Aligning Aegis' Digital Properties Under One Umbrella

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Sarah Fay, an interactive star, has moved behind the scenes -- and she has more influence than ever. Last July, Ms. Fay took the helm of digital network Isobar in the U.S. and since has been creating what she has every intention of maintaining as a digital powerhouse.

Sarah Fay, president, Isobar U.S.
Ms. Fay has been doing this while executing her vision of a digital future. That vision, in which interactive technologies are the hub of advertising, is exactly why U.K.-based Aegis Group promoted Ms. Fay, 42, to president of Isobar U.S. from president of Carat Interactive.

Must have consumer involvement
“Digital is the tip of the spear for the Aegis strategy,” she says. “The TV model is breaking. TV is not going away, but you cannot assume that because you have a certain reach and frequency, you’re going to break through. You have to have consumer involvement and the best way to do that is through digital media.”

Isobar’s mission is to align Aegis’s digital properties under one umbrella brand. Ms. Fay has acquired technology consultancy Molecular for $31.5 million and search engine company iProspect for $50 million, adding them to Carat Interactive and interactive agency Freestyle Interactive.

“David Verklin [Carat Americas CEO] said I buy companies the way his wife buys shoes,” Ms. Fay says with a chuckle.

Getting pieces to operate together
Now with all the entities under one virtual roof, “my mission is to make the pieces that we have operate together,” she says. Ms. Fay works internally to keep separately operating companies, totaling 425 employees, achieving their best performance, and working together without being forced to become one entity.

“A digital agency has a completely different structure than a Web design firm [like Molecular],” she says. “It’s a really dangerous game to mesh the two together.” Marketers aren’t confused, she insists. “The company name on a business card is inconsequential,” Ms. Fay says. “The clients are no dummies -- they know who’s a team.”

Her goal is for Isobar U.S. to be among the top three digital agencies “and considered an A-player.”

Digital poses a threat to TV
Ms. Fay is confident that she has the 30,000-foot view that is necessary in an irreversibly digitally tinged world. “Overall, I think digital poses a threat to the way TV is supported today,” she says. “Long-term we’re looking at a subscription model and people will control their TV through their PC.”

Any regrets? Not really, but there’s not a lot of time for family, she admits. Any spare time is poured into activities with her 11-year-old, Grace. Her modest personal fantasy will resonate with any busy woman: “I’d like to be part of a book club.”

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