McCann appoints new Sydney MD and eyes expansion of its media business



McCann Australia has appointed Whybin\TBWA group head Adam Lee to the newly created role of managing director of the Sydney office, Mumbrella can reveal.

Lee joins the agency following nearly two years at Whybin\TBWA working on accounts such as Tourism New Zealand, Hahn SuperDry, TAB and Luxbet.

However, he came to the attention of McCann’s national CEO Ash Farr during his 11 years with Ogilvy & Mather as business director, where he worked in competition with them on the Coca-Cola brands account of which is split between the two agencies.

Farr told Mumbrella: “Whilst strategically it was on our radar, it was more about finding the right person. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Adam in the past, be it not as a colleague but as a competitor which brings an interesting dynamic to it.

“He fitted the bill very much of what we were looking for, we started having a chat and it was a meeting of minds. This wasn’t a global search, it was finding the right person for this business. That’s what we did and we’re lucky enough he agreed.”

Commenting on his decision to join the agency Lee said: “Ash and I’ve known each other for a number of years going back to the Coke days and I’ve always admired the way Ash has gone about his business and conversely I know McCann from a competitive point of view, McCann had half the Coke portfolio, Ogilvy had the other half, there was always a good-natured rivalry there.

“The guys have done a great job over the last four years since they took over from the previous management but there is potential for further growth, particularly for the Sydney office. It was more an alignment of minds and a terrific opportunity to be part of a great agency.”

On his ambitions for the agency Lee said was focused on what it currently has to offer before looking to add new clients to the roster, which currently features the likes of Holden, Nespresso, Coca-Cola, MasterCard, and Nestle.

“It’s kind of two-fold. One of which is to capitalise on the business that is here first and foremost before looking for new big fish to bring in,” Lee said.

Coke“There’s some great existing relationships, the Coca-Cola portfolio, some terrific brands there, there’s Cereal Partners Worldwide and there’s MasterCard as well, three chunky big pieces of business which allow you to do some really good work.

“I’d be looking to make sure we capitalise on those first, and then obviously there will be an expectation that we are continuing to grow.”

Asked whether there would be a focus on awards Lee was adamant any awards entries would be about recognising good and effective work, adding: “I fundamentally don’t believe in chasing metal for the sake of chasing metal.

“It’s a game, and I’ve seen too many people play the game and win it and play the game and lose it, it can fall each way.

“Awards are fair recognition of excellent work, so yes, absolutely I would want to see awards from both a creative and effectiveness point of view.”



The appointment of Lee rounds out the management structure of McCann following the appointment of Adrian Mills to the managing director role the Melbourne office in July last year.

“It was largely about replicating the Melbourne structure,” Farr said.

On Mills’ appointment last year Farr added: “That MD role was largely vacant, so between Ben (Lilley, McCann Worldgroup CEO) and myself we were doing the shuffle around Melbourne. We didn’t feel we were doing the job it justified. It’s true a business needs a hands on MD and Adrian’s showing to be doing a fantastic job and again we wanted to do the same thing in Sydney.

“This business is focussed on growth, we want to capture and maximise that opportunity, we also have some fantastic clients and we want to do better and better work that gets rewarded and acknowledged in terms of its effectiveness. It’s not necessarily a complex business but it’s one that needs a lot of hard work.”

As the agency looks ahead, national chairman Lilley has made it clear the focus is on the agency’s push into media, with media billings currently accounting for 10 per cent of the Sydney office’s revenue.

When asked if the agency would be looking to pitch alongside more traditional media agencies, Farr did not rule it out.

“Certainly the talent that we’ve got here, I would definitely pit them up against anyone else, I don’t have any issues with that,” he said.

“We haven’t set out to have a separate media offering, it is more about having an integrated media offering, it depends upon the opportunities and how they present themselves.

“But certainly we have a number of clients that are excited about having an agency that understands their business from end to end and stop that kind of nonsense on who you brief first and what comes first and we go back to the scenario that the best thinking comes first.”

Farr said the integrated media offering, which offers clients both media strategy, planning and buying, is “not appropriate” for all clients, but the agency has been “positively surprised” by the uptake.

“Quite frankly there isn’t any need for us to go after media pitches which at times, as are all pitches, are a beauty parade of one shape or another,” he said.

McCann is offering strategy and planning in house, while the trading desk they are using runs through a partner media agency.

“We’re still finding our feet with it, it’s exciting. It’s a fledgling business at this time,” he said.

Miranda Ward


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