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Crown Resorts’ new chief marketer hands $30M media account to Initiative

Crown Resorts has landed on its new media agency following a competitive pitch process decided by its new chief marketer, Yolanda Uys, Mumbrella can reveal.

The appointment will see Initiative become the brand’s new media agency of record as it looks to continue the next chapter of its transformation, reinforcing its entertainment offering as the gambling sector faces increasing scrutiny.

It marks another substantial win for the IPG Mediabrands agency, which last year picked up Sanitarium, Priceline, Fantastic Furniture and Cricket Australia. While Initiative did not confirm the value of the account, it is understood that Crown’s media spend was previously as high as $30 million.

Notably, the outcome sees the media account move away from the dentsu’s Carat for the first time since the entertainment group’s 1994 launch.

A dentsu spokesperson confirmed to Mumbrella that the agency “resigned the Crown Resorts media account in October”.

They continued: “We wish Crown and the team the very best in the future and thank them for many years of partnership.”

Speaking to Mumbrella, Initiative CEO Melissa Fein explained that after working previously with Crown on media planning and strategy, the win opened up a “more buoyant relationship” between Initiative and Crown Resorts, with an expanded full service remit that will include performance and digital.

Melissa Fein, CEO, Initiative ANZ

Initiative’s prior work with Crown included its ‘Here’s Where Things Get Interesting’  brand campaign launched in partnership with creative agency The Monkeys in September. It was the company’s first new brand platform in close to a decade, encapsulating a strategic repositioning in the wake of a Victorian Royal Commission in 2022 and a hefty $450 million fine from the Federal Court of Australia the following year, for “egregious” breaches of anti-money laundering laws.

Fein explained that the opportunity to pitch for the full service media account came about around the time Initiative was working on the campaign, so the agency decided to “throw [their] hat in the ring”.

“As a proud Melburnian, I’ve always seen Crown as an iconic brand. Combine that with Initiative’s footprint mirroring Crown’s; our shared belief in the power of culture to grow brands; and all the positive impact we’ve created via our strategic project-based work to-date, it feels like we have all the makings for a powerful partnership.”

The pitch result comes as Crown Resorts welcomes Yolanda Uys as its new executive general manager (EGM) of brand and marketing, after Danielle Keighery resigned from her remit as the casino’s chief brand and corporate affairs officer in September.

Keighery, who was originally poached by Optus for a combined marketing and corporate affairs role, last week announced she had ditched the troubled telecomm ahead of her start date to become Qantas’ new chief corporate affairs and communications.

Uys takes on the title left behind by Adam Ballesty. The former Dominos chief marketer was brought on in a project role with Crown Resorts in early 2023 to overhaul the business’ marketing strategy, and is understood to have initiated and overseen much of the pitch process during his tenure.

Yolanda Uys, EGM brand and marketing, Crown Resorts

Mumbrella understands the entertainment group has since transitioned to a new marketing structure, with Ballesty completing his work with the business as of November 2023.

Uys commenced officially at Crown on 15 January, and in her role will oversee group brand and marketing, media and corporate affairs, guest experience, creative studio, social media and paid media.

She was previously chief marketing officer at wholesome plumbing business Reece Group ANZ, however she is best known for her experience in the FMCG sector, having helmed marketing for Coles’ liquor brands and spent almost five years as Dan Murphy’s head marketer. Her resume also spans senior marketing roles at PZ Cussons, Cadbury, and Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Fein spoke highly of the newly appointed marketer, who is understood to have been ultimately responsible for deciding the outcome of the pitch.

“She’s incredible,” said Fein. “It’s one of those moments where you can see a big bright future of creating great work together.”

Uys also spoke fondly of the impending partnership.

“Crown is part of Australian history and has been a part of the stories that have shaped our cities,” said Uys. “With a refreshed brand identity, re-energised marketing team and a strong appetite for growth, we are set to write the next chapter together. We look forward to partnering with Initiative to unlock strategic growth and tapping into their connected thinking to accelerate business growth and build brand value.”

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