Tajer's Aussie brain drain

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 4 September 2015

Henry Tajer has been in New York for less than two months. Since then he's also been having a field day tapping into top Australian talent for global roles with IPG.

In an interview with AdNews shortly before he departed for New York, Tajer told me that Australian talent is worldclass - above and beyond that in the US and UK.

“The Australian marketplace, as an intelligent market, is up there in the top two or three in the world. The calibre of thinking and executives that we have in the Australian marketplace are world-class … but we have a marketplace that has been reluctant to take that talent and apply its benefit,” he said. (AdNews 29 May, ‘Time to fix the fractures and step up’).

Tajer certainly isn't reluctant to take the talent onto the global stage. Perhaps it was a clue as to his intentions but it seemed more of a complimentary observation.

Mat Baxter, whose long-rumoured move stateside was finally confirmed this week as he hands over the running of UM Australia to former Soap MD Ross Raeburn, for the gig of global chief strategy and creative officer at IPG New York.

This is the latest in a raft of hires that also includes Starcom Mediavest chairman, John Sintras; Dianne Richardson, former managing partner of Starcom MediaVest Group Australia; Mnet's Travis Johnson; Cadreon's Marc Lomas; and media auditor Charles Godbold.

There's certainly no shortage of smart thinkers in the Australian market and it would be stupid of me to suggest the land will be barren after Tajer is done cherrypicking, but an exodus of so much talent at once seems fairly unprecedented. It runs parallel to an unprecedented wave of change at the top of Australian agencies in the last six months. There seems to be a new guard coming through and it's quicker to count the agency CEOs that have been in place for more than 2-3 years than it is to count the moves.

Mindshare's Katie Rigg-Smith is the only GroupM agency CEO that was in the role two months ago. MediaCom is yet to fill its top job, and Maxus and MEC have both appointed new CEOs in Mark McCraith and James Hier, respectively. GroupM has also yet to fill the top group role following the departure of John Steedman. Tajer's exit leaves IPG Mediabrands’ group CEO role vacant for now, awaiting Danny Bass' return from extended gardening leave.

There’s more stability at Publicis Group and Omnicom. Leigh Terry's five years as CEO of the group; Peter Horgan's five years leading OMD; and Mark Coad's three at PHD seem like a lifetime compared with elsewhere. Likewise at Starcom Mediavest. Despite Sintras' departure, Chris Nolan's three years as Starcom CEO; Annick Perrin's two years as Sydney MD; and ZenithOptimedia's Ian Perrin's three years at the helm of the agency; show remarkable stability. There is something to be said for new blood, for change and reinvigoration, conversely there is so much movement that leadership consistency has a lot going for it.

Rosie Baker is editor of AdNews

This article first appeared in the Sept 4 issue of AdNews in print. Subscribe here or get it on iPad immediately.

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