Q&A with Sarah Fay, Part 2

Earlier this month, Sarah Fay transitioned out of her role as president for Carat Interactive in order to focus on her new position as president of Isobar U.S., which is also part of the UK-based Aegis Group. We chatted about her move and its implications for Isobar, Carat and Aegis. You can read part one of our interview here.

iMedia: As you make this transition, how do you foresee your day-to-day activities changing?

Fay: I am spending a lot of time playing with the "big picture" which I really enjoy. I have a fantastic core team of strategists and business unit heads who have a deep understanding of our market; they contribute great insights on where we should be headed. We have a lot of meetings about how to shape our future, based on where we think the industry is headed. It is a very exciting time for us. We feel empowered to make really huge things happen. Aegis, our parent company, believes Isobar can make the needle jump for the whole company, so they intend for us to be thinking big ... and we are!

I am also staying closely connected to our individual agencies, and still participate in key client relationships. Understanding our clients' businesses and delivering on their needs is the foundation of Isobar's business, so it's important for me to have that connection. I also do my best to stay close to the industry -- I go to what I consider as important community events ... iMedia Summits for instance, and sit on several advisory boards. It is valuable for me to hear what others in the industry are thinking and experiencing.

iMedia: Who at Aegis was behind the creation of and vision for Isobar? What drove the change?

Fay: Nigel Morris -- who is now President of Isobar, Worldwide -- drafted the strategy for Isobar, with input from Aegis Interactive Global Management Team (iGMT). The iGMT is a committee that consists of fourteen regional heads of our digital marketing services. Nigel has chaired this team for more than four years, and we meet quarterly to make decisions on how we can collectively develop our businesses. Participating on this team (I call it the United Nations of Isobar!) has been one of my best working experiences!

There were a few key drivers behind the creation of Isobar:

1) When Aegis did an analysis of its global business, it came to light that our digital businesses were making a much larger contribution to the whole than anyone realized, and that this was a rapidly growing segment. The development of Isobar allows Aegis to group our digital offerings and treat them as a growth portion of the business, and also to focus on driving that growth.
2) There were (and are) more than twenty separately branded digital services within Aegis. Carat Interactive exists in most of our major markets, but in many countries -- where we acquired the number one or two digital agencies -- there was an advantage to keeping the brands we acquired, because they were already so well established. Isobar provides a common branding element to all of our agencies, while also allowing them to maintain their own unique personalities.
3) Finally, as the Isobar companies are quite different from the traditional side of the business (i.e. creative development, database analytics, heavy technology and tool usage) we have special technology and structural requirements compared to the rest of Aegis. Isobar is an area of the company that is prepared to invest in technologies that create global advantage, and these investments can be shared across the network.

iMedia: Last question. You've described how the units within Isobar will work together, but I'm still not sure that I've wrapped my head entirely around Isobar's place within the Aegis network. What's the big big picture, here?

Fay: Glad you asked, because there have been some misconceptions, and I'll admit it is a bit complex. Isobar reports up to Aegis through a matrixed structure. That means I have a dotted line reporting relationship to Nigel Morris, the President of Isobar, Worldwide. Nigel sets global strategy, approves direction in broad terms and participates in every country's acquisition strategy. He is hugely important in representing Isobar's interests within Aegis, and in shaping the offerings of Isobar.

However, from a P&L perspective, all of the Isobar heads report directly into the Aegis geography of which they are a part. This ensures the continued fostering of integration between the traditional and digital divisions of the agency, and it also allows Isobar to be treated by each region as a strategic fit within the overall Aegis offering, on a country-by-country basis. The person that leads Aegis' efforts in the Americas is David Verklin, and he has ultimate approval and authority over our financial and strategic decisions in the U.S. As most people in the digital industry know, David is the biggest champion we have, and he has been very involved in supporting the Isobar strategy every step of the way.

And then, obviously all of the Isobar agencies (in the U.S. that would be Carat Interactive, Freestyle and iProspect) report directly to the Isobar regional head -- in the U.S. that would be me.