Barry O’Brien launches full service media agency D212° with pledge to offer better service than ‘stretched’ competitors

Department 212°One of medialand’s best known operators has returned to the industry with the launch today by Barry O’Brien of new full service media agency Department212°.

D212 founder Barry O'Brien

D212 founder Barry O’Brien

O’Brien co-founded Total Advertising in 1991. He then led the successful rebirth of Total as the Australian operation of Omnicom’s PHD Worldwide.

He stepped down as CEO of PHD early in 2012, but quickly made a dramatic return to medialand when he was brought into Network Ten as chief sales officer in a rescue mission in what proved to be the final weeks of James Warburton’s brief tenure running the network.

After stabilising the sales operation at Ten and bringing in new sales boss Louise Barrett, O’Brien moved on in July last year.

O’Brien did not name foundation clients for his new agency, but hinted there would be an announcement soon. He said that a small number of senior staff had already been appointed into client service roles, with names to be revealed shortly.

The launch is set to be the biggest media agency since the creation of Bohemia in 2011.

212 will do its own media buying, but will tap into the trading deals of a major global network, although O’Brien – the sole owner of the agency at this stage – did not disclose which one.

It will also be able to call on the resources of digital services agency Atomic Group, whose offices in Sydney’s Walsh Bay it will initially share.

The agency name is based on the temperature in Fahrenheit at which water boils.

O’Brien told Mumbrella the most important thing about the agency would be a focus on client service, with a much smaller number of clients per media person than the industry average. He said of his time on the other side of the fence at Ten: “It gave me the most amazing look at every competitor I’d ever been up against.

“I realised how many good people are out there, but also how many stretched people are out there.

“Some agencies were doing it right and at others there was room for improvement.”

Services to be offered by the agency will include media planning and buying, communications strategy, performance and direct media, digital and mobile, data and analytics and branded content.

O’Brien said: “I have been approached several times by clients over the past two years who share a similar angst – that being that their agency team just don’t understand their business.

“A quick glance under the typical agency hood reveals often good buy junior staff working across far too many clients.”

In a further challenge to the industry status quo, O’Brien said: “We prefer not to charge fees or ask for retainers. We prefer to be paid only when we perform and only when you succeed.”

Tim Burrowes


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