Dave Carey joins Media.Monks with a global AI mandate

Sometimes a new agency hire is about filling an existing role to stay on course. And sometimes it’s more like a statement of intent about where the agency is going.

Media.Monks’ hiring of Dave Carey feels more like the latter. Carey, one of Canada’s leading experts in agency in-housing, has joined Media.Monks as global executive vice-president of studios and embedded solutions for the Studio.Monks unit.

While Media.Monks is the umbrella agency brand for Sir Martin Sorrell’s S4, each of the “core capabilities,” such as data, social, technology, experience, is given a .Monks label.

Carey was most recently at WPP’s “implementation” agency Hogarth, which specializes in creative content production. Before that, he led in-house specialists Oliver Agency for more than five years. He’ll be based in Toronto, but will work with teams and clients around the world.

Carey said he’s been talking with Media.Monks for the past couple of years, and he’s always admired its model of combining craft, creativity, and media, powered by data and technology every step of the way.

The mandate for Studio.Monks is to “reimagine how content is created, scaled and shared,” which means more efficient production of the nearly constant stream of communications assets (call it advertising, or call it content) that so many brands need in this always on, always connected digital age.

That appetite for content has led to new kinds of agency/marketer relationships, including more in-housing, which Media.Monks refers to as “embedded solutions.”

CIBC’s decision to hire Courage and Oliver is one example, as was Telus working with WPP to manage its “creative and production” needs using an “extended workbench” model. Carey was leading Oliver when CIBC made its move, and was president at Hogarthwhen Telus made its changes.

But aside from bringing Carey’s in-housing experience and expertise to the new job, Media.Monks is emphasizing just how much AI will transform this part of the business—it’s not just about in-housing (or “embedding”), it’s about using AI to radically improve the production process of the work clients take in-house. Media.Monks describe Carey’s hire as a “foundational step” in a larger strategy to “infuse AI” into all parts of the production pipeline.

While other agency holding companies talk about AI enhancing not replacing employees (lest people get concerned about losing their jobs), Media.Monks sees AI as upending the old world—in keeping with the vision Sorrell talked about in the earliest days of launching S4.

“As AI pushes traditional, FTE-based models into obsolescence, Carey and his team will build the blueprint for the next studio model,” says the release.

“The AI revolution is driving the urgent need for owned, proprietary models built on brands’ tone of voice and creativity,” said Wesley ter Haar, co-CEO, Content. “Dave Carey combines the passion to innovate with deep expertise in building embedded brand solutions, which together will help us chart a path forward for the AI-infused pipelines that brand leaders need.”

Carey believes the application of artificial intelligence is quickly taking Media.Monks to a new level.

“The approach that we’re taking for the next three years is radically different than any other agency out there,” he said. “AI is the centre of that, and I honestly believe in the next year, you’ll really start to see a separation between what S4 and Media.Monks is doing, compared to any of the other agencies out there.”

Media.Monk’s application of AI in content production for clients has already enabled them to drop the cost by 30%, he said.

The savings comes in two key areas: using AI tools to change backgrounds and images in ads to make them more personalized and customized, what Carey calls “automation at scale.” He estimates about 90% of that work is being done with AI now. And then there’s copywriting and language translation—about 60% of that work is with AI now, up from zero six months ago, he said.

“We know [AI is] going to be disruptive,” he said. “We know that it’s going to change the industry dramatically, and you’re either on the side that is going to accept that change, or if you’re not, clients are going to make that change and do it themselves.”

David Brown