Just over a year ago, Henry Tajer left Sydney for New York to take on the global CEO role at IPG Mediabrands, having led the Australian business for seven years as executive chairman as well as global chief operating officer since 2014. On his first day, he reorganised the network, bringing to an end the cluster structure in place since 2011 and moving to a more traditional geographic split.
He made several senior leadership changes and aggressively set out to implement new thinking and entrepreneurial values into local markets. In Asia, Prashant Kumar exited his role and a new CEO, Bala Pomaleh, was brought in to lead the Malaysia operation. In China, Tom Wan came in from Ogilvy as CEO of IPG Mediabrands China. As Tajer prepares to name a new regional head for APAC, he talked to Campaign Asia-Pacific about his talent strategy, transparency and the culture at IPG.
The full interview is available to subscribers in the April 2016 issue. Highlights appear below.
On ending the cluster structure:
The clusters are gone. We decided on revolving back to regions on the first day at my new role. We implemented that and executed that change, and it took some time to do that. A global structure is a really important part of what we are and who we are.
On Asia leadership:
We will shortly be announcing new leadership in Asia. That whole change [to geographic structure] has enabled us to really test the level of interest and engagement that others have in our business, in particular for key roles like that. We need the right sort of leadership in place to spearhead and oversee the investment and focus for this important region.
I recall saying to myself that I really didn’t need all these pitches to be taking place at the same time as I took on the job. After all, the buck stops with me. That lasted about three seconds and we got straight into it. In hindsight, it was the best thing I could have asked for because it galvanised our business and allowed us to focus and make changes. It made us accelerate some of the things that would have taken us longer to do in a normal environment because we had this pressure and artificial pace being put onto our business.
On talent challenges:
We are not looking for planners. We are looking for people who can create marketing solutions for business issues. Our business is evolving, so we need people who understand the broader marketing set and who have the ability to design solutions that are holistic as opposed to just media. ... Media is a big component of what we produce as a product, but increasingly it’s about the data and our ability to understand what consumers are doing through technology. The decisions we can make off the back of those two tectonic plates crossing is what strategic talent is going to do for us.
On the biggest risk to media agencies:
I don’t think as an industry we do enough about showcasing and championing what this industry actually does. I think, you know, the technology, the tech industry has done a really good job of stealing the limelight and they are topical at the moment.
On trust and transparency:
If there was a pandemic [trust] issue in the industry, I think the industry would be in a really different place. It’s fair to say that the advertising industry is largely in a healthy place: no one’s throwing themselves off buildings.
On IPG's culture:
I believe that culture is the catalyst and a global culture is hugely powerful if it’s uniform and people jump onboard. Our culture is a simple one: it’s based on open and authentic philosophy, and light-hearted. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. It’s easy for people to engage with other people if it’s not too threatening or serious, and that allows us to cut through multiple geographic cultures.