Attack of the indie: Saatchi & Saatchi senior duo join Bullfrog in new partnership structure

Saatchi & Saatchi’s top creative, Simon Bagnasco, and Melbourne chief strategy officer, Alex Speakman are joining independent agency Bullfrog as partners; with managing director Matilda Hobba completing a new ownership structure at the business, alongside CEO Dalton Henshaw, Mumbrella can reveal.

Speakman leaves Saatchi & Saatchi after 12 years, having assisted in establishing its Melbourne office in 2015 as managing partner, then also taking on the chief strategy officer role in 2020.

L-R: Henshaw, Bagnasco, Hobba, Speakman

Bagnasco joined in 2017 as ECD from BWM Dentsu, following creative roles at DDB and Clemenger BBDO Melbourne. He was promoted to national head of creativity just nine months ago following the departure of Mike Spirkovski into a wider group role.

The duo has spearheaded Saatchi & Saatchi’s Melbourne office in recent years, which houses the lucrative Toyota account, amongst other clients. They now join founder and CEO, Dalton Henshaw and recently appointed managing director, Matilda Hobba as co-owners of the business.

It follows a period of rapid growth for the agency after it was founded in 2020, now having 40 staff.

The departure of the pair is a blow for the Publicis agency, which comes shortly after CEO Anthony Gregorio stepped down at the beginning of this year, replaced by Patrick Rowe.

However, the group’s creative firepower was recently buoyed by the appointment of Google’s Dave Bowman as its first chief creative officer across Australia and New Zealand. Publicis told Mumbrella replacements for Bagnasco and Speakman will be announced in due course.

The agency moved into a new office in Cremorne last year

Henshaw told Mumbrella his vision of building a world-class creative business requires world-class talent.

“I’m thrilled to officially announce my new business partners in Matilda, Simon and Alex, whose global experience and leadership in the creative world will help us achieve our world-class ambitions.”

Bullfrog has never aspired to operate in the traditional ways of the serviced-based agency models. For 12 months, I have met with some of the most renowned people our industry in a quest to solidify the right team. From one meeting with Tilly, Simon & Alex, it was evident that the vision to break the shackles of how things have always been done, was shared.

Henshaw said each of them bring together complimentary career experience, skills and roles.

“Simon will be responsible for driving the creative product for both the communications and brand development side of the business. Alex will lead our strategic offering – comprising of brand, content, media, earned and experience planning –  and Matilda as managing director will be responsible for the bolstering our people – first culture, whilst supporting me in driving overall operations and growth of Bullfrog.”

Hobba recently rejoined the advertising industry after co-founding a new-to-category brand development and product innovation company, Hellohi. She previously held the role of general manager at Taboo, and replaced Sarah Raine at Bullfrog, who joined Special as its Melbourne MD last year.

Bagnasco said: “I am incredibly proud of my time at the ‘Nothing is Impossible’ company. This iconic line has been the anchor for everything the team achieved over the last few years. But the highlight has been the relationship I’ve forged with Alex. Our own ambitions have outgrown what a traditional agency structure can achieve, which is why the opportunity to join an entrepreneurial company like Bullfrog is so exciting.

“As partners, we will get the chance to continue the great work we’ve done together, but also drive towards a shared ambition of innovating outside of traditional agency borders.’

Speakman agreed, and said no one stays in the same place for 12 years “if they don’t love both where they work”, as well as working with iconic brands such as Toyota.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without the people I’ve met during my Saatchi days. But Dalton’s energy and track record of successful entrepreneurship is well known, and the opportunity to pair our creative and strategic partnership with him as the next phase in our careers was too exciting to pass up. To not just build our clients brands but also build our own ideas as partners in the business, I couldn’t be more thrilled about joining Dalton and the team at Bullfrog and making our ideas reality.”

Hobba added: “Bullfrog is built upon true people – first foundations; a belief that life and work can’t (and shouldn’t) be separated, and that our role is to support people to thrive in both. This is rare in our industry and in business in general – and it’s a vision we’re all keen to perpetrate via this partnership. Our aim is to prove it is absolutely possible to run a world – class creative business without sacrificing the culture or the health of the people within it.”

CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, Patrick Rowe told Mumbrella: “Alex has been with us for over a decade and Simon for more than five years – and in that time, they have been valuable members of our team. On behalf of the entire agency, I’d like to thank them both for their contribution and wish them the very best of luck for the future. At Saatchi, we’re blessed to have a deep talent pool of people who go above and beyond every day, and we will continue doing amazing work for our clients. Work that builds their brands and grows their business.”

Hobba recently joined the Mumbrellacast to discuss the progression of gender equality and equity in Australia’s advertising industry.


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