IPG sells creative agency 303 MullenLowe to NZ company Attivo

Interpublic Group has sold a majority of its stake in Australian creative agency 303 MullenLowe and a minority of its stake in sister media agency Mediahub, Mumbrella can reveal.

The purchaser is the fast-growing New Zealand-based holding company Attivo, which is led by Cam Murchison, a former Ogilvy and DDB executive.

Murchison: Beginning a push into Australia

The sale is the third time in less than three years that IPG has sold down its holdings in Australia. In February 2020, IPG sold McCann Australia to former CEO Ben Lilley. And in July 2020, IPG sold brand strategy agency Futurebrand to CEO Richard Curtis.

According to an announcement from IPG: “The move is consistent with MullenLowe Group’s strategy to empower local partners, who are incentivised to deliver market, team and individual skill sets based on market experience. Both new investment structures enable local management to have stakes in the businesses while retaining a close affiliation with the MullenLowe Group network, and IPG more broadly.”

Like IPG’s franchise deals with McCann and Futurebrand, it is likely that the 303 MullenLowe brand will be retained to allow the agency to tap into global clients and capabilities

The deal will double the size of Attivo’s business and give the holding company a presence in Australia for the first time. Attivo owns a number of agency brands in NZ including Harvey Cameron in Christchurch, Farrimond in Auckland, along with screen production production agency Gorilla.

Murchison launched Attivo in 2020 as a parent brand to the marketing services group. Attivo offers capabilities in production, shopper, PR and digital marketing and web design in Auckland and Christchurch. The organisation is also looking to add further capabilities as it expands.

“We’ve been looking to make an investment in Australia for the past three years, but knew it needed to be the right investment,” said Murchison. “We truly believe we’ve found that in 303 MullenLowe and Mediahub. Like us, they have genuinely integrated marketing solutions and a single-minded focus on clients. So, in those respects we already speak the same language. I’ve also been incredibly impressed with 303 MullenLowe’s strategic and creative strength. They punch well above their weight, which is a real credit to the team.”

Cleaver: Future role under discussion

There was no immediate word in the announcement about the roles of the current 303 MullenLowe management team including CEO Nick Cleaver. Interpublic acquired the Perth-based 303 back in 2011 via its agency Lowe. Cleaver, who had been one of the owners of 303, became CEO, in what was effectively a reverse takeover of Lowe. IPG later merged Lowe with Mullen at a global level. Murchison said: “We are currently in discussions with Nick about his future in the business.”

303 MullenLowe’s clients include Budget Direct, Unilever, Audi, Harley Davidson, Crust pizza, HBF and Tourism Fiji.

Mediahub Worldwide Asia-Pacific will continue to be operated independently under the leadership of its APAC MD Andrew Livingston, reporting to Ross Jenkins, Executive Director, Mediahub EMEA and APAC.

“This Australasian group will have strong local knowledge coupled with access to international standards, tools and methodologies,” said Murchison. “What we want to achieve is very simple – we will continue the legacy of these great brands, but through a lens of local ANZ ownership we will invest in the offices, expand services, identify opportunities for collaboration while incentivising the team to achieve their potential and a continuous cycle of growth, on both sides of the Tasman.”


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