‘A work family’: CEO James Wright on life inside the CommsCon award-winning Red Agency

Red Agency's CEO James Wright talks to Mumbrella about evolution, growing pains, and the importance of being mates with your colleagues.

What has been the biggest change for Red Agency since winning Large Agency of the Year at Mumbrella’s CommsCon Awards in 2017?

In agency life you are in a constant cycle of change and it has been a year of progressive evolution as we continue to strive and deliver the best work in the market. We have added a lot of new Redsters to the fold who bring new skills, expertise and energy to the table.

We have added two full-time photographers, four content producers, two designers, two web developers and a videographer, in addition to a host of other talents, as we focused in particular on content production this year. This has given us much greater agility and speed to turnaround the content that fuel our campaigns.

What are some of the biggest challenges Red Agency has faced over the past year?

It is probably two fold. Firstly, managing growth as we continue to expand our operations. Particularly in terms of on-boarding new clients whilst keeping our current clients happy, knowing that we are continually looking to move the needle for them.

Secondly, looking out for our team’s career development, which we invest a lot into through our talent and mentoring programs. Plus, the international opportunities we offer in terms conference opportunities and visiting other Havas offices in the group.

How does Red Agency keep its momentum going to continuously win highly sought after awards year after year?

We will always act like leaders in everything we do. I expect our senior team to lead from the front, to be fearless in their approach and not be afraid to fail sometimes, and let their teams fail.

That’s why we have the incredible body of work we have, the amazing clients that work with us and the family team we have cultivated.

For me personally, the biggest achievement isn’t the awards, it is when I look up from my desk and feel the immense pride and privilege to work with the individuals and team we have.

James Wright and Red Agency at last year’s CommsCon Awards

How has Red Agency managed to keep its culture while growing at such a rapid rate?

I know everyone says it but we really have created a truly unique place to work with an incredibly talented group of Redsters. I often say that I go to work every day with my mates and do great work. It is as simple as that. And we are great mates, a work family. That means we argue and fall out regularly, and we fall back in just as fast because it is about respect, wanting to do the very best work and not taking anything personally.

We constantly look to improve and evolve, challenge our clients and ourselves, and have a great time whilst doing it. The results speak for themselves.

What importance does winning and entering awards have on the culture of an agency like Red Agency?

It’s good for the current clients to see the recognition of the work we do in partnership with them and it certainly helps with new business. But it’s about staff really – retention and attraction. We believe people want to work for an agency doing the type of work we do and the team want to keep working at a place that does that type of work. Hence why our staff retention is so high.

How do you view the future following Havas’ acquisition of rival public relations agency One Green Bean? How will the two agencies work moving forward?

Since the Havas acquisition of Host/OGB in 2012 we have all known each other and worked together. I also have a broader role as chief commercial officer across the Havas Group ANZ, so I am always looking for ways to make us all stronger with our senior leadership group.

In terms of the Beans, I know Carl Ratcliff very well and we meet up fairly regularly for a beer (or ten) and compare notes and the like. It’s great we have two of the leading agencies in Australia within the group, each with its own distinct positioning and personality.

What influence do senior leaders at Red Agency have on the agency?

I believe I have the best senior bench in the business, and to have people like Jackie (Crossman Comms), Yasmine Gray (Graymedia), Terri-Helen Gaynor (Reputation) and Steve ‘Fonty’ Fontanot (Chieftain) who have each run their own business very successfully is an amazing amount of knowledge and experience to lean on.

And I do just that. Pretty quickly you get to know each person’s strengths and you get to play people in their best positions. Notably, I would definitely say that account management, operations and processes and overall agency governance is a particular area that is bulletproof thanks to these guys.

In terms of achievements, what are the highlights for Red Agency in 2017?

One of our best achievements is the amazing and broad array of work we have produced. From launching the world’s biggest battery with Neoen and Elon Musk in South Australia to turning Jeff Goldblum into chef Goldblum for food delivery company Menulog with Y&R.

We have launched Australia’s first reverse advent calendar for kids with cancer for Camp Quality and named the first koala of the season after the nation’s iconic nut ‘Macadamia’. We turned on the lights with Destination NSW for the world’s biggest festival of lights music and ideas, Vivid Sydney, and until the same sex marriage bill was passed we banned anyone from buying two scoops of the same ice-cream flavour with Ben & Jerry’s.

Looking to 2018, what are your goals?

More of the same – we want to create the most ambitious and provocative campaigns in the market. And have a lot of bloody fun whilst doing it.

Perhaps most importantly though is the work we are doing to be the change in our community. A few examples include leading the charge in supporting women’s health to secure historic funding from government for Endometriosis, which affects 1 in 10 women. Changing our name to Pink Agency for breast cancer awareness month in October to raise funds and awareness as part of our 15th birthday celebrations. And with our sister agency Host/Havas launching the ‘Bottom 100’ to shine a light on the global refugee crisis.

James Wright and principal of Red Agency Jackie Crossman will be presenting at this year’s CommsCon, discussing their PR predictions for 2018 – what to look out for in the next year.


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