Nick Brien Named CEO for the Americas and U.S. at Dentsu Aegis

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Nick Brien.
Nick Brien.

Nick Brien, a seasoned agency executive who has been CEO of McCann Worldgroup and was most recently global CEO of iCrossing, has been named the CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network Americas and U.S.

Brien succeeds Rob Horler, who recently stepped down from his role as U.S. CEO for the network, and Nigel Morris, who was previously Americas CEO. Morris will take on the role of chief strategy and innovation officer, a new role within the network.

Dentsu Aegis agencies include Carat, Dentsu, iProspect, Isobar, McGarryBowen, Merkle and Vizeum.

After Brien exited McCann following a failed turnaround in 2012, he invested in a number of startup companies including social-commerce startup Chirpify. In 2015, when he was named CEO of iCrossing -- known then for expertise in buying search keywords -- it seemed to indicate a wider focus for the company. Brien said then that iCrossing would strengthen its reputation as "premier digital marketing experts" by combining parent Hearst Corp.'s consumer data with the company's ability to produce content.

Those digital chops are in high demand at Dentsu Aegis as it seeks to become a "100 percent digital economy business by 2020," as it reiterated in making the announcement.

"When we're really being dynamic with data and integrating data sets as smartly as possible," Brien said in an interview, "the engagement strategy is less about interruption, it's less about interrupting the content that people are choosing — rather, being part of the content, creating content on behalf of the brand and experiences that consumers want to be put into."

He said he also sees an opportunity to be a champion for the agency model as the industry faces headwinds including management consultancies encroaching on agencies' traditional business.

"I think great agncies have a huge role to play and can really start to lean into this into digital environment, where we can prove our accountability and prove our measurabiltiy and really demonstrate the added value ROI of whatever fees are paid to us," he said.

Nigel Morris.
Nigel Morris. Credit: Dentsu

In Morris's new role, he will oversee the network's innovation agenda. Dentsu Aegis operates innovation centers around the world.

"There's a lot of breakthroughs that happen here in the U.S., breakthroughs happening in China, in Singapore, in France," Morris said, adding that he will work to bring together best practices from around the world.

At iCrossing, Mike Parker will take on the role of president following Brien's departure. Parker joined iCrossing as president of West Coast operations in 2015, then was named U.S. president in 2016.

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