Michael McConville on avoiding short-termism in the C&P rebuild and using the ‘resource’ that is Sean Cummins

New CEO at full-service agency Cummins & Partners, Michael McConville, and founder Sean Cummins both admit it’s time to rebuild at the agency, however creating something fresh – and for the long term – is what is exciting the former.

Still in his first month in the role after returning from nine years in London, most recently as managing partner at mega-agency adam&eveDDB, McConville spoke on this week’s Mumbrellacast about the proposition he was sold in relation to the agency.

“We can see green shoots really quickly”, he said, and that in moving into this new stage for the agency, “the positioning has to reflect where we have been, but also take on board the things we’ve already got in the business that are enhancements to where we have been.”

“I think our proposition has so readily been about creative and media, but that was of the time, and of the moment, many years ago. I think for where we are now, it’s about utilising CX, it’s about utilising data, innovation, it’s about tying all of those things together and driving growth opportunities for our clients. I think we’ve got the skills, the capabilities, and the materials in here to talk to clients about growth driven through creative means, and I think everything that we do is creative.”

McConville said he has already been surprised the agency can readily commit to clients the levels of growth it can actually deliver them. “We’ve got the models, we’ve got the materials, we’ve got the facts at our disposal to say if we invest X, you can gain Y.”

He has certainly been thrust into the action since taking up the role last month, with a remit across the Melbourne, Sydney and New York offices, which comes at a time of transition for the agency.

Joining McConville recently was Sophie Lander, who joined from Dentsu Creative at the same time, moving the opposite direction to Kirsty Muddle who moved across at the start of the year. Jeff Malone was also appointed as chief strategy officer in February, and there will be a few more announcements on the way he said.

And while he said he and the fresh senior leadership team are already working with good synergy, he added he and the name on the door have already formed a good partnership, and have continued to do so since their first conversation.

But the structures are clear and in place he said, as some in the market have pondered.

“I think it’ll be unsurprising to say that Sean’s built a great business over a long period of time, but he’s not going anywhere,” said McConville, “and I don’t want him to!” he jokingly added.

Sean Cummins is a ‘brilliant resource’, McConville says

“I think if it helps kind of give any real clarity, but this is the truth, Sean’s walking me into meetings and jokingly (in inverted commas) calling me his boss. In his mind it’s handing over the keys and making sure that we are set up for the future, using him as a brilliant resource within the building.

“So it’s not having someone whose name is on the door directed at absolutely everything in the business, it’s about using him with intention, casting every task with intention, and also just surfacing those people that are unheralded stars within the business as well.”

“I think this business has been built brilliantly over time, and that wasn’t all Sean, there were some great people that came before us, there’s a lot of people that were here for a really long time, which also says a lot about this place. That’s not altogether normal in a lot of parts of the industry, but it was here and I really respect what’s come before now.”

McConville said now the challenge is “just a matter of us taking stock of where we are, how the industry’s changed, how clients’ needs have changed and making sure that we don’t just keep pace with that, but we set the pace on that.”

“I think we’ll be ambitious and we’ll make sure that we’re setting ourselves not just to kind of do the norm and be kind of another agency over the course of the next decade, but this is a former agency of the year on repeat performance, that’s where we’ve been, that’s where we need to be aiming.”

McConville added that it’s his aim to set the agency up for sustained success, noting that this industry can sometimes be a bit short-termist.

“It wishes it wasn’t, and we all talk about long-lasting platform ideas and everything that goes along with it, but people’s tenure in certain places isn’t always that long. So we have to be conscious of that.”

“I’m not here to look for the next year or two or the short-term wins. I’m here to kind of look long-term. It’s a rare business opportunity in that respect, where you can look long term and set a fairly distant course to say, ‘this is what good’s gonna look like next year, but here’s what good’s gonna look like in 11 years time as well’.”

“How do we service the medium term, but how do we also drive something for the longer term? And that’s kind of what really enthused me in coming back here.”

Just three years ago in 2019, as McConville noted, Cummins & Partners was awarded Media Agency of the Year, and Full-Service agency of the Year at the Mumbrella Awards, and he is not shy when it comes to clearly stating his ambitions for the agency to return to that benchmark. He said it is “absolutely” the aim to return the agency to an award-winning position.

“I’d like to see an industry and I want to be part of this industry that doesn’t really lack confidence in saying what we wish for and what we’re aiming for. I think all too often […] there’s maybe a lack of confidence in really achieving the goals that might be set out publicly because they never get stated.

“And then people don’t know what great looks like, they don’t really go aiming for it. So I’m not too shy in saying that we should be aiming high, and I’m not too shy in saying that internally. I know what everyone’s goals are, and 2019 is not so far away or not so far behind us that it shouldn’t be somewhere we feel like can get to fairly swiftly.”

Listen to the full conversation with Michael McConville below on this week’s Mumbrellacast. 


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