Dentsu’s management restructure boosts U.S. execs while reinforcing Japanese roots

The header image shows an illustration of a group of people building.

Dentsu’s announced management restructure on Monday had been expected since the moment Wendy Clark, its outgoing Dentsu International CEO, said she would leave the company at the end of this year.

Nevertheless, there are noteworthy moves in who the Japanese-controlled agency holding company put on its 21-person Group Executive Management team. And it’s all in the name of growth, said parent company president and CEO Hiroshi Igarashi: “This will allow us to achieve global business growth and improve profitability through synergies and increased efficiency.”

Here are six points of interest in the news: 

  • First off, Dentsu has done away with two separate companies — Dentsu Japan and Dentsu International, which included the agencies and companies in the rest of the world (the latter company was overseen by Clark). With 65,000 staff operating in 145 countries, a single Dentsu creates a more cohesive company but it doesn’t dramatically change the way the holding company goes to market, noted Jay Pattisall, vp and senior agency analyst at Forrester. 
  • A layer of management has been removed, which streamlines some operations and brings slightly more simplicity to Dentsu’s operations, he added.
  • Placing a strong emphasis on clients and client growth, Dentsu named Jacki Kelley, currently CEO of Dentsu International Americas, chief global client officer to her existing duties. That could be partly because some of Dentsu’s largest clients (including Mondelez, American Express, Disney, Marriott and Coca Cola) are based in the U.S., noted Pattisall. But he added it also signals a “vote of confidence in the North American operations to also be responsible for the client management function,” he said, calling Kelley “very qualified and capable.”
  • Top-level management reflects the Japanese roots of the holding company — Igarashi retains his hold over the parent company as president/CEO, and his heads of governance, corporate affairs and strategy/integration and HR are also Japanese. ““There should be no mistake, it was and remains a Tokyo-run organization, and this codifies that,” said Pattisall. “But that’s what one should expect from Dentsu.” 
  • Still, some effort has been placed on diversity. For the first time in Dentsu’s history, the CFO is not Japanese — Nick Priday takes over the role from Arinobu Soga. Other high-level appointments to the Group Executive Management team, besides the heads of the global regions, include Jeremy Miller, who joined Dentsu from McCann Worldgroup only two months ago and is now chief communications officer for the parent company; and Merkle CEO Michael Komasinski, who’s now CEO of CXM, the renamed Merkle unit which is an important element of the company since it cuts across media, data and technology. 
  • Peter Huijboom continues to helm media on a global basis. “Media is the lion’s share of Dentsu’s business globally,” added Pattisall. 

Will this upend Dentsu’s ranking among its fellow holding companies, in clout or influence? Pattisall doesn’t think so, besides a slightly more streamlined upper management. “There’s nothing in this that signifies an advantage or disadvantage” for Dentsu, said Pattisall.
Digiday Top Stories