For agencies that run a little under the radar, building to a big win and, in a way, peeking from behind the curtain, can be transformative. For Epsilon, though, they hardly have come out of nowhere, with a rich heritage and significant brand work as a leading CRM/direct agency. However, a huge agency of record (AOR) win from Del Monte earlier this year signaled a tipping point of sorts and a profile raised. To those inside Epsilon, the Irving-based, data-focused marketing agency, the win was well-earned. Externally, though, perhaps the secret about the agency is out.
Richard McDonald, today elevated to Epsilon president, agency — a role where he will lead the agency practice globally — sees the Del Monte victory, along with an AOR win for Nature’s Way, as a key tailwind.
“We've been building up towards that kind of win over the last few years,” said McDonald, a New Zealand native. “[A good] analogy is driving a car and building the car at the same time — where Epsilon has these amazing capabilities that, as an agency, we've been fine-tuning and refining and getting better at integrating into ourselves, and then communicating it out to clients. The Del Monte win was a really hard fought, fiercely pitched and it's given everybody a spring in their step.”
McDonald, who joined the agency in 2012 and is based in Epsilon’s Chicago office, will now report to Epsilon/Conversant chief executive officer, Bryan Kennedy.
“McDonald has spearheaded tremendous growth for our agency practice since he joined Epsilon,” said Kennedy. “He brings over two decades of global agency and brand experience, as well as a fresh, entrepreneurial spirit to a fast growing part of our business. I am confident that he will provide strong leadership as we deliver unique, integrated solutions to our clients, while inspiring a culture that excites and engages our associates.”
Growth is his first, most important objective and will continue to build creative teams, account management and a strong core of marketing strategists. Momentum plays a role at the moment, as does data — and the data-centric approach is most certainly compelling for brands, though Epsilon is focused on ensuring that the creative carries just as much weight.
“We say a lot about how the data doesn't lie. It's hard to refute that, if you're a client. Everybody now understands the power that data plays in marketing and the data drives the intelligence and some insights that lead to good creative,” said McDonald. “We have a great chief creative officer, John Immesoete, with big agency and traditional experience who has done nothing but embrace data — he has been a big advocate from day one on the power the data can have on creativity.”
For a company as big as it is — 7,000 employees in 70 office around the world — Epsilon’s profile got a boost from the Del Monte win and not only are more brands taking notice, but those working in the industry are as well.
“The thing that's motivating me the most right now are the people who want to work for us — the agency talent that's looking for their next big thing, or whatever it might be,” said McDonald. “They’re knocking on our door saying, ‘Hey, we're fascinated with you, can we get on board?’”
The fascination doesn’t end with talent. Dentsu-owned McGarryBowen, a few years ago, had a very nice stretch, winning all kinds of business, seemingly out of nowhere with the industry taking notice to the point that Droga5 (in what is still one of the best advertising jokes out there) made them the AOR for their holiday cards.
Is Epsilon poised for the same kind of run?
“I like kind of being that dark horse right now, it's a good place for us to be,” said McDonald. “I don't really want to be the darling in a hurry. I like where we are at the moment.”