After the high profile failure of Australia’s first social media agency late last year, today sees the launch of a new attempt, with London-founded We Are Social launching in Sydney as a partnership with media agency PHD, Mumbrella can reveal.
We Are Social Australia will have a foundation team of two – managing director Julian Ward and strategy director Heather Ann Snodgrass.
Ward was communications director at Frontier Australia for four years. Before that he was in the same role at Starcom Sydney. He also worked at agencies in the UK including OMD Interactive and Tribal DDB.
Snodgrass, a founding member of Social Media Club Sydney and a current committee member of Digital Citizens, previously worked in social media roles at Host and Amnesia Razorfish.
The duo will be based at PHD’s offices in Sydney, where their first assignment is a joint project for Hewlett-Packard TSG. However, the partnership is non-exclusive and the two agencies will operate independently of one another.
Ward said: “We are looking forward to working with companies that recognise the necessity of playing a role in shaping the conversations about themselves within the social web. It’s about more than just social networks; the entire web is now social, and the conversations surrounding a brand form part of its identity.”
Snodgrass added: “This space is no longer about those who can afford to take expensive risks with no tangible return on their investment. Smart brands know there’s a need to participate, and demand more for their money than just grandiose ideas. The vision for We Are Social is to offer innovative, creative and effective social media strategy and execution that delivers results for our clients.”
The launch of We Are Social‘s Australian agency follows a lengthy visit to Sydney earlier this year by managing partner Nathan McDonald, who held a series of conversations with potential staff for the launch. He said “We’re incredibly pleased to have Julian and Heather on board.”
Up to now the most high profile attempt to make social media work as an agency model was Photon’s The Population, which had a staff of eight. The Population closed its doors last December.
We Are Social follows a different business model with lower start-up costs than The Population. It launched with a small team in the UK, all of whom worked client-billable hours, although it grew rapidly. It appears to be following a similar strategy here.
We Are Social has since opened offices in Milan and Paris. Among We Are Social’s most high profile work in the UK was its involvement in crisis communications for Eurostar when its trains suffered a series of breakdowns in the Channel Tunnel.
Chris Stephenson, PHD’s strategy director, said: “The partnership ensures that our existing and potential clients get not only access to the best expertise in the field of social media, but that earned media is an integrated element of communication planning at PHD.”