Panousis leaving Havas for CEO post at Carat

Dentsu Aegis Network has hired Alex Panousis as CEO of its largest media agency, Carat. Panousis fills a role that has been vacant since last summer, when Jeff Dack left to become CEO of Wunderman Thompson.

Panousis was most recently CEO of Havas Village and president of Havas Media and Advertising.

Carat is the largest media agency in the country by billings, so DAN CEO Jeff Greenspoon said the starting point in his CEO search was a strong media leader possessing rigour and confidence who has overseen a large media agency with both global and local clients. “That was almost the table stakes, and Alex checks that box,” he said.

What set Panousis apart, he said, was her appreciation and understanding of the business beyond media. “She understands creative, she understands technology, she understands the interdependence and how all of those things work together,” he said. “Her point of view is always about how you deliver something better to a client’s customer. How do you think about the end experience, how do you think about how technology and creativity make media better. It’s not just about media.”

The hire represents a key moment for DAN as it begins to fully implement a new vision for the network, said Greenspoon. “Today’s announcement is just the beginning,” he said.

When Greenspoon took over as CEO in the spring of 2019, he started to work toward creating a more integrated network, one that could tap into the various DAN verticals to provide bundled services capable of delivering more meaningful solutions to client challenges.

That strategy was what attracted Panousis. “I just thought their vision was so aligned to what I believe in, and I think Jeff is a great example of the kind of young leader that’s going to make a mark in Canada,” she said.

The agency brands—which along with Carat include creative shops DentsuBos and Grip, as well as Isobar, iProspect, dentsu X, MKTG, and Vizeum—will all remain, said Greenspoon. But they will work more closely to provide more holistic solutions for clients.

“So what does a media, plus creative, plus CRM engagement look like?” he said. “Where there’s not duplication and overlap, where everyone’s using the same data platforms, where everyone’s on the same technology, and where you have one single point of accountability for, say, account management, strategy, activation etc.”

Some existing client relationships have been restructured to be more cross-network, while a “solutions team” has been created to look across the network to find ways of working and new solutions for clients. For example, DAN launched a new Amazon Solutions group in November.

“We looked across our 15 agencies, we found about 30 folks that were experts in Amazon, but in different parts of Amazon—some on storefront design, some on fulfillment operations, some on performance media, some on retailing,” said Greenspoon. “We built an Amazon solutions team that can work with a client, made up from all of our brands not just one brand.”

Panousis plans to remain at Havas for a few more weeks before joining Carat in early April. Before joining Havas she was CEO of Starcom and Mediavest, and earlier in her career held executive roles with the CBC, and National Post. Outside the office, Panousis is also a volunteer community director for TechTo, overseeing MarketingTO.

David Brown