Merkle approach powers Dentsu Aegis growth

Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) appears to have entered 2018 with a head of steam.

It topped Recma’s new business table for media agencies with its Vizeum network, chiefly through winning the world’s biggest brewer AB InBev. Carat and Dentsu in the Far East also performed strongly putting DAN ahead of its holding companies rivals.

DAN also invested heavily in Merkle, the huge Maryland-based performance marketing agency in which it bought a majority stake for an estimated $1.5bn in 2016. Merkle is now a major part of the group worldwide, busily acquiring European agencies through 2017.

Now DAN has bought Character, a well established and highly-rated San Franciso brand and design agency which has worked with Amazon, Google, Facebook and Fitbit.

In some ways DAN has similarities with consultancies like Accenture and Deloitte. Its bread and butter is data (chiefly through Merkle) and it adds on creative this and creative that as needs arise and opportunities occur.

Newly-annointed DAN Americas boss Nick Brien, latterly boss of McCann Worldgroup (below) says: “As we rapidly evolve Dentsu Aegis’ business model to help clients grow their brands through experience, Character’s upstream strategic focus and compelling design creativity will ensure our brand solutions reflect the complex nature of today’s customer journeys in an omni-channel world.”

Under the gobbledygook this is almost what the consultancies are saying too; dealing with the whole experience not just the marketing communications.

Rightly or wrongly it’s what clients seem to want to hear these and DAN, under Brien and CEO Jerry Buhlmann – once the two ‘Bs’ in the UK media independent BBJ – seems to be delivering.


Dentsu (which includes the vast full service and much else business in Japan) has just reported its 2017 numbers and it’s just as well it invested in DAN to give it a truly worldwide operation.

In 2017 the group as a whole delivered total gross profit growth of 9.2 per cent (constant currency basis) but organic gross profit growth of 0.1 per cent.

International business DAN grew total gross profit by 17.1 per cent with a record year for net new business including $5.2bn of net new media billings, far outperforming its Japan-based owner.

Dentsu in Japan has been hammered by a number of work-related scandals, forcing it into what appears to be some expensive restructuring.

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