ADOTAS Advertising Week Conversations: David Verklin, CEO, Carat Americas

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A major subsidiary of Aegis Group plc, Carat is a brand universally synonymous with media buying and advertising. The global outfit initially begun its meteoric rise in the industry within its European homebase, but in the last several years, Carat has proliferated in North America.

Much of the credit, of course, can be given to David Verklin, who has served at the helm of Carat Americas since its inception in the late 90s. Today, the company’s CEO oversees a marketing stronghold that’s comprised of over a half-dozen specialized agencies, which run the gamut from word-of-mouth to SEM to creative–iProspect, Molecular and Freestyle to name a few. With such a lofty position, it’s understandable that Verklin’s time is limited.

But on the cusp of Ad Week, he was more than willing to share a lengthy, engaging chat with ADOTAS about his background, the Carat strategy and its significance, his panel discussion on gaming at the MIXX Expo, and how prevalent a role interactive now plays in Ad Week 2006.

Hi, David. So tell me a little bit about your background beginning before Carat.

I took over as managing director in 1993 of Hal Riney & Partners. We took that from a small San Francisco office to one of the largest, privately-held agencies in the United States. In 1998, we sold that agency to Publicis. When we sold it, it just turned out that Aegis Group, which is Carat’s parent company, approached me almost at the same time in the late 90s, to [run] Carat in the United States.

In the late 90s, Carat was a huge brand in Europe and it continues to be the largest buyer of advertising time and space in Europe. So it was a large European media buying and planning independent, but it did not have operations in Asia and North America. We were not global. When you are as big as we are in Europe—we buy $13 billion worth of media just in Europe, and the next closest player may do $8 billion—one view was could we continue to grow when you’re that dominant. And the second trend they saw, I think, was globalization. So they asked me to launch Carat in the United States.

In terms of your experience and background, was this a big change for your career?

If you remember my background, the reason I ended up at Aegis was that I started in the media business. I had a dream of going from the media side of the business to general management, to running an agency. That’s an unusual path. Most people who run agencies either come from the creative side of the business or the account management side of the business. So when Aegis Group was looking for a media executive with general agency management experience in the late 90s, there weren’t a whole lot of names on that list. That’s how they found me.

As a media guy, I was very familiar with Carat, and I thought creating a freestanding media services company in the United States in the late 90s was a pretty big opportunity. Hal Riney had just been sold, so I was ready for a new challenge. So that’s how I came here.

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