UM goes MIA in Best Place to Work awards as Fairfax sponsorship ends

The annual Best Place to Work Awards is no longer being promoted under a Fairfax brand after last year’s controversy where media agency UM was accused of “gaming” the system to win the under 100 staff category.

GPTWGroup M agencies performed strongly in this year’s awards in both the over 100 staff and the under 100 staff category – but UM was not included on the list with GPTW organisers refusing to say if the agency had entered this year.

The awards were published in a paid insert in the Australian Financial Review with no reference to Fairfax after having run under the BRW banner for the past two years.

Last year’s awards were mired in controversy after media agency UM was initially declared a winner in the 100 people and under category for its national network, before it was then declared the win was for the Sydney office of the agency and the supporting BRW story altered.

Protests were lodged after other national agencies had been told they could not enter their local offices as individual businesses with Maxus, ranked 23rd, one of those challenging UM’s inclusion.

Concerned about the repetitional damage, Fairfax called on GPTW to clarify terms and conditions of entry for future awards.

“We believe the terms and conditions of entry can and should be clearer about eligibility criteria. We have made this point to Great Place to Work,” a Fairfax spokesperson told Mumbrella in the wake of last year’s fiasco.



However, in a statement to Mumbrella today, GPTW managing director Zrinka Lovrencic, denied there had been any requests by Fairfax to clarify the rules.

“In regards to changing their policy, no such changes have been made, nor were changes requested by Fairfax or any other party,” Lovrencic said in a statement.

A spokesperson for GPTW went on to say that awards had always been self-published.

“We have no interest in discussing this further. This happened 12 months ago, and there are 50 companies that have been named best places to work 2016 today that we are focusing on celebrating.

“The partnership with BRW from 2009 to 2015 was for cobranding and first right to publish in exchange for advertising the study. It was a mutually beneficial partnership, that no doubt is a contributor to the success Great Place to Work Australia is today.”

The awards are considered an important staff recruitment and retention tool by many companies, particularly in the highly competitive media and IT sectors.

Group M agencies MEC and Maxus both led the way for agencies in the survey with MEC ranked 7th in companies with over 100 employees and OMD Australia came 10th in the same category, while Maxus came 15th  in companies with under 100 employees.

Other companies in the media and marketing space which performed well included Salesforce which topped the 100 employees of more category, while Sydney brand agency Zinc 5th in the under 100 category. Meltwater was ranked 11th in the same category.

Fairfax Media spokesperson confirmed that the BRW relationship had ended and that the insertion of the awards booklet was purely a “commercial publishing agreement”.


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