Hatched expands to Sydney with retail media focus; Mike Wilson onboards as chairman

Independent media agency Hatched is to continue its growth, expanding to Sydney with Australian industry veteran Mike Wilson joining the setup as chairman of the new office, Mumbrella can reveal.

Fresh from winning Mumbrella’s Media Agency of the Year, the agency that doubled in headcount over the pandemic period will open its doors in Surry Hills with a focus on the growing retail media sector. To aid this push, Simon Porter has also joined Hatched as head of retail from Havas, where he has led its retail agency H/Commerce since its domestic launch in 2019.

New recruits: Wilson and Porter bring plenty of experience to Hatched’s Sydney venture

Both have experience in setting up new agency ventures in the local market, Wilson as founder and chairman of Naked Communications and also founder, CEO, and later chairman of Havas Media Group domestically.

With its focus on retail, the agency will also leverage Porter’s experience having sold retail and shopper marketing business BD Network to Havas six years ago, which was later rolled into H/Commerce. Porter additionally launched Iris Worldwide in Australia, as well as heading up retail for The Marketing Store in both London and Sydney.

Speaking to Mumbrella, Wilson said he has got to know Jack Byrne, founder and managing director of Hatched “really well” over the past five or six years, as well as getting to know the Hatched business on top of that. His history with Porter also goes back “probably 15 years, over a number of different iterations, going back to my time at Naked”.

“Frankly, as proven by your judges, Hatched is one of the hottest agencies in the country, and Jack rang me up last year when he knew I was doing a few different things, which I still am, some board staff and some other consulting things, and said ‘look Hatched Melbourne’s going so bloody well it would be remiss of us to not put a flag in the ground in Sydney as well, would you be up for helping us start there?'”

Since leaving Havas a year ago, Wilson has taken on a role on the board at influencer marketing agency Hypetap, as well as more recently joining growth consultancy BeingIconic as non-executive director and strategic advisor.

Mumbrella Media Agency of the Year

In his role as chairman, Wilson will be leading Hatched’s recruitment in the Sydney market, as well as supporting and fostering the next generation of the agency’s – and industry’s – talent.

“The timing is brilliant,” he continued. “We are really hopeful that we can make a bit of a name for ourselves, not just in Sydney, but as the extension of the Hatched business which is rightfully recognised as one of the best agencies in the country.

“I love Indies, I love starting things, and I love growing people. Those are probably my favorite things, and this is the perfect opportunity to deliver all of those.”

On the specificity of the agency, Porter said “the whole retail media space is obviously taking off at the moment and it’s an area that I’ve been working in for many, many years.”

“Mike and I have always wanted to do something in that space together and for just various reasons it hasn’t happened, so it just felt like with Jack’s investments elsewhere as well there’s a real opportunity to make a difference here.”

Two months ago, Byrne set up Zitcha, a new independent retail media platform, alongside Troy Townsend who has taken on the CEO role.

Byrne [left] alongside his Zitcha co-founder, Townsend

Wilson added: “One of the cliches in the world of agencies that I’ve come across many times is talking about the agency of the future or the new agency model or people pontificating about what’s broken, and to be honest, I don’t think that’s an appropriate conversation. I think what you try and do is reconfigure the services to be appropriate to what’s relevant at the time, and there’s no doubt that retail is front and centre right now.”

“Rather than fall into the trap of just taking somebody and allocating them to retail because that’s the hot topic at the moment, it’s much better to work with someone who’s steeped in experience, and has worked in that category for a long time and knows it inside out.”

Byrne said there will be no formal partnership between Hatched and his venture in Zitcha.

“It’ll be two completely separate businesses. Zitcha will work with all agencies, and it’s really through the work that I’ve been doing on Zitcha that has opened my eyes to what the opportunity is and where agencies are on the journey.”

“There is a specific craft to the retail world,” Byrne continued. “Understanding things like joint business plans with the retailers, understanding the cycles that suppliers go through and some of the frustrations that suppliers go through, and then where media sits in that space.”

“Really what we are trying to do, and Simon is really the missing link in that chain is, our job as a media agency has always been driving the horse to water and hoping it drinks, but we don’t know if it drinks because we often don’t get the data showing that the horse is drinking, and often the supplier doesn’t know if it is either.”

Talent and growing

Byrne said that it is “by no coincidence” that both Wilson and Porter are “stand up, certified good people in the industry who do good things, look after people in their teams and live to the standards” that Hatched always wants to.

He added he has been reluctant to expand to Sydney so far after seeing other agencies struggle to gel cultures across both markets and successfully instill “what we do”.

One challenge will be continuing to expand, but with the right people that fit the bill for Hatched, which has doubled its staffing since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We’ve done a really good job in establishing a very high standard for people that work in Hatched in Melbourne, but it taps out eventually. So going to a bigger pool means that we can be just as selective, but in that bigger pool.”

“The reason why Mike and Simon are there, and the first to start there, it is because they will be immersed in the Hatched culture, and a lot of my role will be making sure that is carried through from a founder level.”

“There will also be more people that align with our values in that market to ensure that we can grow, rather than just grow for the sake of growth, which is not our intent at all.”

Expanding up the Hume

As Byrne said, it has sometimes proven a challenge in expanding from Melbourne to Sydney, Wilson added, “one of the benefits is that I have done it a few times before – and make plenty of mistakes. So we’ll have learned from those”.

“I tried to set up a Melbourne office for both my last firms that I worked for and it took a few goes to get it working well, eventually successfully in both cases. But here one of the challenges in taking what is such a successful Melbourne, culturally vibrant agency, is it’s hard to just transport that. You can’t just say this is the formula, now go and be the same. You can’t do that.”

“So in some ways, we’ll of course be our own flavor of that. But the reality is that the culture is just outstanding, and it is what really separates Hatched from the rest. It’s very inspirational actually.”

Porter added that both his experience setting up in Melbourne with Iris, and Wilson’s Naked Communications are examples of agencies that had while different, distinct and robust cultures that worked really well.

“For years later you’re getting people that still remember those places as the best places they worked at. So I think it’s taking all the good things about Hatched in Melbourne, applying them to a Sydney setting and then getting in those type of people that live and work in Sydney.”

“If ever there was an example of a business that lives up to the old cliché of ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’, it is Hatched,” said Wilson. “It’s so powerful.”

Speaking about its win at the 2022 Mumbrella Awards, last week Adrian Roeling, Virginia Scully, and Andrew Pascoe joined the Mumbrellacast. You can listen to the full interview below.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.