M&C Saatchi names Woolies leads as McFarlane takes long service leave

M&C Saatchi has appointed a new creative team to lead its Woolworths account, with Shelley Parsons appointed as executive creative director and Ben O’Brien appointed as deputy executive creative director.

M&C Saatchi founding creative director Tom McFarlane, who recently celebrated 25 years at the agency, is taking long-service leave, and the duo will be working on the account in his absence.

L to R: Ben O’Brien and Shelley Parsons

Parsons joins from Levi Strauss & Co in San Francisco, having been overseas for the past 20 years. The most recent title she held there was director, global brand creative for Dockers, Denizen from Levi’s, Signature by Levi Strauss. She has also spent time at DDB Group San Francisco and Publicis Groupe in New York.

In the new position, Parsons will lead Greenhouse, M&C Saatchi’s bespoke model for client Woolworths.

On her new role, Parsons said: “I couldn’t be more excited to partner with Ben to help drive the ambition of the iconic Woolworths brands. The work the entire team has done over the past few years has been transformational, and the appetite to explore even further is real and ongoing. Being back home in Australia is just the cherry on top for me.”

O’Brien ran his own agency, O’Shea & O’Brien, for 6 years before it was merged into Banjo Advertising over 5 years ago. Banjo Advertising then became Bastion Banjo following its acquisition by Bastion, and was recently renamed Bastion Creative. O’Brien joins from Bastion Creative, where he had held the title of creative director since 2016.

“I’m absolutely stoked to partner with Shelley and the fantastic Woolworths team to help steer this truly iconic Australian brand. What an honour. The whole Greenhouse has been incredibly welcoming. They’re the perfect combination of talented and nice and there are some really exciting developments in the works. I couldn’t be happier,” said O’Brien.

M&C Saatchi chief creative officer Cam Blackley commented: “I’m really pleased to be able to finally announce Shelley and Ben as the new creative leaders of The Greenhouse. Shelley is a complete Unicorn. In her time at Levi’s she revolutionised their in-house creative offering; building teams of makers who brought culturally relevant ideas to market at speed at a global level. She’s also a proven leader with great vision as to how modern brands should show up and the whole Group will benefit from her expertise. In thinking about the shape of the work we want to make, Ben just made sense as the perfect 2iC. He’s not only a natural leader and entrepreneur but is a class writer that completely understands the Aussie tone of voice so critical to the Woolworths brand. He also created the ‘Tall Jan is malicious’ spot for All Bran, that still makes me laugh. These two have hit the ground running already and we’re all pumped to have them onboard.”

Woolworths Group group creative and brand director Nick Chapman said: “We’re thrilled to welcome Shelley and Ben to the Woolworths team. With a powerful combination of local and global experience, and agency and brand-side success, we’re incredibly excited about the impact their combined creative leadership will have on Woolworths Group.”

The appointments follow Krystyna Frassetto’s promotion to managing director of M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment.

After his long-service leave has ended, McFarlane will bid farewell to M&C Saatchi in the first half of 2022.


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