Q&A: New Dentsu Media Products and Services CEO Michael Epstein

Differentiation and integration are key for the continued head of Carat

Michael Epstein was promoted from Carat global CEO, a role he continues to serve in, last week.
Michael Epstein was promoted from Carat global CEO, a role he continues to serve in, last week.
Dentsu Aegis Network

Last week, Dentsu Aegis Network promoted Michael Epstein to CEO, Dentsu Media Products and Services while retaining his responsibilities as CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network media agency Carat.

It has been a rapid ascent for Epstein over the course of the past year. After being named Adweek’s Media Executive of the Year while serving as Carat U.S. CEO, he was promoted to global CEO of Carat last May. Adweek spoke with Epstein on his new, expanded role, and what the year ahead holds for Dentsu Media Products and Services.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Adweek: What can you tell me about this new role at Dentsu Aegis Network? What led to its creation? 

Michael Epstein: What led to it is the transformation that our business is going through and what we need to get accomplished. The business that we’re in is going through some transformation. One of the things that leads that is our media brands and so my focus is on what the portfolio strategy should be for the brands going forward. We’re making some pivots. If you look at what’s going on in the marketplace, there’s a demand for greater connection between brand and performance across our brands. Thinking through that strategy is what led to the birth of the role.

Will you permanently be acting in both roles or it possible you’ll seek a successor in the Carat global CEO position? How do you plan to balance these responsibilities?

I will be doing both roles for an extended period of time. I have some very strong people around me in the Carat brand that will allow me to do that. In fairness, I was only in the Carat global role for five to seven months. I just started that journey, and I think I need to continue that role. I have great support staff in people like Angela Steele [who was promoted from chief strategist to Carat U.S. CEO, Epstein’s former role, last December].

DentsuX saw tremendous growth in 2019. What do you see as its role for Dentsu Media? What differentiates the offering?

I’m just starting to learn about them as a brand. It’s a bit early for me to say. They have a real point of differentiation: creative media built for digital autonomy. That is resonating in the marketplace. They have a fresh voice—that’s what we want for all of the brands in the portfolio. Carat will come out with a new positioning very soon which I think is very compelling, built on experience design thinking. DentsuX has a fresh look at the way they want clients to think about consumers and go to marketplace. The key there is to harness and scale it across Dentsu Aegis Network.

How will you bring together the media agency brands to emphasize their combined offerings? Can you explain the roles these brands play separately for Dentsu and how they might combine into an offering tailored to client needs?

We’ve historically done that within the media line of business. We have integrated accounts on most of our business using iProseect as a deliverer of performance. The key going forward is how do that with CRM, the power we have in Merkle and with creative agencies. Mcgarrybowen will be important. Carat was the first individual media agency and by nature has been a collaborator.

How do you view the role of data platform M1 evolving?

A significant amount of work is being done around privacy. Merkle has a long history in the CRM space. It is not an easy challenge. We’re having lots of conversations.

M1 is a competitive advantage for us. The media business has always had a fundamental understanding of media platforms, interactions with people and using it to great effect. We’re going to have to figure out what the next iteration is going to be and are confident we’re going to come up with solutions. But like everyone else we’re [figuring out the impact of changes around privacy regulations.]

M1 is based on identity and individuals which is pretty powerful. When you combine what sits in there, the data points that they put together with some of the behavioral/motivational data, it combines into powerful insights.

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