MEDIA HEADLINER: Redwood's globe-trotter sets sights on conquering the US - James McLeod is heading for New York as Redwood's president, Lucy Hone says

For a man who's endured a 642-mile weekly commute from Nice to

London for the past five years, the move to New York comes as something

of a relief for James McLeod, the newly appointed president of Redwood

International.



Having spent most of his working life abroad, the 41-year-old Old

Etonian last week followed his wife and two children to their new home

in Mamaroneck, where New York State meets Connecticut.



On the surface, his new remit as the New York-based president of the

customer publisher's international arm will bring little change from the

role he has performed out of Redwood's London office for the past three

years. McLeod will continue to oversee the company's international

portfolio - joint ventures in Toronto and Hong Kong accounting for more

than £13 million of revenue for Redwood International within its

first 12 months - but his presence in parent company BBDO's New York

offices marks a shift in Redwood's international publishing policy.



"America is obviously very developed in CRM terms, but there's less of a

culture of the kind of top quality customer magazine programmes that we

specialise in," he explains.



"There are less independent specialist agencies out there, instead

customer magazines tend to be run by mainstream magazine publishers such

as Time Warner and Meredith."



Redwood has taken a different approach to US expansion compared with its

UK rivals Premier Media Partners and John Brown Publishing, both of

which initiated their US expansion plans with the creation of a New York

office.



"We've tried to understand the market first, by working with WSP

Marketing in Toronto, before going into a new territory totally blind,"

McLeod explains.



"Instead of investing in offices to begin with, and then looking for new

business, we've worked hard over the past three years to forge some

strong relationships with impressive corporations in the States such as

Kraft, JC Penney and Sears.



I'm confident from my background at the International Herald Tribune

that this approach goes down better with the American client base, who

will appreciate the hands-on proof provided by our existing client

relationships, rather than hearsay and testimonials from other

markets."



McLeod, with a start-up team of three in New York (Toronto will still

act as operational HQ), is not planning an immediate recruitment drive,

preferring to see where the demand for business takes him. In the

meantime, he is clearly grateful for the services provided by BBDO; not

to mention the presence of Andrew Robertson, now the president and chief

executive of BBDO North America and formerly chief executive of Abbott

Mead Vickers in London, a relationship which Redwood's chief executive

and co-founder, Mike Potter, acknowledges as "the real trigger for all

of this".



The Omnicom links should ease McLeod's entry into the New York

market.



Andrew Hirsch, the chief executive officer of John Brown Publishing, who

has spent the past six months overseeing the company's 25-strong New

York team handling five accounts, struggles to hide his envy. "There

might be a lot of advantages to working for a private company, but we

started here without even a paperclip. Whereas it's taken us two years

to get things up and running, from installing phones to setting up

pensions, they'll be there immediately."



With six months in Manhattan under his belt, Hirsch's advice for McLeod

is personal rather than professional: "He needs to find the right place

to live and make sure the family are settled."



But having spent seven years in Hong Kong travelling all over

Asia-Pacific, and having lived in Provence and Johannesburg as well,

McLeod is not put off by the challenge of another relocation. "Getting

the knowledge of the clients and all the local nuances is always the

biggest challenge, but New York is a place where people will listen if

you're smart enough and have the right ideas," he says.



Potter, who has worked with McLeod on and off over the past 20 years, is

in no doubt that he's well suited to the job. He explains: "James is

probably one of the most determined and internationally minded people

I've ever met. None of my other senior directors would have been

prepared to do what he's done. He's not afraid of air miles, he'll be

fine."



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