Dynamic Duos: UM’s Anathea Ruys and Mediabrand’s Mark Coad

In this week's Dynamic Duos, UM Australia CEO Anathea Ruys and IPG Mediabrands CEO Mark Coad share a strong industry friendship that has seen the pair continue to cross paths over the past decade or so.

Anathea Ruys:

The first real memory I have of meeting Coady was when the Omnicom Group was helping me to move back to Australia from New Zealand. He had just taken on the role of CEO at CHE and needed a Managing Director to support him. We spoke on the phone and immediately clicked. He was engaging, warm, funny and had a clear sense of what he wanted the company to become. We worked together at CHE for around 18 months and I learned so much from him over that time. I saw then, and have continued to see over the years, his innate ability to connect with people. Sometimes I struggle to find the right words to describe this talent that Coady has…put simply he just knows people deeply because he genuinely cares about them. It’s not about him being networked, it’s just his ability to connect in so many ways and as a result he seems to know what people need and he helps them achieve their personal and professional goals, without being overt.

Our paths continued to cross occasionally when he was at PHD and I was at OMG in Singapore, but we hadn’t spoken to each other in a few years when he called me out of the blue while I was working in the US, to discuss the UM CEO role. I remember that call really clearly – no one in America speaks anything like Coady with his well-known Coady-isms. Like with any good friendship, work or otherwise, we just clicked straight back into the conversation like no time had passed and it was an extremely easy decision to work with him again.

The roles we have now were always going to be different than those we had when we last worked together ten years ago, but I was determined I wanted us to work together in partnership. Too often holding company and brand leads operate in quite clear silos and I didn’t want that to be the case. I knew that we would and could work together in great partnership.

I turn to him a lot. Sometimes for guidance, but often just to get his point of view. We have different perspectives on things so he can be super helpful in challenging my thinking. Coady has a real ability to get to the heart of a situation or problem and distil it down to its essence. He cuts through the noise to get to clarity which I really admire.

I saw a chart recently which showed who you spend the most time with at different stages of your life. Unsurprisingly, work colleagues take up a huge chunk across a really long portion of your life, so you want to make sure you are working with the right people. With Coady, I absolutely feel like I am. He’s really smart, really personable and really, really funny.

Mark Coad:

I first met Anathea around 2008/09 when I was CEO of OMD. Anathea had built and was leading a great content business in NZ within the Omnicom Media Group and we began some initial conversations around how we could have our businesses work closer together. Not long after that I left OMD for CHE (now CHEP). It was apparent to me that Anathea was exploring possibilities to move back to AU – so I pounced. I needed a highly capable and qualified MD to work with me – and looked no further. A few conversations later and Anathea packed up her family and took the role. Anathea is a force in a leadership role. She cares deeply about the people who work for her. She takes a lot of pride playing that role – and does it with energy and great care. She also loves nurturing strong relationships with her clients and excels at that. I think we have remained in contact because of the values we do share in that area – a strong focus on people and relationships.

When we needed a new CEO at UM 18 months ago – we looked no further. Anathea was perfect for the role and continues to prove why that is true. She was working in the USA based in LA – and again, after a few conversations she was on her way home. (That’s a whole other story – the COVID related re-entry to AU for her and family was a nightmare that would have broken most people).

Our relationship is built on an extremely strong mutual respect. It’s funny to think about actually – we’ve never openly spoken to each other about that. We’re not the types to gush at each other – but we both know it. I have no doubt Anathea supports me and has my back, and I’m certain she feels the same of me. As I said – we’ve never discussed that, it’s simply borne from how we act and treat one another. Anathea is also a very driven and ambitious person – and I think we’ve also worked so well together because we have had the successes we’ve had and been able to fuel those ambitions. I’ve told her on more than one occasion (across a few different roles) that she can have my job one day. She’s always laughed at that saying “Why would I want your job!? Your job sucks!”. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t mean that.

Anathea on Mark:

Most memorable moment with Mark: 

A year or so after working together at CHE, I was part of the “debate” team for Melbourne’s much loved Annual Media Hall of Fame lunch and got to roast Coady on stage – to be fair it wasn’t hard. Between the AdNews article talking about how he had reached a million FF miles (lots of golf trips clearly), and his ongoing fight with customs to get his Tag Heuer alligator skin watch band into the country, the speech wrote itself. As you would imagine he took it all in good spirits, but he still hasn’t shared any of those points.

Describe Mark in one word: Genuine

Mark’s most annoying habit or endearing behaviour: Has to be the Coady dictionary. Anyone that has worked with him will know “eleventy”, “poke in the chest”, or the very particular way the word “Good-o” indicates the end of a conversation.

Mark on Anathea:

Most memorable moment with Anathea: Would have to be when she told me once that she used to be the editor of New Idea. I had no idea! And probably laughed out loud. Anathea got a bit cross at me (see comments below) – and I’ve never let it go. I’d sometimes introduce her to people saying “This is Anathea – former editor of New Idea” – as a gag. That made her crosser! I haven’t done that for a while…maybe I should.

Describe Anathea in one word: Caring

Anathea’s most annoying habit or endearing behaviour: It’s most annoying and endearing at the same time. When Anathea gets cross. And I use that word very deliberately. She doesn’t get angry, or agitated, or irate. She just gets cross! It’s annoying and endearing at the same time because it is scary and funny in equal measure.


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