Australia’s media agency execs pick their top talent moves of 2021

As the year comes to a close, it was highlighted by a number of moves at the c-suite level. Some of Australia's top agency executives, Aimee Buchanan, Chris Howatson, Mark Jarrett, Anathea Ruys, Virginia Hyland and Nick Keenan, speak to Mumbrella's Calum Jaspan about who they think were the top pick ups.

It was a year defined by a few key talking points, with conversations seemingly going round and round in circles: work from home, Covid, vaccination campaigns and the ongoing talent shortage.

In the world of media, many of Australia’s most prominent agencies had leadership changes, and who better to tell you about the best moves and hires of the year, than the agency heads themselves.

Aimee Buchanan – CEO, GroupM Australia

GroupM’s Buchanan, a mover herself this year.

“The great agency move of 2021 would be Anathea Ruys, who moved home to Australia to take the role of CEO of UM Australia.

Anathea is a great operator, great person and great leader.  Amazing to see Anathea move home to Australia and take the reins of UM, bringing her global perspective and experience to this market.  A great hire and fantastic to have Anathea return back to Oz.”

Ruys returned to Australia after over four years as managing director of Carat’s West Coast and Midwest offices in the United States.

Chris Howatson – CEO, Howatson + Company

Howatson left CHE Proximity/Clemenger Group this year to set up his indie shop

“The hire of the year would have to be Group M’s appointment of Aimee Buchanan. Aimee has been the driving force of OMD’s dominance in Australia over the last decade, both as a formidable investment business but especially in their pioneering approach to people development and equality. The ‘culture of the year’ award across all trade magazines has almost been defaultly awarded to OMD for their efforts here. So watch this space. Expect all Group M agencies to rise on the Aimee tide over the years to come.”

Buchanan was GroupM’s top target for the role Mark Lollback left in Q1 this year. She began the role last month.

Anathea Ruys CEO – UM Australia

Ruys returned from a stint at Carat in the US.

“I love seeing great people I have worked with in the past doing terrific things. So I was really pleased to see Anjana Khallouf taking on the role of national head of owned and earned at Thinkerbell.”

Khallouf joined the independent agency from OMD in November. The pair worked together at OMG’s Fuse.

Mark Jarrett – CEO, PHD Australia

Jarrett believes the best moves, were the ones that didn’t happen

“It’s an interesting question and one that reflects the industries obsession with the new above all else, celebrating change and movement makes sense as it’s way more interesting than stability, but stability and business culture built around tenure, experience and retained IP is exactly what we all need.

So my pick is all the hires that didn’t have to be made, all the people that didn’t move jobs, that enjoy the challenges they face and the learning they’re experiencing right now. My pick is all those that don’t plan on going anywhere for as long as personal growth & flexibility is there for them today, next year and beyond.”

Sometimes stability is the headline!

Nick Keenan – CEO, Starcom Australia:

Starcom’s Keenan offered up his three best picks

“For best holding group talent hire, it’s hard to go past Aimee Buchanan. Aimee is an exceptional operator, has terrific experience, and ultimately understands how to lead a high performing culture (something every company can benefit from).

For best independent talent hire, I think CHEP appointing Mike Deane brings in one of the better strategic minds in our industry to their agency.

For Best Media agency talent hire, I feel Ben McCallum to UM was a smart move – as he is an excellent media practitioner and a good get for them.”

Deane joined CHE Proximity in September 2020 (sorry Nick!), alongside Tim Russell into senior roles following Ben Shepherd’s exit. This saw the duo “hibernate” their consultancy Saintsmiths.

McCallum was appointed as UM’s MD in the Sydney office last month, set to join from WPP’s Mediacom in February.

Virginia Hyland – CEO, Havas Media Australia

Hyland, Havas Media’s CEO, a year into the role after her indie, Hyland Media was acquired by the group.

“The best move this year is Aimee Buchanan taking the top job at WPP. So great to see that a talented and respected leader is recognised for proven long term results.

I am looking forward to seeing how Aimee leads GroupM in the future.”


You can hear Mumbrella’s full round up of the year on yesterday’s Mumbrellacast. 


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