IPG Creates Role for Jim Elms, Names Mat Baxter CEO of Initiative

Initiative Slowly Gaining Momentum With Uber Win After Big Hyundai Kia Loss and Quiet Few Years

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Mat Baxter
Mat Baxter Credit: IPG
Jim Elms
Jim Elms Credit: IPG

Initiative has named Mat Baxter its new global CEO, succeeding Jim Elms. Mr. Elms will move into a chairman role at Initiative, and assume a new managing director role with parent company Interpublic Group of Cos.

Mr. Baxter was most recently global chief strategy and creative officer for IPG Mediabrands, which is the media agency network that houses Initiative and UM.

The move comes only five months after Philippe Krakowsky, VP-chief strategy and talent officer at IPG, added Mediabrands chairman to his existing title in an effort to improve collaboration between the media agency network and other firms within the holding company. That too will be Mr. Elms' task as he takes on the newly created IPG role and more clients look to consolidate teams across marketing disciplines.

The change also comes amid a few slow years on the new-business front for Initiative. The shop recently won Uber's U.S. media business, and a handful of small accounts, according to someone familiar with the matter. But it's last major win -- Amazon -- came in 2013. The agency lost its massive Hyundai Kia account last year to new agency Canvas -- a joint venture between independent media agency Horizon and Hyundai-backed shop Innocean.

"Anyone who knows Mat will tell you that his energy, exceptional strategic skills and commitment to the business will instantly be felt around the Initiative network," said IPG Mediabrands CEO Henry Tajer in a statement. "Mat will enhance Jim's long-term vision and client focus, and together, they will propel the network to new heights and reaffirm Initiative's position as unexpected and daring."

Mr. Baxter, 38, previously served as CEO of Initiative sister agency UM in Australia. He moved to New York last summer to take on the new chief strategy and creative role. At the time, Mr. Tajer had also just been promoted from CEO of Mediabrands Australia to global CEO of Mediabrands based in New York.

In his role as global strategy and creative chief, Mr. Baxter led the launch of Mediabrands' "Dynamic By Design" brand redesign and helped launch the group's brand ranking, D100.

At Initiative, he'll focus on a full-service offering that goes beyond traditional media buying and planning, he indicated in a statement. "Initiative is ideally positioned for growth and innovation -- it has the all the capabilities and resources of a large full-service agency, but is nimble enough to allow for flexibility in how we service our clients," said Mr. Baxter.

In his new role as chairman of Initiative, Mr. Elms will continue to report to Mr. Tajer. In his new IPG role, he'll also report to Mr. Krakowsky.

Kris Magel will continue to serve as U.S. president of Initiative. The shop also recently hired Kate Bower as global chief strategy officer from Publicis Groupe's Starcom Mediavest Group, where she was overseeing strategy for the Samsung account.

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