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
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
"We've tried to understand the market first, by working with WSP
Marketing in Toronto, before going into a new territory totally blind,"
"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
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
The Omnicom links should ease McLeod's entry into the New York
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