Daily (S&PMD) caught up with Komasinski to talk about his new role, advertising, 2022, and life in general.

S&PMD:  What is your biggest challenge this coming year?

Komasinski:  Coming out of the past 18 months, our clients are ramping up their personalized marketing strategies, which is boosting demand for customer experience management solutions like those Merkle provides.

It’s a great challenge to have, but I’d say our biggest one will be hiring enough people to quickly satisfy all of that client demand and new business that we are winning.

S&PMD:  What is the best thing about advertising today (in general) and what is the worst?

Komasinski:  The best thing about today’s advertising is the strong focus on the customer experience. Building marketing strategies that place the customer at the center of every interaction makes advertising less superficial.

We can now tangibly and positively change how customers experience a brand across the entire customer journey. I would say the worst is that there are still so many poor experiences out there that are fixable with the right strategy, process, and technology.

S&PMD:  Is there a performance metric/technology missing from online advertising today? If yes, what?

Komasinski:  Hands down, the largest issue in online advertising is the lack of data transparency and control standards. We need a common set of policy rules and technical standards that enforce transparency on behalf of consumers. 

It would be ideal from a performance perspective to have a unified “source of truth” attribution number that Google, Facebook, Adobe, etc. could align to and optimize from.

Attribution could re-credit the partners, but just to have them all say “100 is the total” would be a meaningful starting point.

S&PMD:  Where does Merkle need to improve and how will you fix it?

Komasinski:  We are a capability-centric company built by incredibly smart, experienced subject matter experts and practitioners. Our strategies, competencies, and solutions have helped countless brands create competitive advantage and build their businesses. But sometimes we need to do a better job of quantifying the business outcomes that we create for clients.

S&PMD:  Can you share any plans/predictions you have for Merkle in 2022?

Komasinski:  Despite the circumstances of the past year or so, we have managed to build momentum and will continue to outpace the market in terms of our growth. That will likely accelerate as we continue to expand globally and scale key offerings and delivery platforms, particularly our Commerce and Experience solutions.

S&PMD:  What is the biggest difference between being CEO of the Americas and CEO global at Merkle, aside from the obvious?

Komasinski:  We have to find the right balance of global versus regional. My role as President of Merkle Americas (and Merkle EMEA before that) shaped my thinking of how things work at the ground level in markets -- big and small.

Our regional structure is important to ensure that we’re serving clients in the most effective way possible for the markets that they are in. But naturally, as a global organization, our overarching brand, corporate culture, and go-to-market strategy are presented as one.  So it is important for us to be thoughtful about when to have regional roles, global roles, and hybrid roles.

S&PMD:  What led you to Merkle after spending time at A.T. Kearney, The Nielsen Company, SGK?

Komasinski:  It was David Williams (chairman and CEO) and Craig Dempster (retiring global CEO).

I took the first phone call and after a few meetings with them, I knew this was the place that I wanted to be. It’s been the best career decision that I’ve ever made.

S&PMD:  The best piece of business advice anyone ever gave you?

Komasinski:  ‘Things are never as good as they seem and they are never as bad as they seem.’  I don’t recall who gave it to me, but it has kept me humble during good times and optimistic during the bad times.

S&PMD:  Did you have a career choice in high school? If yes, what and why?

Komasinski:  I wanted to be a professional athlete, but I never found the right sport. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

S&PMD:  How does that high school choice relate to what you do today?

Komasinski:  I’m competitive, and I understand that winning requires teamwork.

S&PMD:  If you could choose your existence (born) in another decade/century — which one and why?

Komasinski:  Now is good. Despite some of today’s challenges, we are smarter and better off as a society than ever before, and most data sets back that up.

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