Amy Armstrong named global CEO of Initiative

amy armstrong named global ceo of initiative

Less than two months after winning T-Mobile’s $2.3 billion media account, Interpublic Group of Co.’s Initiative has appointed a new global CEO of the media agency.

Amy Armstrong, who has been U.S. CEO since 2016 and has held leadership positions within IPG for two decades, takes over for Mat Baxter, who had the top job for four-and-a-half years and now becomes global chairman. Armstrong, who notes that the transition was six months in the making, says Baxter will be a “strategic adviser” to her through the end of this year. After that, he will remain at IPG in a leadership role to be announced in the coming months.

Armstrong, who has been a champion of diversity, equity and inclusion at Initiative, becomes the first woman to head the agency.

“Mat has transformed Initiative into a global trailblazer as CEO, and while he will be missed at Mediabrands when he moves on at the end of this year, he leaves the agency in great hands,” Daryl Lee, chairman and CEO of IPG Mediabrands, which oversees IPG’s media agencies, said in a statement. “Amy is a fearless competitor and a true client partner who has built an agency to be reckoned with in the U.S. Her commitment to her clients, to her people and to building a strong, inclusive culture where everyone feels valued is unrivaled.”

At Initiative, Armstrong helped transform the U.S. business, which notched substantial revenue growth. In 2019, Ad Age named Initiative U.S. Comeback Agency of the Year. As reported at the time, the agency turned a 12.2% decline in U.S. revenue in 2018 into an 8% projected gain the following year. 

Aside from T-Mobile, Initiative’s U.S. operation has scored major new business wins under Armstrong’s watch, including Liberty Mutual, Nintendo and Gilead.

When asked about client priorities, Armstrong said they range from how to manage the coming, cookie-less future to the latest martech solutions and, of course, how to best deploy data. “Clients are still struggling to make sure they are using data in the most effective manner,” she said. “When you think about the audience puzzle, what is going to resonate with this audience that will enhance their interaction with a brand, that’s the kind of thing we get excited about.”

Within the company, among her leading concerns will be continuing to build fair and equitable representation of BIPOC. Armstrong said it’s been interesting to watch as DE&I has become a hot topic in the industry, when “for me, it has always been. You only do good work with diversity. And it delivers business results.”

As far as the advancement of women, Armstrong — whose promotion was announced on the first day of Women’s History Month — reflected that the ad business has come a long way. “I have definitely run into my problems being the only female in a room with clients,” she said. “But I feel that the generations under me aren’t going to have to deal with that.”