McCann says ‘We’re not just about Dumb Ways to Die’ as it appoints new business head

Viola and Lilley

Viola and Lilley

McCann Australia has appointed Vince Viola as chief growth officer to lead the agency’s new business push as the agency looks to build on a record breaking awards haul in 2013 driven by Dumb Ways to Die campaign, and picking up new clients including Google and VicHealth.

Despite the awards success the agency was criticised in some parts of the industry for a perceived lack of new business wins, and claims it was relying on Dumb Ways and had not backed it up with other pieces of brilliant creativity.

Chairman and CEO Ben Lilley told Mumbrella these claims were wide of the mark, adding: “The one thing I would say to people criticising the agency’s creative output is we won awards last year across 15 different client campaigns, we won Lions for three different campaigns. Even if you took out Dumb Ways to Die we would have been one of Australia’s most awarded at Cannes and at other awards shows as well.

“If you have a look at the new business record between the state and government wins we had last year plus wins like Google, Bendigo Bank and the other wins we reported through the year we had an incredible new business year.”

Viola returns to Australia after a number of years overseas, and joins McCann from Hong Kong where he had worked for McCann Worldgroup as managing director, EVP for 15 years.

Prior to his time in Hong Kong Viola was a senior partner at Ogilvy & Mather in New York for two years. The last time Viola worked in Australia was in 1996 when he finished up with McCann Erickson Sydney after a four year stint as a group account director.

“We won a huge amount of new business last year throughout the year. McCann Australia had it’s most significant year in growth in over a decade. Obviously the plan is to try and even better that this year,” Lilley said.

New clients added to the roster in 2013 included; Google, Federal Department of Education, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, VicHealth, Hitachi, Australand, Nespresso, Lion Nathan National Foods, L’Oreal Paris digital, Coca-Cola Amatil Hot Beverages, Bendigo Bank, Digisocial, Universities Australia, essie, Bic, Kikki-K Five:am Yoghurt, Pioneer and Spotlight.

The appointment of Viola follows on from the agency appointing Wunderman’s national head of digital Brent Clarke to head up the agency’s data, CRM and digital offering MRM Australia as managing director.

In a statement Viola said: “I couldn’t be more thrilled to be returning not just to Australia, but to the world’s most awarded agency. McCann is producing the most exciting work in the country right now. The agency has an amazing body of work to take to new clients, with integrated case-studies that have been extensively awarded for both their creativity and effectiveness. Plus a first-rate team of talent who I can’t wait to start pitching with. I’d say I’ve got the best new business role in Australia.”

For McCann, Lilley says the appointment is a “significant investment” in its continued growth, and necessary to take the strain off the existing management team which has been responsible for landing new prospects until now.

“It’s no secret that it hasn’t necessarily been the easiest path that we’ve had in terms of turning around the agency to reach the point that we’re at now but the momentum of the business is very clear, just the number of pitch lists we’re on now, the interest in the agency and the ongoing creative work we’re producing is an indication of that,” he said.

“We’re very excited about the year ahead, certainly two years ago it was a very difficult job that we were doing trying to turn around the business on all measures. We’re pleased with what we’ve achieved but the reality is that the real work is just beginning because McCann Australia is in the best position its ever been in to really be able to spur some significant growth and grow into some other client categories that it hasn’t been active in for a long time. That’s what Vince will be looking at.”

And while some in the industry may put McCann’s success down to the Dumb Ways to Die campaign, Lilley says clients are more interested in the agency’s other successes.

“What we’re finding is a lot of clients are interested to know about Dumb Ways to Die and the reasons for its success, but to be honest, they’re more interested in knowing what else the agency has done and I’d say they’re always pleasantly surprised to learn about the other Cannes winning campaigns that we’ve done, The Impossible Orchestra, but also campaigns that are now emerging like the 100 Day Program for Victorian Responsible Campaign,” he said.

“We’re finding the real interest we’re getting from clients is in the number of other campaigns, particularly strong behavioural change campaigns, that are as equally creatively successful and impactful.”

Viola’s appointment was immediate and he is now settling into his Sydney role.

Miranda Ward


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