Dentsu plans to drop Aegis name

Changes at Dentsu Aegis Network continue as company moves towards 'One Dentsu' structure, including redundancies of more senior Asia-Pacific staff.

Dentsu: Slimlining Dentsu Aegis APAC operations
Dentsu: Slimlining Dentsu Aegis APAC operations

Dentsu Aegis Network is planning to drop the "Aegis" from its brand name from 2020 and is further slimlining its Asia-Pacific operations to fully realise the broader company’s "One Dentsu" strategy, Campaign understands.

The agency network has reportedly told staff that from 1 January 2020 – as its new corporate structure kicks in, whereby it will sit alongside Dentsu Inc rather than as a subsidiary – it will no longer carry the Aegis name.

DAN chief executive and executive chairman Tim Andree would not confirm a rebrand in a recent interview with Campaign, but made it clear that the business is at a watershed. "The integration and the acquisition of ‘Dentsu Network and Aegis Media’ is over," he said.

A Dentsu spokesperson today added: "The focus today is not on the name, but on the action of bringing the Dentsu Aegis Network and Dentsu businesses closer together. This is a natural evolution in order to deliver long-term sustainable growth, built around our shared passion for client-centricity, innovation and creativity."

The network adopted the Aegis name in 2012 following Dentsu’s £3.2bn acquisition of Britain’s Aegis Group. But as the Japanese parent company wants its domestic and international divisions to act more like "One Dentsu" globally, the Aegis branding and many DAN staff are being cast aside.

Affected roles

The agency network underwent a fresh round of redundancies in its Singapore office last week as part of a broader restructure of its media agencies announced in January, when it removed its APAC CEO positions.

Wednesday’s redundancies affected senior and middle-management roles, including those with chief, vice-president or "head of" roles. Campaign is aware of at least eight roles that have been affected. 

Former Vizeum APAC chief executive Duncan Pointer, APAC president of programmatic services Sonal Patel and APAC chief strategy and innovation officer Arvind Sethumadhavan are among those leaving the business, sources have told Campaign. It is understood that some have chosen to leave and others were retrenched. Campaign also understands that DAN is looking for other opportunities for some of the individuals.

When reached for comment, Dentsu was not able to confirm if those individuals were affected. "Last week, we made some changes to the business in Singapore. We are unable to comment further on these changes as it affects our people," a DAN spokesperson said.

"In March, we announced a new management structure in Asia-Pacific to enable markets in the region to react to changing client needs with speed and agility. As the industry continues to become more complex and fragmented, we need to focus on creating simplicity; delivering value for our clients while building long-term and sustainable growth in our business."

Pointer’s role as APAC chief of Vizeum was scrapped in January, but Campaign understood at the time the business was looking to find a new role for him. Pointer has been with the network for more than eight years, starting as managing partner of Carat in the UK.

Sethumadhavan has held a similar eight-year tenure at DAN, taking on the chief strategy and innovation officer role in February last year. He has always been based in Singapore, starting at Isobar.

Patel joined the business in April last year from AppNexus, where she was Singapore managing director and APAC vice-president. Before that, she managed south-east Asia and India for Google’s Doubleclick sales and also worked at Twitter managing business development for programmatic real-time in-app mobile bidding. 

The most recent redundancy round is apparently not the last, according to multiple sources.

The retrenchments form part of a restructure of DAN's media operations in APAC. Media agencies will now be brought together regionally in three main working groups headed from Singapore: Brand Solutions Group, One Singapore Media Group and Client Solutions Group.

Refocusing on growth regions

Financially, APAC suffered a difficult year last year. During Dentsu Group’s 2018 results, while EMEA was the strongest-performing region, the organic growth in APAC (excluding Japan) was down 1.7% for the year and 9.6% for the last quarter. This was impacted by tough conditions in China and Australia, the company said. 

While the network has been cost-cutting staff in some regions, it has been on an acquisition drive in others. Just this month, it has announced the acquisitions of data and analytics company Ugam in India, technology and business consultancy Davanti in New Zealand and digital agency Ambient Digital in Vietnam.

Dentsu was by far the most acquisitive agency holding company in the first quarter of 2019, according to an M&A ranking by R3 for the period. The company made five deals in the first quarter, snapping up Happy Marketer, BJL, Filter, Comunica+A and Redder Advertising. The deals were worth a total of $247m, R3 said.

A version of this story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific