If agencies were bands…

The other day I was chatting to the boss of a new agency that’s about to launch.

I asked her what she wanted her agency to stand for. If it was a band, which would the agency be, was my question.

Which then got me to thinking about which bands Australia’s existing agencies would represent. As I began to make notes, I began to realise that it doesn’t look good…  

Starting relatively gently, BMF are U2 – hugely successful, but these days also somewhat corporate.

In the same vein, DDB are Coldplay – lots of popular work and a likeable front man albeit with no sign of danger to scare the clients.

Saatchi & Saatchi

Saatchi & Saatchi

Then comes Saatchi & Saatchi, who are Queen. They’re still going, but haven’t been the same since they lost their front man.

Speaking of Nobby, Droga5 are Wings. Much like when Paul McCartney left The Beatles, Nobby at Droga5 isn’t Nobby at Saatchi & Saatchi.

GPY&R Sydney, meanwhile is Leonard Cohen. 75 years old and a bit glum.

So which agency is Silverchair? A band which was big internationally, then focused on the home market but is now growing a global following again. That’d be the internationally refocused Publicis Mojo under the creative leadership of former JWT global bigwig Craig Davis.



Speaking of Aussie classics, who gets to be AC/DC? That’s Banjo. An Aussie agency unashamedly doing good old Aussie work. It’s not into fashionable stuff like social media, but it’s got a big following and more than does the job.

In the same vein, the Australian head-quartered Host gets to be Cold Chisel.

Then there’s Kanye West. Big ego, but successful and talked about too. That’d be BWM in the guise of Rob Belgiovane.

How about Cummins Nitro, or Sapient Nitro as they have been since the departure of creative inspiration Sean Cummins. Much like Jefferson Starship becoming Starship, it’s still a strong line up, but it’s not the same.

So what to make of Clems? Perhaps Clemenger are Bruce Springsteen – they should be old enough to be a fading star, but remain relevant.

The Glue Society is Bjork – impossible to put in a box.

And the founders of  Three Drunk Monkeys have found success beyond their home ground of advertising with TV sitcom 30 Seconds. Much like The Monkees had both hit songs and a TV sitcom.

In creative terms there are few high profile male-female creative double acts. Which leaves CRC‘s Rebecca Carrasco and Dejan Rasic as the White Stripes.

In Leo Burnett, front man Todd Sampson is arguably more famous for being on screen with The Gruen Transfer than he is for his day job. Much like Russell Crowe, somewhat better known for being on screen than his former membership of 30 Odd Foot Odd Of Grunts.

Then comes The Hallway. Just as Robbie Williams did far better after he got kicked out of Take That, Jules Hall is making his own way after departing NetX, including picking up joint gold at Cannes last year.

Speaking of going it alone, Andy McKeown‘s success with Bulldozer after departing JWT replicates the career trajectory of George Michael after Wham.

Mind you, JWT is perhaps more like Duran Duran – big internationally and remembering the glories of the past.



So who gets arguably the worst billing of the lot then as Status Quo? Blasting out the same couple of chords that were big a couple of decades ago? It’s hard to go beyond Euro RSCG, albeit with the saving grace of the talented Rowan Dean.

Meanwhile, the musician who was the biggest surprise package of last year was Britain’s Got Talent’s Susan Boyle. And who delivered one of adland’s biggest surprises last year by taking a stake in Grey Sydney? That’s be the equally talented Jay Furby.

And who would surprise the critics if they made a comeback? That’d be the somewhat troubled The Furnace, the Vanilla Ice of the advertising world.

Most of the current buzz around Lowe Hunt, meanwhile, is for their work for Football Federation Australia. Which invites comparisons with footie-obsessed Rod Stewart.

McCann is Bryan Adams – was bigger in the past than today today but still fairly successful if not exactly sexy. Both have just turned 50.

How about The Works? They’re the cheeky chappies PJ & Duncan (remember Let’s Get Ready To Rumble?).

How about the strategy agencies? Naked are The Beastie Boys. In their heyday they generated plenty of outrage but these days are virtually part of the establishment.

Tongue (Ikon’s spin-off digital agency) would like to be in that strategy space. Sadly they proved to be the Milli Vanilli of the media world when we caught them astroturfing our comments thread with positive comments about their own new website. In case you don’t remember, Milli Vanilli had their Grammy Award withdrawn after it emerged that someone else had sung the lyrics for them.

Then there’s Bellamy Hayden. They’ve seen some changes but Simon Bellamy and Phil Hayden are still together. Much like Simon & Garfunkel.

Which brings us on to the media agencies.

Mitchells is the Barry White experience. We know there’s a band involved somewhere, but it’s all about the big man at the front.

Toby Jenner

Toby Jenner

Mediacom is where the analogy begins to stretch a bit, in that we select comedian Harry Hill on the flimsy justification that that he sings a bit. But mainly that he shares the same taste in large collars as boss Toby Jenner.

OMD are New Order. In the same way that Joy Division was just the beginning, despite the departure of front man Mark Coad, the agency still seems set for great things.

Ikon are Chumbawumba. As they demonstrated with Commonwealth Bank and Vodafone, if you try to knock them down, they get back up again.

Mark Holden

Mark Holden

PHD, meanwhile, are Moby. Like PHD’s Mark Holden, there’s a clever, bald front man, who would probably be interesting to have at a dinner party.

As this analogy is stretching to breaking point, I’m going to stop before I turn to PR agencies and digital agencies, although your suggestions are of course welcome.

As for the Rolling Stones, I think that position may be vacant.


Tim Burrowes


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.