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Dentsu EMEA’s new media boss says it needs a ‘culture shift’ to achieve growth


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

February 1, 2023 | 7 min read

Incoming chief of Dentsu’s EMEA media business says to focus on new business, first-party data and sustainability.

paolo stucchi, dentsu

Paolo Stucchi takes up the CEO position in March / Dentsu Media

Milan-based Paolo Stucchi will soon step up to lead Dentsu EMEA’s media business after 12 years with the company. He joins on the back of a series of high-profile new business wins, including Zalando and BMW.

Stucchi wants to build on that foundation. He says that every time it brings on a new client, it pushes the agency to be sharper, to understand market trends that bit better and in doing so, improves the relationship it has with longer-held clients.

“Clients are also teachers, and having good teachers is a condition for adding new clients,” the Milan-based executive tells The Drum.

Despite economic headwinds in major EMEA markets like the UK, Stucchi says the specter of a region-wide recession will fade in the medium term and as that happens he wants to move the entire organization to a growth-first mindset.

“My priority, before anything else, is a shift in our media culture across the region... to really provide our 7,000 people with a different mindset, a culture that will enable growth,” he says.

Across the board

Encouraging his colleagues to operate with the same frame of mind across borders and time zones is a goal in line with Dentsu’s recent group-wide initiatives, including the merger of its Japanese and international leadership structure. But the variety present across EMEA will call for a multifaceted business approach.

Compared to Dentsu’s other large markets, such as the US or Japan, the region hosts a range of different media consumption habits, developed and emerging economies and a wide spectrum of media and publishing infrastructure. Handily, Stucchi has dealt with many of the challenges present across EMEA on a smaller scale. His previous role covered Italy, Greece, Turkey and Lebanon.

Southern European and Middle East media markets, he says, “are very strong in terms of media culture and communication, but different from [northern] Europe in terms of publishers, and in terms of consumption,” he explains. Relative to northern and western European economies, he says that “digital is growing faster than television, but it’s not fully consolidated.”

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Furthermore, consumer habits around streaming content are different than in the UK and northwestern Europe. “Everywhere, advertising video-on-demand (AVOD) is eating the subscription model,” he says, while AVOD is seen as more valuable inventory than traditional television because it’s less saturated.

Thinking further afield, Stucchi suggests that the most important media metric for brands in the near future won’t be reach or digital engagement, but creating chances to collect more data on consumers. “We shouldn’t just be aiming to build reach, but the opportunity to build experiences and collect data,” he says.

“Impression metrics belong to the past; the new metric is attention. Without people’s attention, you’ll never be able to inspire them, change their hobbies, their behaviors, their attitudes, or collect their data in order to activate them.”

Investing in data

It’s no surprise, therefore, that he reveals the firm’s investment priorities in the near future: tech and data infrastructure to boost PPC, paid social and first-party data collection.

“In the short term, we’re investing in technology that will improve our paid social and pay-per-click,” he explains. That includes Pipes, a proprietary performance suite that manages paid search and social and which Stucchi says will save client and agency time and effort.

In the longer term, he says “we need to empower our clients to enable them to collect first-party data. It’s critical to effective and efficient communication in the future.”

Stucchi’s Italian colleagues at Dentsu Creative have been ahead of the pack in their efforts to make that agency more environmentally sustainable, by changing the company’s legal status to become a benefit corporation. He says it’s unlikely the media business will follow that route, but that clients want its media services to be mindful of emissions and ecological impact.

“It’s important for Dentsu to have a social impact. This can be done both by changing the way we act and also by innovating in our products, for example, we developed a carbon calculator. That’s critical to understand the carbon impact in our value chain and to offer our clients the possibility to neutralize it.”

Like his hopes for a mindset change at the company, he hopes effective leadership can boost its sustainability push further – with and without Dentsu. ”On top of growth, our leadership [needs to] inspire our industry to move towards a positive impact on society.”

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