Carat has hired Michael Epstein, a 13-year veteran of Mindshare, to fill the position of chief strategy officer for the U.S., a new title.
Epstein, who started on May 28, will oversee communications planning, strategy and consumer insights, overseeing about 60 Carat employees. He will report to Doug Ray, who serves as Carat's president in the U.S. and globally.
The new role, though, is aimed at better connecting the dots between the agency's various research practices and developing media planning tools that will help all of its 900 U.S. employees serve clients, said Ray. Carat, part of the Dentsu-owned Aegis Media, works for marketers including GM, P&G, Diageo, Smucker's, Burberry and Mondelez.
"We've got the proprietary research that we do in field every year," explained Ray. "We've got client research, the syndicated studies that are out there, and obviously a lot of data that's coming through from a digital standpoint—whether that's social data, search data, client-side website data. All of that's now converging."
To that end, Carat has moved some of its data and analytics practice under the purview of Michelle Lynn, evp managing director of research and consumer insights. Lynn, previously reporting to Ray, will report to Epstein in his new role. Michael Vitti, Carat's head of data and analytics, will be moving into a still-undisclosed new role.
It’s Epstein’s first stint outside of WPP: In the late 90s, he worked in the media department at Ogilvy and Mather before joining the newly minted planning-and-buying standalone Mindshare in 2000, where he’s stayed since. Over the years, he worked in a range of roles that included overseeing the company’s Unilever business, on brands like Dove Men+Care, Magnum Ice Cream and Axe. In his most recent role at Mindshare, as a president of strategic resource and client services, Epstein was focused on developing the company’s digital offering.
Why leave after so long? “I was impressed by the fact that [Carat is] actually paying attention to insights rather than information,” said Epstein. “In a world where people like to talk about data all the time, it’s a tricky thing to navigate.”