India market is good at balancing rigour and magic: Lindsay Pattison, Global CEO, Maxus

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Published: December 9, 2014 1:48:03 AM

It was around mid-October when Dominic Proctor, the global president of GroupM, the holding company for all the media agencies of marketing communications conglomerate WPP, announced that Lindsay Pattison would become the new global CEO for the world’s fastest growing media agency Maxus, thereby replacing Vikram Sakhuja who is expected to move into a larger role with GroupM. Till recently, Pattison held the position of the global chief strategy officer for Maxus. In a conversation with FE Brandwagon’s Anindita Sarkar, Pattison talks about how she plans to differentiate Maxus from its sister agencies and where India stands on the global Maxus map. Edited excerpts:

How do you plan to differentiate Maxus from its  sister agencies?

Maxus works symbiotically with GroupM and WPP alike, but as a business we are in a unique and fortunate position—we are the newest and most agile agency in the group. And we are deliberately differentiated by our mantra of ‘leaning into change’—this positioning helps determine both the sort of work we produce and the clients who are keen to work with us.

When it comes to maintaining client relationships, are there regions that are more difficult to handle?

Not really; and that’s because we understand that at the end of the day, each client is different. Increasingly, the world is becoming more fragmented and sophisticated, all at the same time. Therefore, today it has become extremely important to understand the potency of a local client business, to understand the local culture and then delivering them.

India is generally considered to be a ‘local within local’. How do you handle this market?

India is a hugely challenging and complex market. Therefore, the best thing that we can do is not to come into India and tell Kartik (Kartik Sharma, MD, Maxus South Asia) and his team how to operate. But what we do is that we come here and set up workshops where our teams here create ideas based on local bricks. We then look at those ideas and probe them to understand why they are thinking the way they are. Then, taking knowledge from somewhere else, we discuss and ask them if that knowledge could help evolve that idea further. So, from a ground-up level that seems to work very well for us.

Currently, where does India stand on your global Maxus map?

India is in the top five when in comes to revenue contribution to Maxus, apart from the US, the UK, China and Germany. The US and the UK are number one and two, respectively. Also, Maxus India gets the most awards. The India market is extremely good at maintaining the balance between rigour and magic. There is tremendous sophistication in the kind of software that they are using here. Kartik is busy building behavioural economics programmes with top university professors here. They have also not boxed that part of the business into research alone and have actually used that work to drive execution on ground. For instance, the work that they have done for Tata Tea —‘Power of 49’ stands tall to testify this statement.

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