‘More data and precious few insights’ – Q&A with Chris Maxwell from Lution

Late in 2019, a group of senior marketers made for a remote part of northern Tasmania. One of the marketers involved, Chris Maxwell, pitched a round table on in-house agencies, an idea which has now led to a business called Lution. He spoke to Mumbrella’s Damian Francis about how it happened.

Damian Francis (DF): Why did you set up Lution and what makes you think there is a market ready for it?

Chris Maxwell (CM): When I built the in-house agency at Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) back in 2017, it was transformational for the business and I became a firm believer in the in-house model. In late 2019 I was invited to a Mumbrella summit with a lot of other senior marketers, we had a roundtable discussion and one of the topics we discussed was in-house agencies. There was so much interest in the in-house model and how we had built our team at CUB that I realised there’s a real need in the market for a business with experience in the model to help marketers navigate the complexities and show people how it really works. So you could say the idea for the business has roots at a Mumbrella event!

Lution founder and managing director Chris Maxwell

DF: Who are your current clients? Have you hit the ground running or are you building interest?

CM: Our founding clients include Betfair, ENGO, Jetty Road Brewery, MYOB, MightyCraft and Park SSC.

DF: Why did you leave a safe and senior role at a large brand like CUB?

CM: CUB is one of Australia’s great brand building organisations. I spent 12 years there building incredible brands with amazing people. I was on the agency side prior to CUB and always thought I’d start my own thing, so there was this entrepreneurial itch telling me to go have a crack at building something. I had the idea and the opportunity to scratch that itch so I took the leap. It was a little scary at first but it’s honestly the best thing I ever did and I’m loving every minute of it.

DF: There are a lot of challenges for marketers today and a lot of people who say they have solutions. What do you believe the biggest challenges for marketers are today and how is Lution going to help solve them?

CM: If you’re a marketer today, chances are you’re wondering ‘how am I going to deliver my numbers next year?’ Even before the economic impact of a pandemic, that question wasn’t easy to answer.

Markets are fragmenting, disruptors are disrupting, media lacks transparency, the martech landscape looks like a Jackson Pollock painting, and we’ve got more data than you can shake a stick at, but precious few insights.

Growth is often hard to come by, bottom lines are under pressure, and marketing budgets are often the first place CFO’s look for savings.

Budgets get tighter, teams are leaner, and for some, growth becomes even harder to find. At the same time we’ve got more channels to fill with more content, more data to mine, more tech tools and platforms to invest in, but fewer people and resources to do it. It’s a challenge.

You wouldn’t blame a CMO for wondering, how can I do more with less?

We believe that you can do more with less, you can own your data and technology, you can take greater control over your brand voice, you can produce amazing creative work without big retainers, and we believe it because we’ve done it, we’ve seen it work.

Our model is designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your day-to-day marketing, so that you can invest more of your time, energy and money into your biggest growth opportunities.

One of the venues Mumbrella held its Tasmanian retreat at

DF: ‘More for less’. You talk about that on the site. If I’m honest, that usually draws fear in the eyes of marketers and their teams – why should Lution’s strategy be looked at differently?

CM: Our model is designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your day-to-day marketing, so that you can invest more of your time, energy and money into your biggest growth opportunities.

DF: How has COVID-19 affected the launch of Lution? For some people I’ve spoken to that launched business back in the GFC, they said it was actually easier. Is this true of Lution to an extent?

CM: COVID has made working virtually the norm, which comes with its benefits. We have clients who we’ve worked with for months, but never actually been in the same room, so that ability and willingness to connect remotely has been helpful. You’ve also got lots of marketers looking to do things differently, because their business has changed and they need to find new and better ways of working, which is what we do. So that’s been helpful too.

Nick Garrett is a partner at Lution

DF: There are some very experienced people on the team. Big industry names like Nick Garrett, Stephen Hunt, Andy Gibson – how did the team come together?

CM: When I had the idea to build Lution, I called two of the marketers I respected most. Andy is a mentor and friend, he was my boss and CMO at CUB and went on to global CMO roles with Bacardi and Walgreens Boots Alliance. I don’t know any more senior and connected global marketers so I wanted his advice and counsel when we were designing the service offering for Lution to make sure it was designed with the CMO in mind.

Nick was CEO at Clemenger BBDO when I was marketing director on VB and Carlton Draught and we made some great work together. He’s one of Australia’s most respected creative leaders and I knew this had to be about making better work, not just about finding savings so I asked him for some advice and he immediately leaned in and decided to join the board and help us build out our capabilities, including curating our Enhanced Creative Panel. I met Stephen while researching the market for Lution, he had built Tubemogul in Australia and also built Universal Music’s in-house agency, we hit it off and he agreed to join as a media and adtech consultant. We’ve got some great people with lots of experience in the in-house model.

DF: Finally, what are your predictions for in-housing in 2021 and further on? It’s going to be a big year for marketers for a number of reasons, and different for each industry sector as well.

CM: In 2018 the ANA in the US released a report stating that 78% of marketers in the US were working with an in-house agency of some kind. That was up from 42% in 2008, so in 10 years the penetration has almost doubled and nearly four in five businesses have an in-house agency. If that’s anything to go by I think this model has huge growth ahead of it in Australia and we’re hoping to help more marketers discover the benefits of the model.


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