GroupM creates EssenceMediacom globally, Pat Crowley to lead merged 550-person agency

A global move from WPP media investment business GroupM has seen it merge two key media agencies, Essence and Mediacom, to create EssenceMediacom. Locally, the agency will be led by current Essence CEO, Pat Crowley.

As part of the move, current Mediacom CEO in Australia, Yaron Farizon, who has been in the role for less than a year, replacing Willy Pang in May 2021, will now head back to London for a global role within EssenceMediacom.

GroupM’s new look stable

Combining the two agencies will create a 550-person agency locally, GroupM said, with the merger to get underway globally in January 2023, however in Australia, it is set to be put into motion immediately.

This marks the third merger relevant to Essence in just over a year, with WPP initially merging AKQA Media and Ikon Communications in February last year, then merging the new AKQA Media with Essence, formalised on the first day of this year to create the current Essence. Both Ikon Communications and AKQA Media brands were dropped in the process.

The merger with AKQA Media put Essence on equal footing with other GroupM agencies, Mediacom, Mindshare, and Wavemaker in terms of size. Now the creation of EssenceMediacom forms the biggest in the GroupM basket and potentially the second largest media agency in the country behind OMD Australia.

Pat Crowley, now leading 550 EssenceMediacom staff

GroupM has opted to lead the name of the new agency with Essence, which was only acquired by the WPP media group in 2015. CEO of Essence during the acquisition, Christian Juhl is now the global CEO of GroupM, and is seen to be pushing the brand globally, following the success it has found in recent years.

The bringing together of the two agencies has been presented by GroupM as “the expansion of its Essence operation, through the integration of Mediacom”. Questions will certainly be raised about whether the Mediacom brand will eventually be phased out entirely. For now, when asked about whether Essence is being put forward as the lead agency for the future of GroupM, someone close to the matter suggested: “both bring complementary capabilities”, and that this is not the initial plan.

A former senior executive at Mediacom in Australia, who requested not to be named told Mumbrella that this kind of move “would never have happened in the past” with Mediacom “taking on a co-ventured name”, in particular preferencing the Essence name, suggesting previously the agency has been GroupM’s standout brand

Globally, CEO of Essence, Kyoko Matsushita has been promoted to lead WPP Japan as its first national CEO. Matsushita was promoted to the CEO role in 2019 following Juhl’s ascension to the GroupM role. Nick Lawson, current Mediacom global CEO will lead the new agency.

Matsushita, the first country CEO in Japan for WPP

Another senior industry figure locally posed that the move is a “great idea” by GroupM, combining what is a strong reputation globally for Essence with its performance and data capabilities, with the global network and strength of the Mediacom brand, despite the latter potentially “losing its shine” in recent years. The source also suggested that with WPP having “too many brands” in Australia, the move made sense.

CEO of GroupM AUNZ, Aimee Buchanan told Mumbrella that the new agency allows the group to “take the future-facing smarts of Essence and scale it with the depth of capability in Mediacom”.

“With an incredible mix of clients, people and talent, we believe we have the right ingredients to create a very different agency in Australia.”

Buchanan, GroupM’s local boss has seen plenty of change six months into the new role

Buchanan said that while she is excited for Crowley to lead EssenceMediacom, at the same time she wanted to thank Farizon for his impact at Mediacom over the past year, “building capability and transforming the agency”. “I am excited to continue to work with Pat and the team on delivering for our clients and capitalising on the capability that will exist in this newly blended business.”

GroupM said that locally this creates an agency with more than $1 billion in client billings. The merge is bound to create some conflicts along the way, however. The client list will include Coca-Cola, Google (PHD still retains the offline business), CommBank, Airbnb, Uber, Mars, Queensland Government, KFC, and Adidas. Again, someone close to the matter suggested that locally, there are very few client conflicts in Australia.

Earlier this year, the two agencies worked together to retain Mars’ full-service media account, one that is thought to be worth around $20 million locally. It is thought internally that working on Mars, as well as two other global clients, Google and NBCU have shown the two agencies to have an “already successful partnership”, which is now being formalised so additional clients can benefit from it.

This was a strategic decision born out of the already successful partnership between MediaCom and Essence that’s already proven to work, and delivers a solution clients want. The agencies successfully collaborate on 3 global clients – Mars, Google & NBCU, so now it’s being formalised so that additional clients can benefit from it.

Farizon, heading back to London to take on a global role within the agency

For clients like CommBank, which will now have stuck with the brand through its journey from Ikon, to AKQA Media, to Essence, and now EssenceMediacom, it has been a busy 18 months. As one industry source told Mumbrella for an Essence profile earlier this year, the initial move to merge AKQA into GroupM appeared to be more-so “rebadging a car” than the full-scale agency absorption by Essence.

With Farizon on the out just a year after his arrival, it signals a significant senior overhaul since regional CEO Aimee Buchanan’s appointment last July, with Mindshare CEO Katie Rigg-Smith departure to take on the national WPP chief strategy role revealed earlier this year, last week replaced by Maria Grivas. Crowley was appointed as Essence’s first CEO in Australia, with Lesley Edwards, who was CEO of Ikon, and was appointed CEO of AKQA Media following the merger, also left the business.

Farizon will now be tasked with “deploying the new EssenceMediacom proposition” for its biggest global clients”, the group also said that he will support both Crowley and Buchanan with a smooth transition in the coming months.

More directly at an executive level, Mumbrella posed the question of whether there would be further job cuts at an executive level, bringing together two 250+ person agencies. It is understood that while the leadership structure is currently being worked out, it is not a “cost-cutting exercise”.

Additionally, as part of the global move, talent and solutions from Finecast, Xaxis, and GroupM Services – GroupM’s global community of activation experts – will be brought together to form GroupM Nexus.

This topic was discussed on this week’s Mumbrellacast.


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