McCann confirms Smart acquisition, Lilley to replace Mort as CEO

Leaving McCann after 6 years: Mort

McCann has confirmed the acquisition of Smart, as revealed by Mumbrella almost two weeks ago.

The move will mean the exit of McCann Australia’s CEO and Chairman Chris Mort, also revealed by Mumbrella last week. He will be replaced by Ben Lilley, currently Smart’s CEO.

“I’m going to freshen up and work on my golf handicap,” Mort told Mumbrella. “I still love the business. The hunger is still there. After a break, I will be back.”

He added: “We’ve had to endure a number of massive client losses as a result of multinational alignment and no fault of our own. Microsoft going meant losing $5.3m in revenue. We also lost Reckitt Benckiser and Bacardi. It hasn’t been easy. But I was very satisfied that we were able to fill those holes.”

McCann’s director of business strategy Helen Karabassis and McCann Melbourne’s MD James Graham will also be replaced by executives from Smart and leave the merged agency.

McCann’s ECD Michael Raso will now report to John Mescall, Smart’s ECD, who will oversee overall creative output.

The announcement:

New York, NY September 28, 2011 – McCann Worldgroup Australia announced today the acquisition of SMART, an award-winning creative shop and one of the largest independent ad agencies in Australia and New Zealand. The combined operation will make McCann Erickson one of Australia’s largest agencies. The new entity assumes the name McCann Erickson Australia and will operate in the current McCann Worldgroup offices.

SMART is owned and led by CEO Ben Lilley, Executive Creative Director John Mescall and Managing Partner and National Planning Director Ashley Farr. SMART has offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland and Auckland and has extensive experience across a range of local and global clients including adidas, ANZ Bank, Coca Cola, Dulux, Ferrero, Levi’s, News Limited, SEEK, Specsavers, Unilever, Vodafone and numerous government agencies.

Effective immediately, Ben Lilley assumes the role as Chief Executive Officer of the combined operation, replacing Chris Mort. Ashley Farr will oversee the Sydney office and lead the planning discipline.

Commenting on the leadership transition, Chris Mort said, “McCann is an organization with a tremendous global heritage. Ben and the outstanding team at SMART are an exceptional complement to our network and this partnership will give McCann Worldgroup locally every opportunity to realize its capabilities.”

Charles Cadell, Regional Managing Director McCann Worldgroup SEA and Australasia commented, “SMART has an amazing reputation and is famous for its irreverent, youthful and exuberant advertising and its vibrant media footprint. The collective genius of SMART’s exceptional local expertise combined with the scale of McCann Worldgroup provides an even greater foundation to produce groundbreaking work from the local to the global stage. SMART considers itself a “borderless” agency that fits in seamlessly with the McCann Worldgroup mission of integration.”

CEO Ben Lilley said: “SMART has proudly been an independent agency with an outstanding track record of growth and creative excellence over the last ten years. Uniting with McCann Worldgroup was the perfect next step in our evolution. Our aspirations, vision and principles are absolutely aligned.  The combined competencies of our agencies coupled with the global footprint of McCann Worldgroup creates an unrivalled strategic and creative offering across theAustralian and New Zealand markets.”


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