Maxus Global CEO Lindsay Pattison Speaks To Agency Challenges

lindsay-pattison-maxusA tough global economy has given way to cost-conscious marketers, short-tenured CMOs and squeezed agencies.

These are the challenges Maxus Global CEO Lindsay Pattison must work through as she sets the vision for the GroupM agency.

“We are the challenger group in the family,” said UK-based Pattison. “We are more data-driven. We didn’t come out of a creative department of an agency. We were created by Sorrell because the world had changed.”

Pattison also hopes to promote talent, which she does through programs like “Walk the Talk” designed to help guide the careers of Maxus’ 200 most senior women.  She also wants to diversify Maxus’ talent pool beyond the middle-class 20-somethings that commonly populate agencies.

Pattison spoke with AdExchanger at DMEXCO.

AdExchanger: What kind of macroeconomic challenges are agencies facing right now?

 LINDSAY PATTISON: Our client organizations at the most senior level face pressures from activist investors, challenges on the economy due to Brexit, [the US] presidential election. There are challenging markets in Eastern Europe and Russia.

What about pressures marketers face?

Marketing departments face increased pressure via procurement. Zero-based budgeting seems to be the buzzword. There is a lot of proof that companies that invest in their brand, rather than just promotional activities, massively outperform those that don’t. Advertising is short-term in general, and because you can click to that outcome [in digital], it’s harder to go back to that attribution path. Until we have cross-measurement, to understand the value of how platforms interconnect, it’s easy to give your marketing dollars to the last click. That fuels the short-termism from clients.

What does it mean for GroupM if, as some predict, the media business consolidates and fewer players have great scale?

We like scale at GroupM, so we have to be careful of criticizing other people for having scale. Consolidation is inevitable and that’s fine, because we need to be efficient and can’t speak to a thousand media owners each week.

We worry about clients using media owners that are also tech providers, and handing over all their data in the walled-garden environment. The media owner knows more about consumers and value of data then you do. When you hand over the data to someone you are trying to buy media from, that’s not helpful. It’s better to have data, attribution and a DMP independent or managed by agency so we can see across walled gardens.

What’s the current state of measurement?

It’s a bit of a mess, really. We rush to measure the old channels by the new metric, and when you use the old metric for the new channels, it doesn’t work either. We don’t have a single view of the consumer unless we join in data sets from different sources. We want to create persistent data and unique IDs that knit together consumption behavior with actual purchase decisions. We are also working increasingly with Kantar. I think the US is further ahead than other markets in terms of bringing those pieces together.

GroupM has taken stands on viewability and on ad reinsertion. Why is it making these stands when other agencies and holding companies aren’t?

If industry bodies don’t set standards that are right for our clients, we still set our own. I am astonished on the deafening silence of other agencies and holding companies on issues of transparency, viewability, ad fraud. Maybe it’s easier to keep the heads down.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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1 Comment

  1. I am astonished at the deafening silence from the ad community for the Group M ponzi scheme that is Xaxis. How Maxus funnels media to Xaxis to take 30% for nothing shows how many heads are truly down in this industry. Glad I’m no longer part of keeping this charade alive