Mat Baxter appointed global CEO of Initiative

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 28 July 2016

Mat Baxter, former CEO of UM Australia, who moved to New York earlier this year in a global role for IPG, is to take over as global CEO of Initiative, AdNews can reveal.

He replaces Jim Elms who has been global CEO since February 2013. Baxter had been in a group role for IPG Mediabrands as global chief strategy and creative officer. In May Inititiave hired Kate Bower as global chief strategy officer from Starcom Mediavest Group where she was EVP of global/US strategy.  

Mat Baxter confirmed the news to AdNews, and said in a statement: “The opportunity to take an agency like Initiative and reshape it to best serve our clients and our people is a dream come true for me. Initiative is ideally positioned for growth and innovation – it has all the capabilities and resources of a large full-service agency, but is nimble enough to allow for flexibility in how we service our clients.”

As CEO of UM in Australia Baxter overhauled the way the agency operated. He axed its “big boutique” positioning and redefined the media agency. He introduced the notion of the “creative connections agency” and pushed the role media agencies as more than planning and buying media.  

As part of the move he shifted remuneration model towards performance based pay. His view is that agencies need to be true partners to their clients, share in the spoils as well as the risk and “have skin in the game".

“Today marks an exciting new chapter for Initiative,” said Henry Tajer, Global CEO, IPG Mediabrands. “Anyone who knows Mat will tell you that his energy, exceptional strategic skills and commitment to the business will instantly be felt around the Initiative network. Mat will enhance Jim’s long-term vision and client focus, and together, they will propel the network to new heights and reaffirm Initiative’s position as unexpected and daring. The best is yet to come.”

AdNews revealed Baxter’s long-speculated move to the US in September last year, following the appointment of Henry Tajer as global CEO of IPG Mediabrands.

He was one of the first of many hires Tajer made that took strong Aussie talent across the pond to either global, group or North American roles.

John Sintras took on the newly created role of president of global business development and product innovation, Dianne Richardson, former managing partner of Starcom MediaVest Group Australia; Mnet's Travis Johnson; Cadreon's Marc Lomas; and media auditor Charles Godbold.

Most recently, former CEO of Omnicom Group Australia Leigh Terry was poached to lead Mediabrands in APAC. 

Separately, Lee Leggett stepped down as CEO of Initiative Australia last week, in an unexpected move thought to be a personal decision. It's not yet known who will replace her.

Elms becomes chairman of Initiative, and takes on new responsibilities as managing director, Interpublic. Initiative has been part of IPG Mediabrands since 2007.

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