The New Era of IPG Mediabrands Australia
Danny Bass’ defection from GroupM to lead IPG Mediabrands caused big waves a year ago. He’s kept quiet and had his head down for the first six months in the job, but now he talks to Rosie Baker about the future for the group.
When AdNews broke the news last year that Danny Bass was taking on the CEO role at IPG Mediabrands, no one was expecting it. It caused more than waves. It was the first of many hires and promotions that saw newly appointed global
CEO Henry Tajer move a wealth of Aussie talent overseas into global or North American roles. Bass had been in line to take over the reins at GroupM as then chairman and CEO John Steedman [Steady] was preparing to retire. The succession plan for the top job was derailed. Bass was walked out of the building, his laptop and phone retained by GroupM. The seat stayed empty for more than a year at a time when MediaCom particularly was in need of stability. It’s only this month that GroupM’s new CEO Mark Lollback, former CMO for McDonald’s, has taken up the post.
As Bass was on strict gardening leave for six months under close watch and facing the very real threat of legal action if he crossed the threshold even a minute before legally permitted to, IPG too had a vacant corner office. Six months is a long time in media. And it’s a long time to be out of the game.
“The thing that surprised me most was just how much had changed in those six months,” Bass said.
“I arrived back in the middle of TV upfronts and all the networks were talking about programmatic. If you’d have said that at the previous year’s upfronts most people would have thought you were crazy.
So, in a relatively short period of time for that to have happened was an indicator of how quickly things are changing,” he told AdNews in his first major interview.
For such a major switch between holding groups, IPG clearly offered Bass something he didn’t see at GroupM. Even without him directly saying so, the comparisons Bass makes can only be towards his former stomping ground.
The model that Henry Tajer built up over the last five years sees 10 different specialist businesses, each with their own P&L – at the centre are media agencies UM and Initiative. Then there’s ad tech unit Cadreon, and Society, the group’s social arm, which launched just under three years ago and now has about 40 people. Search business Reprise has nearer to 50 and IPG also houses a 40-strong data and analysis team within Anomaly. It claims Mnet is the most awarded mobile agency in the world.
The centralisation model is one Bass believes is “unique” and will be “copied” by all the groups in this market before too long. Across those businesses, there’s barely an agency boss that has been in place more than a year, save Lee Leggett at Initiative and Victor Corones at Magna Global.
From the outside, that much change in leadership smacks of instability, but Bass is keen to press that there’s a story of consistency underneath it. Tajer tapped former MediaCom CEO Mark Pejic as CEO and chairman of Melbourne, Ross Raeburn had been parachuted in from Soap into a group role before being named UM CEO, and in the last eight weeks Bass has appointed Melissa Fein from Ten’s Generate division to head up Ensemble, but every other role was filled internally.