‘A statement move’: Industry leaders on the biggest talent gets of 2023

Mumbrella's Kalila Welch speaks to agency leaders from GroupM, Hatched, Atomic 212, Kaimera and Havas Media Network to find out their picks for the year's biggest media talent moves.

While the talent market in 2023 hasn’t been in quite as dire straits as the years preceding, there was still a fair amount of change to go around in media agency land.

With movements (hopefully) winding down ahead of Christmas, media agency executives from across the industry weigh in on the talent moves that caught their eye this year.

Aimee Buchanan, CEO, GroupM ANZ

“It’s hard to look past Pat Cowley’s move to CommBank. He’s such a smart guy with a clear vision on the future of marketing and how the biggest trends will impact brands.

On top of that, having his level of expertise from an agency perspective is sure to set him up as an excellent client partner which will pay dividends for The Bank.

He’s also fun to be around and I loved working alongside him. While we miss having him in the group – I can’t think of a better move, or hire this year.”

As they say… if you love them, let them go! Pat joined CommBank as the bank’s general manager of paid and owned in June, just six months after helping oversee the launch of newly merged GroupM agency EssenceMediacom as managing partner. It marked an end to his more than two decade career with WPP.

Adrian Roeling, Managing Partner, Hatched

“It’s a bit cheeky for me to say, given what some might consider a slight conflict of interest, however, I genuinely believe the biggest and most exciting media talent move of 2023 was Cat Edghill and Danni Dimitri moving to start Hatched Sydney.

Everyone who knows them will agree, Cat and Danni are two of the best operators in our industry. It’s so exciting for them to have the opportunity to start something of their own. They represent the future of media agencies. This move is great news for clients and the next generation of our industry’s talent.

It’s exciting to see fresh, diverse leadership flourish.”

Very cheeky indeed! Former Havas Media Network talent, Cat and Danni landed at Hatched in December last year, and have been hard at work in 2023 setting up the agency’s Sydney office with a number of exiting new clients.

Claire Fenner, CEO, Atomic 212

“Paul Wilkinson moving from Half Dome to Hatched was a great appointment this year. I’m always happy to see fellow independent agencies growing their leadership teams as it’s a sign of the success independent agencies are experiencing. This year has been a massive one for indie agencies, with some massive client moves from multinational agency networks to the independents, such as Kia, Entain and Forty Winks, to name just a few. While indies have been thriving for years, the strength of our people, product and service is shining in the current climate as marketers are seeking more from their partners. We’re only at the beginning of this trend and look forward to many more years of success for independents.”

Now this almost flew under radar of the trade press – thanks Claire! Back in August, Paul stepped away as Half Dome’s head of commercial in August, and according to LinkedIn, he joined Hatched as client and investment lead in October.

Nick Behr, CEO, Kaimera

“Stephanie Douglas Neal’s move from PHD to EssenceMediacom is a statement move for her and Aimee Buchanan. Her exceptional qualities as both a person and a professional are undeniable. Her transition is a testament to Aimee’s leadership and vision for EssenceMediacom. Steph’s expertise and her proven track record are invaluable assets that will undoubtedly contribute to EssenceMediacom’s journey to get them back to where they once were.”

A move between OMG and GroupM – who would’ve thought! Stephanie’s appointment was part of the hiring frenzy at EssenceMediacom when the merged agency officially launched in the Australian market earlier this year.

Virginia Hyland, CEO, Havas Media Network 

“The biggest media hire and surprise move of the year was the movement of Pia Coyle, Managing Partner, from indie Avenue C to PHD as Managing Director. Avenue C have come out of the starting blocks with their special sauce that Managing Partners manage the clients. So I wasn’t expecting one of their most revered senior leaders to move in just under two years back to a global agency. It is an interesting move as the indie agency vibe is completely different to a global working agency. Indies have the freedom to decide who they become, global have the ability to invest in data and technology at scale.

I’m sure Pia will go on to do great things at PHD and no doubt they will miss her as a key senior leader at Avenue C.”

An interesting take on the indie vs. hold co debate! While PHD snuck this appointment in at the last minute in December 2022, Pia didn’t actually make her grand re-entrance to the OMG agency March.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.