Maxus CEO Lindsay Pattison has a big job ahead of her as chief transformation officer at GroupM: transforming WPP’s mammoth services business into modern and agile solutions provider for clients.
In her new role, which she assumed on Thursday, Pattison will lead change initiatives across WPP to ensure it remains relevant to clients as they transform their own businesses for a digital-first world.
“The shape of our business in the next three to five years will look entirely different [from] what it is today,” she said.
Pattison will double down WPP’s “horizontality” initiative, which aims to break down silos and leverage talent more fluidly across the group. She’ll also help WPP’s agencies develop new service models for clients and get the most out of mPlatform, GroupM’s centralized technology stack and data repository for WPP.
Pattison spoke with AdExchanger.
AdExchanger: Why does GroupM need a chief transformation officer?
LINDSAY PATTISON: There are macroeconomic challenges on more traditional businesses. We need to understand how GroupM and its agencies transform as we help our clients’ businesses transform. We have to be responsible for helping our clients through that. Having someone focused on that shows how seriously we take it.
What will be your core responsibilities be?
I’m still CEO of Maxus, so still delivering to our shareholders. But I’ll work with specialist parts of GroupM, like data and technology and areas like Xaxis, and with each of the agencies to see how we best work together. What other products might we want to develop at a group level?
I will also help Kelly [Clark, GroupM’s global CEO] look at top talent across the group. Who are our emerging staff and leaders? How are we looking at the pipeline? Specifically, what can we do to ensure more diversity at the top of our business? We don’t have enough women or other diverse faces at the top of our organization, so working on internal barriers.
Where will you start?
[Looking at] the types of services we offer, how we best change and take advantage of the proliferation of data and how we use that to our clients’ advantage in making marketing more effective and efficient. There’s a spirit of collaboration I hope to encourage.
Of course we need tools and products and technology. And we’ve got loads of that. But talent is the best asset we have, so understanding where we are with that and making sure we have really clear, brilliant, inspirational programs to help fulfill that potential is key.
Are you building any specific tools?
It’s too early to say. I’ve spoken with Kelly more on the horizontality and talent piece. I need to get a better understanding, listen to people and talk about what they need, because we have different offerings across each of our agencies.
How will you implement transformation?
We need a fluid way to structure ourselves and work horizontally across the group. We’re not trying to pay lip service to horizontality and say, “We’ll work really well with our sister agencies.”
I’ll be reaching out quickly and have had a great response from leaders of other WPP agencies to say, “What do you think of GroupM and our agencies? How can we better work with you? What do you hear from clients? What do they need?”
Is this a return to a more full-service, client-centric approach?
Potentially. We do see clients asking for more of a full-service model, but not full-service as in the days of a media department within a creative agency 25 years ago. It’s going to be much more fluid, inventive and bespoke.
How will you tap into mPlatform to carry out your initiatives?
I’ll be working closely with the leadership to make sure we’re utilizing a consistent, unified tech stack. How do we best use that data? How do we organize it? How do we augment it and ensure sure that the agencies can make the absolute most out of it?
How will you gauge your success?
I’m finalizing my KPIs. I would expect better scores internally around collaboration with WPP sister agencies, however we choose to measure that. In time, more diverse leaders at the top of our business. I don’t know how quickly that will happen, because we don’t want to do it for face value; we want to make sure it’s the right people.
What’s your timeline?
Let’s see how much we can accomplish in year one. Maybe I’ll be out of a job in two to three years, which is fine.
This interview has been edited and condensed.