McCann regional boss Charles Cadell: this time next year, we’ll be a top three agency

Charles Cadell

McCann’s regional boss Charles Cadell expects the ad agency network’s Australian operation to be a top three agency by this time next year.

He said the agency, which has recently had its first anniversary since the merger with Smart in a reverse takeover, is “chalk and cheese” compared to the McCann of old.

“The issue pre-merger was growth,” Cadell told Mumbrella. “We just weren’t winning new business and bringing in revenue. So any improvement would only come about by squeezing costs. You can only do that for so long before the product starts to suffer.”

“We made the Smart acquisition for two reasons,” he said. “Frankly, because McCann was broken. And because we wanted to capitalize on the scale in this market, where there is a good opportunity for growth with the right elements in place.”

Cadell says the agency has shown “fantastic progress” in recent months, reviving a company he says was “broken” before the merger.

McCann fared poorly in the Mumbrella Creative Agency Review a year ago, ranking close to bottom in the industry perception study out of 30 agencies.

Cadell, who is 11 months into his post as Asia Pacific president of McCann Worldgroup, has been in Melbourne and Sydney to visit the offices led by Worldgroup chairman and CEO Ben Lilley, who ran Smart before the merger.

Last week, Ashley Farr, another former Smart executive, was appointed CEO of McCann Australia, saying that he wanted to make agency “famous again.”

About 90% of McCann Australia’s staff have been replaced with new people in the last 12 months. Among senior departees were ECD Michael Raso, now a CD at Ogilvy, and planning honcho Helen Karabassis, who has since been reunited with departing CEO Chris Mort at media agency TMS.

“You can count of the fingers of two hands the total number of people from the previous regime who are still here,” said Cadell.

He said the agency now had “strong talent at the top”, with new thought leadership through Karl Bates, a former Saatchi & Saatchi Germany and Grey London planning honcho who joined the agency in March.

Other new recruits have included Sydney creative director Oliver Maisey from McCann’s New Zealand office, associate creative director Joe Hawkins, and Justine Marino as head of digital.

“The agency is beginning to hum. We’re getting on pitch lists, we’re winning new clients and we’re producing award-winning work,” said Cadell. “You can change an agency on a dime if you have the right people in place.”

Among the agency’s most high profile recent work was the Impossible orchestra, a 24-hour musical marathon for charity Care Aware, which led by ECD John Mescall.


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