Research Chief Bolts Adidas Media Shop Carat For Nike, Will Run New Unit

Less than a year after hiring a renowned marketing researcher to run Carat Insights, Carat once again is searching for a new chief research officer. Amy Drill is leaving as senior vice president of Carat Insight to run a new research-based business unit for athletic footwear and apparel marketer Nike, a direct competitor of one of Carat's flagship clients, adidas/rebook.

"Because of the conflict with adidas/reebok, we had to ask Amy to leave today," Ray Warren, president of Carat Media Group Americas, said in a memo announcing the move to Carat's staff on Wednesday.

In the memo, Warren described the departure as amicable and said Carat was beginning a new "vigorous search" for a new executive to lead the Carat Insight team, which will be managed on an interim basis by Michelle Lynn and Tom Meyer, the heads of the New York and Los Angeles offices, respectively.

But Drill's appointment in November 2005 followed a protracted search to replace Carat America's original research chief, Joanne Burke, who left in December 2004, and some say Carat's research organization hasn't been the same since.

The moves have been unsettling for Carat, a media services brand that established its presence in the U.S. largely on the basis of its superior research tools and consumer insights, and which helped it land major pieces of business in the U.S. including a portion of Procter & Gamble's coveted communications planning account.

Over the past year, several key members of that account have left, including Sarah Power, senior vice president and strategy director for Carat North America, who quietly moved to a similar position at Havas' MPG unit.

In May, Rob Frydlewicz, vice president-director of research for Carat Insight also resigned as the No. 2 executive in Carat's research organization. Like Burke before him, Frydlewicz did not leave Carat for another job, but simply left the agency.

The moves suggest a pronounced brain drain at the top levels of Carat, which has as a reputation for research leadership, and once was regarded as a shop researchers and strategists most wanted to work for.

Insiders attribute the transitions partly to a rocky new business run for the agency, which has been up for a number of major pitches, but has failed to land any except for a portion of The Gap's media planning account, which was awarded in April. Carat is teamed with Interpublic's Draft/FCB unit in a pitch for Wal-mart's massive advertising account, which is expected to be decided in early October.

But insiders also describe Drill's tenure as head of Carat's research organization as a rocky one, implying that the marketing researcher never really connected to the world of media research.

Drill joined Carat from Ipsos Insight, a custom research company, where she was senior vice president of product development and marketing. Prior to that, she had been director of interactive strategy at WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather. She has also held senior positions at IBM, Pepsi and Schering-Plough. Her appointment at a media agency was regarded by some observers as part of a trend that is fusing the practices of marketing and media research as advertisers and agencies seek to develop greater accountability measures of the impact of media on marketing results. Earlier this month, MPG hired Joe Abruzzo, a Mediaedge:cia executive with a similar grounding in marketing research and analytics, to head its media research organization.

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