Fern Canning departs Mango after 12 months to oversee brand divisions at Edelman

Mango managing director Fern Canning has been lured back to Edelman to oversee the brand businesses of the agency, returning to the agency after just one year with DDB-aligned PR agency Mango Sydney.

Fern Canning

Canning returns to the ‘family’ of Edelman after a year at Mango

Her return to the agency marks newly-appointed Edelman Sydney CEO Steven Spurr’s first big hire, which he stated previously to Mumbrella was about his ambition to make Edelman Sydney one of the best places to work in Australia and a “top talent destination”.

“My vision was always to be the best place to work – where we work on the best brands for the best clients, because ultimately, then, you do your best work, the team enjoys it, they deliver amazing work for the clients and the clients are happy. It’s a virtuous circle that looks after itself,” Spurr said.


Spurr wants Edelman Sydney to be more client orientated

“When I looked at our business I wanted us to be even more oriented to our client requirements. We get client requests in two ways: a reputation-based request – be that public affairs, B2B, employee engagement or corporate; and then we have a selection of brand-related requests – be they digitally led, peer-to-peer led or campaign led, and I wanted to bring those most important client-centred ways under the leadership of someone so that we have a really united view across the agency.

“Fern’s role is to be MD across all of the brand businesses, to keep an eye on making sure we’re bringing the best work across the business. I’m very fortunate that she knows what Edelman does and all the different offers that we have and can sew it together and be that client-centred senior counsel because she’s got sight of all the offerings on the brand side of the agency.”

Canning is supported by Ian Pope who looks after the reputation side of the business and the Melbourne office.

On how her new role is different to her previous Edelman position of GM consumer marketing, Canning said Steve’s vision unites Edelman’s integrated offering in a tighter way.

“It’s actually really different as although they’ve always had this integrated offering, it wasn’t as together as Steve’s vision. This is exactly where PR agencies are moving to, it’s much more competitive,” she said.

“Although I looked after the PR side of the business before that meant working with the social or digital or content team, this time it’s actually saying it’s not about everyone having these silos – we’re one big team and that’s how we should be working, moving forward.

“It’s a far bigger role, but also one which recognises the importance of integrated work and collaboration. In some ways it’s not that different but in others it’s a much bigger opportunity. It’s exciting, it’s like coming home.”

On why she’s returning to Edelman after just one year away, Canning says she wanted to be part of the team to help bring Spurr’s vision to realisation.

“Mango is a great agency but there’s always been something with me that stuck with Edelman.

“Edelman truly resonates my work ethic and values. In bringing Steve over from the network, Edelman Australia has found a leader who is inspiring, who is dynamic, who is collaborative in his approach with the team and client-centric in his approach to the work.

“His vision is one that meets client needs now and for the future. It was Michelle Hutton who introduced me to Steve, and when I understood his vision, I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and watch; I knew I wanted to be a part of bringing that vision to realisation with both Steve and Ian Pope.

“It feels like the right fit, it feels like I’m coming home.”

Canning’s 12 months with Mango has given her a greater appreciation of the integrated work between a PR agency and a creative agency.

“I’ve gained greater insight into the intricacies of running a business. I’ve also gained an even stronger appreciation for the great work that comes from collaboration across multiple disciplines, being part of DDB Group,” she said.

“It’s been a good time to understand myself as a leader, and I’ve learned that I’m a ‘people first’ leader, and I know that Steve is, too, which bodes well for the future.”

Mango is currently examining its leadership options, with the team in the interim to be led by DDB Sydney GM, Nicole Taylor.

DDB Group Australia CEO, Andrew Little, said: “Mango Sydney’s Fern Canning has stepped down from her role as managing director. We are well underway with the recruitment process to find a new Mango Sydney MD that will lead our flagship PR arm across public relations, sponsorship and experiential.

“In the interim, our highly respected DDB Sydney managing director, Nicole Taylor, will lead the business, supported by the strong senior Mango team of head of corporate brand Tina Alldis and group account director Lizzie Culverhouse.


Taylor will oversee Mango until Canning’s replacement is appointed

Canning said: “Mango is a great PR agency. We’ve built a talented team, had great client wins and received industry recognition with multiple awards for our work. The senior leadership team is a strong one, and I’ve no doubt they’ll continue the great work and momentum that we’ve built together this past year.”

Canning is Spurr’s first major appointment since joining the office, replacing former CEO Tim Riches, coming in to the agency at the same time as Matthew Gain, then chief operating officer, departed for a role with Amazon-owned Audible.

The changes at Edelman have resulted in industry rumours suggesting staff drop-out, a suggestion Spurr denied saying bringing Canning back into the fold is not about reassuring the team but rather she was the right person for the job.

“That’s a welcome by-product of the decision but it’s not the decision. Whenever you come in as a new person you have to feel it, you have to understand it and you have to know how you can change it in the way it needs to be changed, and that takes a little time,” he said.

“We’ve had a couple of people leave but no higher than what I’d expect in a normal working agency month. With change brings opportunity – we have amazing talent within the agency but I also need to build out the talent within and bring in new staff to continue that journey together of being really client-focused on those brand missions and those reputation missions.

“The reason I brought Fern back is I believe she is one of the best people that deliver brand building and brand expanding activations and activities across the spectrum in this market, and she knows Edelman. The important thing is being able to deliver the right work for the client.”

Spurr added that more than half the people that have left have gone to Edelman offices overseas.

Edelman logo

“It’s a great sign of what Edelman is about, it is like joining a family. As an organisation it encourages you to move around and build your skills diversely,” he said.

On other changes Spurr will be focusing on growing the agency’s talent pool.

“The organisational structure will be the brand and reputation focus with speciality business units below that can focus on the specialty needs of our clients. There won’t be any major structural changes but I’m always looking out for great talent to join and I hope that there will be more as we do need to build out our talent inside but I do want to bring some new people in for the journey as well,” he said.

Edelman clients include Audi, Samsung, KFC, Coles and Adobe, while Mango’s clients include Tourism Australia, Red Bull, National Australia Bank and ANZ and is the incumbent on the McDonald’s PR account, which is currently at pitch.

Canning finishes with Mango at the end of July and begins at Edelman on August 22.


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