Henry Tajer on why nice guys finish first in advertising

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 27 April 2017
Danny Bass replaced Henry Tajer in May 2015

When it comes to getting your hands on a top job like Henry Tajer's - global CEO of IPG Mediabrands - he says remaining humble is key.

While media can have a reputation for brutal competitiveness, New York-based Tajer, who was speaking to AdNews while over in Sydney, said he believes it's actually the nice guys that finish first in this sector.

He referenced recent hire Leigh Terry, former CEO of Omincom Australia, who was on Tajer's most wanted list for some time, as a shining example of a great operator and one of the nicest in the business.

“Those with big egos and insecurities simply won't win out in the long run,” Tajer said.

See here for: Henry Tajer calls for industry cohesion - egos to be left at the door.

Tajer cherry picked some of Australia's leading talent such as UM CEO Mat Baxter and Starcom Mediavest Group chairman John Sintras to join him in the Big Apple, but he says it wasn’t the “brain drain” it was made out to be.

“You guys made a much bigger deal of it than we did. If you think about the Australian marketplace, every single agency and holding company has had pretty significant changes in the last five years,” he said.

He also said “it’s not just Henry pulling out of people in Australia”.

“The number of times I’m in the market, meeting people who work for us and I come across us Australians, reminds me how fantastic the Australian market is in terms of the talent it has generated and nurtured,” he said.

“Australia is not a huge marketplace yet the caliber of marketing and media talent is of world standing. If you think about Australians in prominent and leading marketing/advertising roles there are countless.”

While there may still be a “most wanted” list in Tajer's black book, he said there's no immediate plans in the short term to bring more Australians out from here.

He said looking back at his departure and the subsequent moves, that change naturally had an impact on the organisation and it’s “normal and natural” for that to happen.

“Danny [Bass – who replaced Tajer] and the team I had in place handled that transition and change extremely well. The business is doing well and has been doing well," Tajer says, adding that Australia is going in the right direction and a number of things that the local office has done, or is looking at, could soon be rollled out across the business on a global basis.

Last month IPG Mediabrands closed its offices temporarily to give its people a dedicated day to focus on personal development. The initiative is part of an ongoing people and talent programme designed to give 100 hours back to each of its people in recognition of the hard work they put in.

You win some, you lose some

Tajer said in every agency, in all markets there are times where luck favours you, and times when clients decide to go to other agencies. “That’s part of our industry”, he said.

“We haven’t beaten ourselves up either – there's clients we have won and clients we are no longer with. We take that on board and deal with it. Credit to the team here, they have dealt with all those positive and negative changes in a very professional way and it has enabled us to continue to grow.”

Looking at the Australian business, Tajer said it has been built up by the whole team, from the CEO to the receptionist, adding that “too much is said about a global CEO” because they are the figurehead of a company. He believes success is more about harnessing talent and the team and having the key people in the right areas.

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