2016 Media Director of the Year: Harvey Carroll

The IPG Mediabrands Canada CEO realigned agencies and brought Media Experts into the fold.

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When you’re a media director from a non-traditional background, there is an expectation that you’re going to shake things up. And that’s exactly what Harvey Carroll, CEO at IPG Mediabrands, has done since joining the media group. Previously working client side at Labatt and InBev and as the leader of a creative agency with Grip, Carroll made the move over in late 2013.

The past year has been a particularly big one for Carroll and his team. Identifying a need and opportunity to grow the Canadian group’s reach in Quebec, Carroll met with Media Experts, which at the time was the largest independent agency in the Canadian market. After getting support from the New York IPG Mediabrands team, Carroll and the Canadian leadership acquired the agency in late 2015, bringing 150 staff into the fold.

“We initiated the deal and really felt it was a great endorsement of the leadership team in Toronto and IPG’s overall belief in Canada as a growth market,” he says.

With the Media Experts deal complete, there was a need to create distinct divisions for IPG Mediabrands’ other agencies in the Canadian market: M2, Initiative and UM. Carroll’s team rolled the local M2 agency into Initiative, removing the smaller shop.

“Once Media Experts was in the equation, we felt the need to have three strong and differentiated brands in the market with different positioning and go-to market approaches,” said Carroll.

All told, Carroll’s changes have contributed to IPG Mediabrands’ agencies (excluding Media Experts) growing organically by over 20% in the past year. That growth has come from a combination of client wins: Sobey’s, Netfl ix and Spotify, to name a few, as well as the foresight to add new local services like mobile-focused agency Ansible and social media-centred Society.

IPG Mediabrands has also added more services like econometric modeling to its Canadian offering. Despite its small size, Canada has now grown to become its third-largest market. It is also the third largest holding company in Canada based on RECMA rankings.

Staffing up this restructured group meant recruiting some of what Carroll calls his team’s list of “regretful departures.” That included bringing former UM exec Helen Galanis back from Rogers Media to lead the newly merged Initiative. Erin Rahn was brought back to the team, moving from MediaCom to become GM at programmatic arm Cadreon. Jordan Brooks was also wooed back, moving from Catalyst to lead data at Cadreon.

Kyle Norrington, VP of marketing at Labatt Breweries of Canada has worked with Carroll as a co-worker and now a client, as the brewery is one of IPG’s top partners in the Canadian market. He says Carroll’s strengths are multi-faceted.

“He is brutally honest and gives amazing feedback,” says Norrington. “Super intelligent but always listening and learning. And he has an amazing eye for identifying talent that can and will go the extra mile to deliver results.”

Since you can’t reshape an agency without nurturing that next gen talent, Carroll is passionate about moving IPG Mediabrands forward in terms of training and staff support. He has steered the focus away from recruiting towards people development.

As part of that, the company rolled out the second year of The Residency, a 22-person internship program, which aims to address the industry-wide challenge of engaging future talent. The Canadian offi ce has also expanded IPG Mediabrands’ FLITE program, which allows it to track and support employees through setting individual goals and KPIs. Under the program, employees take two training courses a year, such as Facebook Blueprint.

Building an agency group to face the future needs of the industry is the kind of big picture thinking Norrington ascribes to his former colleague. “He gets involved at the right time, pushes leaders to be more innovative and gets them thinking beyond next year’s plan.”

The MDOY was chosen by a panel of judges for the Media Agency of the Year awards. See the 2016 Nov/Dec issue of strategy to see who won what in MAOY.