Contrasting against her colorful, sometimes controversial boss, Linda Sawyer is not widely known among the industry's rank-and-file. But one comment from Donny Deutsch, chairman-CEO of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, puts her importance in perspective: "Linda manages me better than anyone else in the world. We are really frank with each other."
As managing partner and chief operating officer of Deutsch, a $202.5 million gross income agency, much of 41-year-old Ms. Sawyer's activities are behind-the-scenes. But she is his right-hand person, a key executive overseeing everything from finance to human resources to corporate communications to agency expansion.
Her early experience included account-side stints at Avrett Free & Ginsberg and Ted Bates Worldwide in New York and Goldberg Marchesano in Washington.
Goldberg was "an incredible experience," Ms. Sawyer recalls today. "My big-agency background was more sophisticated than many there, so [Goldberg Marchesano management] asked me to institute some of the processes and procedures I knew."
Returning to New York in 1989, Ms. Sawyer landed at Deutsch. Ironically, Ikea, an account she'd run at Goldberg, arrived at Deutsch, too.
Ikea a key
"Ikea was pivotal to us," she says. "Its growth paralleled our own. It was the reason we invested in direct marketing, the reason we moved into interactive."
Running Ikea, she says, "taught me how to assess what is the ideal machine necessary to support the client?"
Deutsch ended up losing the account to Interpublic's Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis, in 2000, an account that has since moved to Maxxcom's Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami.
Today, the agency star focuses on strategic as well as operational issues, such as opening the agency's first international office in Canada.
She also works closely with Interpublic leadership, going to quarterly management meetings and tapping the holding company's resources for Deutsch.
'Giant juggling act'
Ms. Sawyer's life, which she describes as "a giant juggling act," includes being mother to two sons, 5 and 10, wife to an entrepreneur husband, Jon, and a board member of the Advertising Education Foundation.