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Brian Jacobs has helped Carat International enter the U.S. and Asia and pursue the international clients like Volkswagen and Walt Disney Co. that the European media specialist needs to grow.

And it all happened because the Carat managing director wouldn't live in Chicago.

A 14-year veteran of Burnett, he began in the London office as associate media director. He ended his Burnett stint as international media director, where he spent a reluctant year at Burnett headquarters in Chicago at the company's insistence.

"My wife hated it" in Chicago, Mr. Jacobs said. "And it made no sense to do the job from America."

Back in London, Mr. Jacobs is part of a trend by media specialists to hire executives with experience at international ad agencies.


Initially, Mr. Jacobs, 47, worked at Carat's parent company, Aegis Group, with responsibility for entering new markets, winning new clients and developing new products, before becoming managing director of Carat International.

Carat is a very big fish in Europe-and probably the world's largest media specialist-but a minnow in the U.S. and Asia. The company was still pondering its international expansion plans when Mr. Jacobs got a call 18 months ago from Volkswagen, one of Carat's biggest European clients, inviting Carat to pitch for VW's Asian media business against DDB Needham Worldwide and CIA, another European media specialist..

Mr. Jacobs pointed out to his client that Carat had no Asian office and was told, "I think it's a smart idea to give it your best shot."

So he trekked to VW headquarters in Germany with his boss, Carat's Paris-based CEO Eric Drancourt, and Nicola Blagg, Carat's deputy managing director.

"It was the most embarrassing thing," he said. "The three of us there in reception, with hundreds of Needham people."


But Carat triumphed and began fulfilling a series of promises made to VW. Mr. Jacobs lured Kate Stephenson, a young media executive he originally hired for Burnett in Hong Kong, to open Carat's first Asian office there. Since then, Carat has installed an Asian CEO, Howard Wang, and set up a joint-venture in India and is looking into other Asian markets.

Right now, Mr. Jacob's priority is developing Carat's international client base.

"Only 10% of our business was international five years ago," he said. "Now it's 50%."

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