Two in, dozens out as change sweeps through Dentsu

Dentsu has announced two major hires as the group’s restructure continues, with dozens of other roles reportedly affected by the ongoing changes.

HERO’s Ben Coulson has joined as Dentsu Creative’s chief creative officer ANZ, and DDB’s Katie Firth will head up Melbourne operations as local MD.

The new appointments follow a number of high profile departures, including the agency’s first joint chief creative officers, Mandie van der Merwe and Avish Gordhan, and Dentsu Carat’s Sydney managing director, Lauren Small.


Ben Coulson is a significant hire for the group. In July, he announced his departure from HERO after three years, saying he was hooked on the rush of adland and was “off to do it again”.

“Dentsu have the capability to deliver creativity well beyond traditional methods,” Coulson said of his new role. “They are quietly assembling a squad of very talented people, and the global network is catching fire. All compelling reasons for me to crash this party.”

Dentsu Creative ANZ’s CEO, Kirsty Muddle, said: “Ben will accelerate our agenda to make great work; work that demonstrates what Dentsu can do for brands and businesses when we harness all of our capability, media, experience, technology, data, and gaming.

“He has the experience and credentials to get us there,” she continued.

Katie Firth joins Dentsu Creative after 2 years as managing partner at DDB Group Melbourne, and one year handling Omnicom’s bespoke agency for Coles, Smith St.

Firth said she has loved her time at DDB, but “wanted to get back to leading an agency again”.

“Dentsu Creative has been transforming over the past 18 months with strong momentum,” she continued. “That was a huge part of the appeal to shape the future of a new agency brand that has the weight on a global network behind it.”

Firth will start at Dentsu in November, and Coulson in December.

Meanwhile, the departures from the group continue. Dentsu Carat’s Sydney managing director, Lauren Small, has left to work client-side at Optus, as its new senior director of media and operations.


Small joined the agency in 2020 from Publicis’ Spark Foundry, where she worked closely with Melbourne MD Chris Ernst and then CEO Sue Squillace.

“I have led the Carat NSW team for the past three years, through a challenging period for the industry. It has been a great experience leading such an excellent team, but I am excited to join Optus and begin the next phase of my career,” she said in a statement to Mumbrella.

“I will miss my talented colleagues and fantastic clients, but I wish my Carat family the very best as they continue to grow and do amazing things.”

Danny Bass, CEO of Dentsu Media ANZ, said of Small’s departure: “Lauren has been a phenomenal leader of Carat NSW in what has been a tremendously difficult few years for our broader industry. We are thrilled for her to be joining such a wonderful company like Optus, and wish her the very best of luck.”

Dentsu Media is expected to announce a new managing director to replace Small in the coming weeks.

Small, and van der Merwe and Gordhan (who last week announced their move to Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi Australia) are among a number of senior changes as the group continues to restructure.

Mumbrella understands more than three dozen roles across the group have been impacted by the redundancies and job changes, with at least one former Dentsu Creative staff member seeking a new role last week via LinkedIn.

When asked last week about redundancies, Patricio De Matteis, Dentsu ANZ CEO, told Mumbrella: “Like many other businesses, we’re not immune to the macro-economic situation that we all currently live in and we do need to address this so we’re coming out the other side stronger.”

He added: “This has unfortunately meant that we’ve seen some people impacts, which any leader will know is never an easy decision to make.”


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