Media Headliner: Weedon's the woman to give Maxus some bite
By Anne Cassidy, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 24 July 2009 12:00AM
The rebranded agency's first chief executive may be a tough operator but she says staff have little to fear.
Back in January, Campaign profiled the two men ushering Maxus, the rebadged BJK&E, into a new era. Tim Irwin and James Jennings, the joint managing directors who headed up BJK&E for almost a decade, had been given a new sign to slap over the door and a mandate to shake up the nice, but small, agency proposition.
Well, scrub that. There will be a new face leading that particular charge from now on. As plot twists go, it's not quite The Sixth Sense, but the appointment of the PHD managing partner Lindsay Weedon as the new Maxus chief executive is still a pretty dramatic turn of events for a small agency that has, so far, enjoyed a steady, if rather muted, existence.
Perhaps some Maxus staffers are awaiting the instalment of their first chief executive (Weedon starts in October) with a mixture of curiosity and fear. If their new boss is feeling the same way, she's not saying, admitting only to being in a hurry to get things done while cautioning: "The challenge is not to rush and try to do too much at once."
The hiring of Weedon at the WPP agency is not, according to Kelly Clark, the Maxus global chief executive, a U-turn in strategy. Clark, who along with the Group M UK chief executive, Nick Theakstone, appointed Weedon, says it is instead a "dialling up" of the Maxus offering. "It's good to get a fresh perspective, new skills and experience," he says. And what of Irwin and Jennings? They remain, Clark states, an important part of the management team.
Weedon, who, as yet, has only spoken to Irwin and Jennings over the phone, says they've been "really fantastic and grown-up about it". Managing the former leaders of the agency promises to be politically challenging, to say the least, but Weedon is confident that it's a challenge she can meet.
"I'm sure there's lots I can learn from them, but hopefully there are things they can learn from me as well," she says.
During her time at PHD, which she joined six years ago, Weedon has been responsible for some of the agency's biggest accounts, including BT, Sainsbury's, the AA and Cadbury. Before joining the Omnicom agency, Weedon was client-side at Sony Ericsson as its marketing manager.
Clark and Theakstone cite Weedon's client relationship expertise and her new-business credentials as part of the reason they picked her from a long, otherwise all-male, list of candidates. Clark recalls crossing swords with her on pitches over the years, including a contest for the AA where he lost out to Weedon and her team. "She's got the whole package," he says.
The fact that Weedon does not come from a managing director or chief executive position is of no concern, Clark maintains: "She manages clients, teams and thinks about the business of an agency. It was clear to us she can do the job." Weedon admits that the prestige of the title was a big draw but the opportunity to shape a new media brand was also too good to pass up.
Nailing down exactly what Maxus is will be one of its new boss' first hurdles. Still in the development stage, the new offering will be built around "media relationships" such as managing the brand relationship with the consumer once they have had initial contact with the brand. Clark expects the fully formed proposition to be rolled out in the UK over the next year. Weedon is keen to forge a new agency, distinct from its previous incarnation. "In a year's time, I don't want to have to say it's the old BJK&E. I want people to understand what Maxus is," she says.
Bringing in some much-needed new business will be a big objective for Weedon. The agency has been on a few shortlists since the rebrand at the start of the year, but has not succeeded in converting pitches into wins and has also lost its Canon and Betfair accounts.
Having a clearly defined proposition will help, but Weedon also plans to draw as much as possible on all the resources of Group M and to fight her larger siblings, Mindshare, Mediaedge:cia and MediaCom, for her fair share of new-business opportunities. "I'm not interested in being looked on as a baby sister. I want Maxus to be seen as an adolescent on the verge of a growth surge," she says.
Making friends with WPP creative agencies is also part of the plan for Weedon, who started her career as a media planner with Young & Rubicam. "There are lots of different ways to get on a pitchlist," she explains.
One attribute that may help her assimilate into the rather blokey Group M culture is her expert knowledge of rugby: "The boys like it because I actually know what I'm on about." She gained her knowledge of the sport while going out with a professional rugby player some years ago, but these days she prefers media players. She and her partner, the former PHD chief executive David Pattison, form a formidable media power couple.
Weedon is buttoned-down, highly ambitious and determined, according to her former boss, the PHD managing director, Daren Rubins. "She doesn't suffer fools and she is very opinionated," he says. She admits to having a tough, feisty nature and says she leads firmly from the front. But Maxus staffers need not fear too much: "At the end of the day, I'm a nice person. I like to have a laugh with people and I can be charming and I want to combine those qualities to be a great leader."
Lives: South Kensington
Family: Lives with partner
Last good book read: The Enchantress of Florence, Salman Rushdie
Most treasured possession: My sense of humour
Interests outside of work: Food, friends, fashion, swimming, shopping,
Alternative career: TV newsreader
Motto: You can if you think you can
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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