Unmade: media and marketing analysis
Unmade: media and marketing analysis
'If transformation was easy, everyone would do it': New Mutinex CEO Mat Baxter on why adland is stuck in old models

'If transformation was easy, everyone would do it': New Mutinex CEO Mat Baxter on why adland is stuck in old models

Welcome to an audio led edition of Unmade. Today, we talk to the newly arrived regional CEO of media mix modelling firm Mutinex, Mat Baxter, along with one of its cofounders, Henry Innis.

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‘I wouldn’t call it ego; I’d call it highly opinionated’: Mutinex founder Henry Innis on working with Mat Baxter

Baxter: “I'm going to say what I need to say and do it without the filter that a lot of people often put over themselves’

In the nearly two decades I’ve been covering the Australian media and marketing beat, perhaps the biggest trouble magnet has been Mat Baxter. For a journalist writing about an industry where people complain that executives lack the personality and substance they used to, trouble magnet is a positive, by the way.

Baxter was one of a trio who irritated the establishment by blowing up the orthodoxy around media planning with the creation of Naked Communications.

He then raced up within the big agency world as chief strategy officer at Mediacom. It was a time when the agency won lots of business as Baxter worked alongside the giant collared (and giant egoed) Toby Jenner, who these days is global CEO of Wavemaker.

The pairing of the two big personalities only lasted 18 months before Baxter moved over to UM where he repeated the trick of turning the agency into a business-winning machine, working for IPG Mediabrands boss Henry Tajer.

When Tajer was promoted to global boss, Baxter joined the entourage. He moved to a global role in New York, and when Tajer’s time running IPG quickly blew up, Baxter moved upwards, as global CEO of Initiative.

He then went on to take charge of IPG’s agency Huge, where his efforts to reengineer it became one of the foci of Michael farmer’s book Madison Avenue makeover.

Since Baxter announced his return to Australia, the industry has been keen to know what he would do next, with the possibility of him joining Mutinex in the frame for many weeks before it became official.

Unmade first featured Mutinex in an episode of The Unmakers two years ago. At that point cofounders Henry Innis and Matt Farrugia had not long evolved to talking about themselves as a software-as-a-service platform, rather than a consultancy or agency. And they were still called Mutiny before a name change forced by a collision of global ambitions and trademark considerations.

Since then, the company has grown to a six figure valuation, and you wouldn’t bet against it becoming a billion dollar unicorn if it stays on track. They are mostly describing themselves as Mutinex Growth OS, as they position themselves as the operating system, or dashboard, of media mix modelling.

Notably in today’s podcast conversation, featuring Baxter and Innis, Baxter uses the Growth OS brand far more than he does the name Mutinex. (Another rebrand in prospect?)

After this month’s announcement of Baxter as CEO for APAC, the single question that came up most in industry gossip was whether there is room for the egos of Baxter and Innis in the same organisation. They tackled that question during the podcast conversation.

Innis argues that in a high growth organisation, it’s possible to channel that dynamic outwards. Baxter says his role is to act as a “whisperer” to Innis and Farrugia.

Innis sayshere’s room for both Baxter and himself in the one business

Since Baxter’s appointment, the duo have been accused of hubris. In an interview with Media Week, Innis declared “There will be no other tech company shipping product as quickly as us within six months,” adding: “Good luck to anybody else.”

In their B&T chat Innis compared his relationship with Baxter to that of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with the executive who commercialised the platform, Sheryl Sandberg.

For those covering the industry, the unfiltered, opinionated nature of Innis and Baxter’s personalities is no bad thing - not least when the digital supply chain is so murky. Asked whether Baxter is ready to be a cop on the beat, the first part of his answer: “Of course.”

Take a listen.

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When Unmade first talked to Mutinex:

Index drops further below 500

Having dropped below 500 points for the first time on Tuesday - meaning a halving of the value of Australia’s media and marketing businesses over the last two-and-a-bit years - the Unmade Index lost some more ground yesterday, dropping another 0.65% to 495.1 points.

Southern Cross Austereo had the worst of it, losing nearly 5% as the market contemplates a slow radio advertising market, the flatering ARN Media takeover bid and an alternative propsal from Australian Community Media looking to bring it into the local newspaper market.

The only stock to rise yesterday was Domain, up 1.4%

Today’s podcast was edited by the excellent people at Abe’s Audio.

Time to leave you to your Thursday. We’ll be back with more tomorrow. With Nine’s CEO on the precipice, News Corp restructuring and ACM proprietor Antony Catalano in the hunt for Southern Cross Austereo, there’s a lot happening in media this week.

Have a great day.


Tim Burrowes

Publisher - Unmade


Unmade: media and marketing analysis
Unmade: media and marketing analysis
Media and marketing news with all the in-depth analysis, insight and context you need.
Unmade offers industry news from an Australian perspective, from the founder of Mumbrella and the author of the best-selling book Media Unmade, Tim Burrowes