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G2’s new GM: we want ‘vice’ clients

Bajzert, Wildman, Smith, Commander

As G2 Australia unveils a new management line up, the agency, which counts British American Tobacco as its largest client, has signaled its intentions to gun for more “vice” advertisers.

Ed Commander joins the WPP direct marketing shop as general manager from the now defunct The Hub Agency.

“Our experience is in vice products,” he told Mumbrella. “We want to look at working on specialist projects with large corporations in categories such as junk food – products high in fat and salt – and also build on our relationships with alcohol clients.”

Joining Commander is his former The Hub Agency colleague Nigel Smith, as direct marketing strategy lead. The duo team up with strategy lead Carolyne Wildman and creative director Leo Bajzert, who caused a stir with an opinion piece he wrote in May that argued that the plain packaging of cigarettes equates to brand theft.

On recruiting for an agency with a tobacco client, Commander said that he must search from a smaller talent pool to grow the agency of 25 staff.

“Fifty per cent of people will never work on tobacco business, and that’s fine,” he said. “But thirty per cent would think about it. We want to hire people who can overcome the moral hurdles and embrace the challenge of working on a vice product.”

The sort of people who work on vice business tend to be “very independent, strong-minded thinkers, who are not wishy-washy,” he added. “We’ve all been to dinner parties, where people say ‘how could you?’ But at the end of the day, it’s only marketing. If people choose to smoke, that’s their choice.”

G2 is an agency in transition after a number of staff changes over the past year. Previous general manager Will McKenzie has gone to TBWA\Russia, while former customer services director Marcus Millgate now works at G2 Korea.

“We’re now on a path to stabilisation, and have a core team of enthusiastic people in place. Now we’ve got the team right, we’re going to market with a new offering,” Commander said.

G2, which is part of the world’s eighth largest marketing network, rolls out new IP and tools in July.

“We’re a small creative agency. But we’re never going to be a maverick boutique agency,” said Commander. “That’s not where I want to take us. I want us to be a professional result-oriented blue chip agency, and that doesn’t mean we can’t be innovative and imaginative.”

He added he did not want to take the agency beyond its core competencies. “We’re not full service. We don’t do PR or events. We have done some above-the-line work for BATA, but we’re not interested in disrupting the relationships of globally-aligned above-the-line creative agencies.”

The Hub Agency folded following the closure of the marketing department of one of its only remaining clients, broadband provider AAPT, which was acquired by iiNET about a year ago.

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