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Why Marketers Are Looking for On-Demand Consultants

Why Marketers Are Looking for On-Demand Consultants


In the year since stepping down from his role as U.S. CEO and global president of Dentsu Media agency Carat, Doug Ray founded an eponymous media advisory firm. Ray Media Advisory works across the advertising ecosystem—with agencies, brands, publishers and ad-tech firms interested in the ex-agency executive’s advice.

In 2021, Ray also served as Dentsu’s first U.S. president of product and innovation. His time in Dentsu leadership coincided with its 2016 Merkle acquisition, and Dentsu’s work to productize its audience management platform M1 (now Merkury).

Now, as agencies of all sizes invest in product development, experiment with AI and create competitive audience management platforms, some have approached Ray to talk about how they can stack up to holding company competition.

Ray works with brands too. Many are opting to run their own agency reviews, burdened by the sometimes high cost of traditional search consultants. That coincides with the pitch process undergoing a significant shift. In a blog post last summer encouraging marketers to forego the traditional pitch process, Forrester principal analyst Jay Pattisall wrote, “Despite the best of intentions, the conventional consultant-led selection process is lengthy, laborious and overengineered.”

[A few brands] had worked with a couple of the very large media consulting companies that are out there. They were very expensive, and [the client] thought, ‘Well, we just can’t sustain that, but we can work with experts and bring them in to advise us.’

Doug Ray, founder, Ray Media Advisory

Some brand leaders who would typically hire an agency search consultant are hiring Ray instead—not to run pitches, but to sit in on reviews and help CMOs choose their agency partners.

Ray’s advisory represents a growing appetite for accessible, on-demand expertise.

“Big picture, the agency world is going through fundamental transformation [and] restructuring significantly. There is a big drain of senior experienced talent in agencies,” Ray told ADWEEK. “There’s never been more of a time than now for seasoned experienced executives who spent years in the agency business to [take step into advisory roles].

“Whether we call this [job] fractional CMO or fractional chief product officer, I call it an on-demand expert,” he said.

Ray spoke with ADWEEK about Ray Media Advisory, what he’s offering the ad industry and the questions his clients ask him.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.