Ian Perrin’s best of 2019: The importance of finding people who don’t give a shit about advertising

To end 2019 on a positive note, Mumbrella's Brittney Rigby asks a number of media agency chief executives to share their best part of the year, both professionally and personally. Here, Speed's Ian Perrin shares his highlights.

Ian Perrin’s soccer team “[doesn’t] give a shit” about advertising. And that’s just the way he likes it.

Three years ago, when he started independent media agency Speed, he realised he was in control of his own work/ life balance. So, he joined Curl Curl FC, the club his daughter and son play at every Saturday. “We used to be shit and we still are shit, but got a little bit lucky this year,” he tells me. By “lucky”, he means they got into the grand final, “thought we’d be thrashed”, and then, like any good underdog, won, 4-0.

“At my age, that was pretty cool,” he laughs.

“There [was] lots of beer drunk and everyone was quite excited. [It’s] weird to see a bunch of mid 40 year old men get so excited about something so insignificant in the greater scheme of the world.”

But the smallness of winning a local soccer competition (Manly-Warringah’s over 35s, division five) speaks to something bigger. It meant connecting with his children, and forming new friendships with people who simply “don’t give a shit” about advertising.

“We do get caught in the advertising bubble a little bit and a lot of my friends are in the industry, because it just makes sense. My partner used to be my boss,” he explains.

“So even my personal life is stuck within the industry. And I think meeting people totally outside of the industry, like nobody talks about advertising on the soccer field. And nobody gives a shit. You’re kind of expecting people at the end of the game, when they find out you’re in advertising, to ask you what you do or about the latest campaign and literally nobody’s interested, they don’t give a shit.

“It’s different relationships, it’s different friendships and it’s different conversations to have with people outside of our industry that I think is is really important.”

Perrin had hoped his kids would “stay on after their games to watch me”. It turns out that “watch[ing] a bunch of really old men run around who shouldn’t be running around is not the top of the list, unfortunately”.

Perrin also visited Tasmania for the first time this year, and it was an unexpected, unassuming highlight. His family travelled around the state in a camper van for two weeks – from Port Arthur, up to the Bay of Fires, across to Launceston, around to Cradle Mountain and down to Bruny Island – with two other families. But when the trip was suggested, he didn’t think much of it.

“I was like, ‘I’m sure there’s better things to do, or better places to go’. But now I’m absolutely hooked. I just love it. It’s the best of Australia, there’s wonderful seafood, there’s wonderful wine, the people are friendly, it’s laid back, the air feels cleaner down there, for whatever reason, you’re away from everything, but not too far from anything,” he says.

“We absolutely loved it, couldn’t believe how good it was.”

The camper van “was a little bit bad on the back” by the end, but apart from that, he was “so blown away”.

As for the work part of Perrin’s work/ life balance, he explains that “the most rewarding work that you do, or the work that you’re most excited about” is the work which makes a difference.


“We’ve been working with Dry July for two years now. And when we started working with them, they were getting $4m in donations. And over time, we’ve increased that from $4m two years ago to $7m last year to $11m this year, which is one of the most incredible case studies I’ve ever been involved in in my advertising career,” he says.

Social activity had driven Dry July to the $4m mark, “but they needed something else to add to that”. Enter Speed, and a bit of ad spend in TV, outdoor and radio. The investment wasn’t big, but the impact was.

“It was just purely a case of advertising being incredibly effective. Professionally, for me, when you are part of those sorts of programs, you do get to believe that what we do can make a difference,” Perrin offers.

The charity “had the belief that advertising could change their business, and they were right”.

And then, of course, there’s Duncan Parfitt. Late last month, Perrin revealed Spark Foundry’s chief operating officer would be joining him at Speed, as partner.

Perrin and Parfitt

“For me, it’s massive on a personal level because, while it’s been wonderful running my own agency, it’s been somewhat lonely in some regards and having a business partner who can come in and make all the decisions with me, as opposed to having to make my own decisions, is a massive transformational time within Speed so it’s both a professional and a personal milestone for the year,” Perrin says.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do it a year ago. So doing it now when we’ve had a really good year and a successful year and the model seems to be resonating well. The timing’s really right.”


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