Former CEO Ben Lilley to acquire McCann Australia

Former agency CEO Ben Lilley is assuming ownership of Interpublic Group’s McCann Australia – part of McCann Worldgroup. The agency will still have access to the parent company, but will operate independently in Australia.

Lilley stepped down as CEO and chairman of McCann at the start of 2018. He joined the agency in 2011 following the sale of his agency SMART to McCann.

In 2016 he added the title of creative leadership chair for Asia Pacific.

Ben Lilley is acquiring McCann Australia, two years after departing as its CEO

The acquisition will include SMART, McCann Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast and its PR business The Red Republic.

Lilley said that the agency will continue to have access to the McCann Worldgroup network and global clients but will operate as an independent in Australia.

“Creativity has been the driving force throughout my career and I believe that is what empowers successful entrepreneurial businesses. Australia is one of the world’s leading creative hubs and I’m very excited to now be able to take over ownership of McCann’s full suite of integrated agency businesses in this key market,” Lilley said.

“I had a great experience working with McCann and I am keen to have all the advantage of being a part of the McCann network with its global resources, working for McCann global clients, but also having the opportunity of being flexible and fast moving to meet local market demands as an Australian independent.”

Lilley’s time at McCann saw the agency produce the lauded and highly-awarded “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign for Metro Trains.

The campaign reached 2.3m views on YouTube in just 48 hoursmaking it at the time the most viral Australian brand video of all time.

At the time of his departure in 2018, Lilley was relocating to France with his family. His statement at the time said that he was ready for a break.

“Having run SMART for 12 years and now McCann for six years, I’m ready for a proper break. I’m grateful to the many awesome people I’ve worked with in this time who’ve made our businesses such great successes. I’m also grateful for the many equally awesome opportunities I’ve been able to enjoy with McCann, especially in my APAC creative role,” he said.

“I’m pleased to be able to hand over to our incoming CEO an agency that’s in such great shape, with a talented management team across our four Australian offices. McCann’s momentum here and across the globe is clear to see and I know our business will continue to go from strength to strength. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

In May 2019, it was revealed that Lilley had invested into freelancer marketplace Cavalry Freelancing.

Harris Diamond, Chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup, said Lilley will help the agency succeed in Australia.

“Ben’s deep knowledge of the Australian market combined with his experience in working closely with the McCann network positions this new partnership very well to succeed in Australia’s evolving market. We look forward to the creative energy and vision that he will be bringing back to the agency and its clients,” Diamond said.

Alex Lubar, president of McCann Worldgroup APAC, welcomed Lilley back into the McCann family.

“The change of ownership will help the operation to better tap into local expertise, talent and creativity while still leveraging McCann Worldgroup’s integrated creative and strategic capabilities. We are pleased to be welcoming Ben back to the McCann family and know that he’s absolutely the right person to partner with us in taking forward the business for McCann and our clients in Australia,” Lubar said.


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