Carat invests big in new strategy team, led by Spark Foundry’s Linda Fagerlund as chief strategy officer

Carat has unveiled a new-look strategy team, Mumbrella can reveal, led by a new chief strategy officer, Spark Foundry’s former national head of strategy, Linda Fagerlund.

The overhaul is the biggest move since CEO Sue Squillace joined last September from Spark Foundry – where she previously worked with Fagerlund – to rebuild a Carat that was haemorrhaging clients; Mondelēz InternationalSuper Retail GroupVirgin AustraliaAsahiAmartBegaDavid Jones, and Disney were among them.

Wright (left) and Fagerlund

National head of strategy Danni Wright has been promoted to add comms planning to her title and remit, Cameron Law joins as strategy director of Carat Queensland after seven years as Ikon’s communications director, and four planning specialists have been added to boost the agency’s comms planning capability.

And while all of these new appointments were decided upon pre-COVID-19, Squillace explained that the agency has been focused not just on negotiating the immediate challenges presented by the pandemic, but planning for the future, which starts with a robust strategy offering.

“COVID’s given us a lot of time to go internal and have a think about our brand and our product,” Squillace told Mumbrella.

“If we can get all the media thinking done upfront, we’ll be in a better place to offer them integrated, end-to-end solutions, to be honest. It’s pretty basic. The strategy is the pointy end. That’s the beginning. That’s where we look at how clients’ businesses have been affected, particularly during this time.

“And I think sometimes that gets lost, particularly on the planning end. There’s a lot done upfront, but connecting the planning and strategy for me is critical to effective media solutions… I’ve seen a big difference in our product.”

The announcement centres on “bringing the strategy and planning products closer together”.

“It just means that strategy and planning is at the heart. It’s one team that’s deployed across our key clients, as well as working on all of our new business opportunities,” Squillace added.

“Clients have never needed strategic thinking more, in terms of the current marketplace, media fragmentation. So I think the focus on our product and on our smarts is exactly the advice that they’re looking for at the moment.”


The chief strategy officer role is a new one under Squillace’s leadership (Sam Hegg served in the role from 2016 to 2018). Fagerlund has 14 years’ experience in senior strategic roles across media agencies, creative agencies, and publishers including Leo Burnett, News Corp, Match Media, and Ikon. At Spark Foundry, she built the strategic product and team, focusing on a model that brings together media, creative, data and technology.

“I’m thrilled to join the team at a very exciting, transformative time for Carat both globally and locally,” Fagerlund said.

“It’s rare to have an opportunity to help redefine an agency brand that has such a remarkable legacy and scale. I feel privileged to work with Sue again to help take Carat to the next stage of its success.”

Wright’s enhanced role as national head of strategy and comms planning is designed to support Fagerlund, both of whom will join the agency’s executive leadership team. Wright will continue to lead the national strategy team, but have a new focus on comms planning, demonstrated by the addition of four planning specialists: Katy Kamaee and Jay Patel in Sydney, and Jimmy Diamond and Chris Carey in Melbourne.

“Even the best comms strategy is meaningless if it doesn’t influence what people actually see or hear from a brand,” Wright said.

“This is why doubling down on our connections planning function is critical to do justice to the strategic powerhouse we have at Carat. I’m so proud of the Carat strategy team and believe that by bringing the distinct role of connections design into the wider team we are going to see their thinking result in even more meaningful outcomes for our clients.”

Squillace said that “there is no doubt the appointment of Linda and promotion of Danni will further strengthen our integrated strategic and planning capabilities”.

“They both have backgrounds brimming with client success stories and a huge passion for building brands,” she said. “We are looking forward to their invaluable contribution to the next phase of Carat’s journey.”

Law, meanwhile, steps into the role from Ikon, where he has led the $40m Flight Centre account for the past three years. For Squillace, his appointment “reinforces our commitment to growth in this market [of Queensland]”.

Law said that, despite the tumultuous impacts of COVID-19, “now is the perfect time to be joining Carat, both at a national and a local Queensland level, as we enter what will be a defining time for the business.”

“I’m lucky to be joining such a close-knit and future-focussed team,” he added.

In January, Craig Cooper joined the agency as chief investment officer, also from Spark Foundry, where he worked with Squillace and Fagerlund. Cooper and Squillace worked together at Carat between 2003 and 2007, and again at Publicis Groupe.

Mumbrella understands that Anna Cherry will remain Spark Foundry’s national head of strategy, a role she has held since December 2018 when she joined Blue 449, which was absorbed by Spark Foundry last March.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.