Player profile: Financial expertise adds up for new Brann CEO Eastham

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When he entered the working world in 1968 with a college degree in actuarial science from the University of Illinois, Dennis Eastham never guessed insurance statistics would lead to oversight of a $298 million direct-marketing agency.

Mr. Eastham, who was named CEO of BrannWorldwide last month, switched from the finance department to marketing and advertising at Rockwell International in the 1970s after becoming interested in "the more social side of business." But Mr. Eastham, also a former president of Blau Marketing Technologies, never left statistics far behind.

"Someone trained as an actuarial scientist running a major ad agency is pretty contradictory, but it makes more sense in direct marketing than traditional advertising because there really is an analytical, scientific, left-brain side of direct marketing," he said. "It is grounded in accountability and that gives me the outlet for that statistical, mathematical analysis interest."

A knack for numbers isn't all that made Mr. Eastham, 53, a successful direct marketer. "He's a guy who gets on with what needs to be done in the business," said Chris Gater, chairman of BrannWorldwide. "He has great leadership."

JOINED BLAU IN `81

Mr. Eastham joined Barry Blau & Partners in 1981 after handling direct marketing for Citibank's Diners Club and Carte Blanche divisions, and helped open and operate Blau's Chicago, Los Angeles and New York offices. The new arms of the Wilton, Conn.-based agency were initially formed to handle a single major client, but grew with a base of new clients.

"From the mid-80s until [Blau's] merger with Snyder [in April '99], I had the opportunity that every businessperson dreams about: to be in on the ground floor of building a company from 12 people into a major international organization with hundreds of employees, multiple offices and real stature in the industry," said Mr. Eastham.

Mr. Eastham has held a variety of positions at BrannWorldwide since Snyder Communications created the group by combining its direct shops, including Blau and Brann. He initially oversaw operations as president, Brann North America, and most recently served as worldwide president-chief operating officer prior to assuming responsibilities of CEO from Mr. Gater.

GETTING ALONG

Even with Brann's involvement in yet another merger -- Havas Advertising is in the process of acquiring Snyder -- Messrs. Gater and Eastham have found it easy to work together. Though Mr. Eastham works out of Brann's Deerfield, Ill., headquarters and Mr. Gater is based in the agency's Cirencester, England, office, the two have navigated the same waters during fishing trips as well as working on plans for Brann's positioning in the marketplace. "We think quite a lot alike and we hold the same things dear and important," Mr. Gater said of his colleague.

Mr. Eastham believes that Brann's new size and stature will help the agency deliver on its promise of "helping buyers buy and sellers sell" as well as make Brann's name more famous. "It gives us the substance and the mass to be able to really deliver against our goal of creating a different kind of company," he said.

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