Ben Lilley reboots SMART with Cowan’s Dominic Walsh and Bob Price taking the lead

Ben Lilley is rebooting his former creative agency SMART as a brand innovation consultancy in a move to further diversify the McCann Worldgroup Australia business.

SMART was founded by Lilley, Paul Findlay, John Mescall and Ashley Darr in 2000. SMART was sold to McCann in 2011, and Lilley became the latter’s CEO. Lilley’s February acquisition of McCann Worldgroup Australia saw him repurchase SMART, alongside the Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney operations of McCann and PR agency The Red Republic.

Since it joined McCann, SMART has been operating is a creative boutique, and was integrated into McCann in Sydney in 2018.

Ben Lilley is rebooting SMART

Lilley’s efforts to diversify the McCann offering have been spearheaded by an acquisition strategy to introduce new capabilities into the business. This has already seen the assets of creative agency Red Engine SCC purchased and rolled into The Red Republic, weeks after it entered administration, and digital agency JSA Creative acquired and merged into McCann and The Red Republic in Queensland.

Lilley said the move to reboot SMART comes at a time when brands are undergoing major transformations.

“By integrating business strategy, innovation and technology, SMART will allow us not only to assist clients in accelerating the rate of change for their business, but to also support businesses in providing seamless customer experiences and achieving better commercial outcomes. Right now especially is the perfect climate for us to be able to help clients design distinctive experiences for brands that are undergoing major transformations,” Lilley said.

Dominic Walsh will lead SMART after a stint as local CEO of Cowan

Stepping into the roles as SMART’s managing partners are Dominic Walsh, the local CEO of global brand consultancy Cowan, and Bob Price, Cowan’s former chief creative officer.

Walsh said the new-look SMART is a response to what the market needs.

“We have been listening to the market and have honed an offering that joins the dots for agency groups, to provide a high-end, integrated innovations and consultancy model,” he said.

“SMART will facilitate the use of technology to develop meaningful customer experiences and apply ‘Big D’ design principles to create innovative business solutions for outstanding commercial outcomes, including product design, service design and experience design.”

Bob Price is also taking the lead on SMART

SMART will draw on digital, technology and design services from McCann, The Red Republic and the addition of JSA Creative’s capabilities.

Lilley said: “This is perhaps SMART’s most exciting iteration as a business very much of its time. At a point when so many brands and companies are questioning so much about how they must evolve to meet these challenging times, I couldn’t be more excited to be partnering with Dom and Bob to help meet this opportunity head on.”

Walsh was previously the managing director of Landor, where he oversaw the rebrandings of The Australian Open Tennis, IAG Insurance, City of Melbourne, Coca-Cola, P&G and Arnott’s.

Price was formerly the ECD of Leo Burnett in Moscow and Chicago. He has worked on blue chip clients including Samsung, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Disney and Diageo.


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