Mumbrella Readers Choice Awards – media agency of the year shortlist

Mumbrella Awards trophiesThe following entries have been shortlisted in the media agency of the year category of the Mumbrella Readers Choice Awards.   

The order that follows was deliberately randomised so there is no alphabetical advantage in the order they appear.

Subscribers to the Mumbrella daily email will receive a link to the voting website.

While readers are invited to comment on the entries, please be aware that we will be alert for both astroturfing and deliberate attempts to sabotage a particular entry. Multiple comments from the same IP address, or otherwise suspicious postings will be moderated.

In this category, you are looking for the answer to two questions: Has the agency had a good year? And has the agency done well for its clients?

Please remember that including a video was optional, so entries that do not do so should not be judged down for that reason.

The shortlist:

  • Ikon
  • Maxus Melbourne
  • OMD
  • PHD


In more buoyant times it’s easy to prosper and grow the business. We used this opportunity to get prepared. That’s when we did the hard yards: an unwavering commitment to training, to culture, to self-assessment, to our client offering, to our financials.

We came into 2009 match fit. We increased our commitment to training. We put our office through a major refit. We hit 2009 in the best possible shape – and it paid tremendous dividends for us.

We haven’t lost a single employee to the downturn – in fact we’ve grown headcount from 286 to 315 this year– and won over $100m of new business.

It’s also relatively easy to have a great culture in a small organisation – however it takes a more consistent focus and investment for a large agency team growing more than 10 per cent a year since 2005. We’re driving a culture that encourages creativity and innovation, and leading the industry on staff recruitment, development and retention.

Though a tough year for the industry, today OMD is fitter than ever:

1) We’re producing the best work for our existing clients – consistently (over) achieving KPI performance to trigger bonuses. We’ve developed a philosophy driving our strategic product development to ensure that we –and our clients – are best equipped to embrace change before it happens.

2) You get out what you put in. Our cultural ingredients, reputation for looking after our people and unwavering investment in training and development are the reasons why we attract and retain the best talent in the industry. It’s a self perpetuating cycle because the best talent produces the best work.

Beyond client delivery, we’ve focused on:

• a million dollar refit in Sydney

• a subsidised ski-trip for over 100 staff

• investing half a million dollars on training

• recruiting an additional 30 people in Sydney alone!

TEN past “OMD-ers” have returned home this year… having worked at other agencies and decided they were happier at OMD – we love that!

3) New business is great, even more important is not having lost a client in two years

4) We are the most awarded media agency in Australia – not just for our product – but just as importantly for our people and our culture, recognised from outside the industry as well as our peers.

• BRW #12 Best Place to Work – the only Media Agency on the Top 50 List!

• Media Voice 2009 Media Agency of the Year – the agency most respondents would like to work for

• Two Cannes Media Lions – global recognition for our work on McDonald’s and San Remo

• B&T Employer of Year 2008 – so hard to sustain real culture in a network of this size

• AdNews Media Network of the Year 2008

• 21 campaigns shortlisted at the Media Federation Awards in the past two years, and eight overall winners

These statistics are national – across four offices and 315 people. That’s real momentum: moving through a year like this to emerge happier, healthier and more profitable than ever before.


Here’s Ikon’s case, in FOUR simple points.

1. We work hard to create a great culture, fostering great people who love working at Ikon.

– Recent economic turmoil has only strengthened our commitment to be an organisation built around the needs of our people.

– 100% of our staff agree that ‘Ikon is a great place to work’. (Before you ask, this result was taken from an anonymous, independently run survey).

– In an industry where people will move jobs at the sniff of a $5,000 pay rise, our turnover was less than a third of the industry average.

When we asked ourselves why our staff are so content, here’s what we came up with:

– We grow our staff. Of the 23 roles (non- entry level positions) we have had to fill this year, 70 per cent of them were filled through internal promotions.

– We encourage ‘the human touch’. Little things, like having your birthday off. A free ski trip. Sponsoring a child. Teaching children to read. Bingo every Thursday – and yes, you do win a meat tray.

2. These people produce great work.

It’s strategic, creative and effective – and quite often wins awards at the highest level.

– We remain the only agency to have ever won the MFA Award for Effectiveness and were the only media agency recognised at this year’s Effies, with four awards.

Highlights for 2009 include the Lara Croft Tomb Raider Challenge for Atari, Men of Gold content creation for the ARU and the Commonwealth Bank ‘Comes with music’ debit card launch – a campaign that deserves a bit more detail:

To create differentiation and overcome being a late entrant into the market, Ikon, CBA and Sony Music worked together to create a unique offering – a debit card with $20 of complimentary music downloads each month. Then we launched it by behaving just like a record label. The campaign on a Silver Effie, the MFA Award for the Finance category and was a finalist for most effective campaign at the MFA awards.

3. Great work, delivered by great people, ensures Ikon has the happiest (and most stable) clients in the industry.

– In the 10+ years of Ikon, we have only ever lost clients to global alignment.

– In 2009, we successfully retained Vodafone, pitching against the best agencies in the industry. We also retained the right to fight another federal election with the ALP.

4. The ultimate testament to the quality of our people, our work and our clients is the desire for new brands to want to work with us.

– This year we picked up 11 new brands, including Westfield, Bankwest, 3, Aussie and Snack Brands.

– That’s $85m in additional billings – a 100 per cent increase on 2008 (which was a pretty good year too).

Despite the tightening economic climate we were still able to record double-digit growth in both revenue and profit figures.


We believe that making a big agency bigger and better is something worthy of an award.

However, just maybe, it requires more effort to fundamentally rebuild a company from the bottom-up.

And that is what we have done in the last 365 days.

We have taken TOTAL Advertising and Communications, a company that was renowned for its strong solid media service, and turned it into PHD – an advanced media planning and buying company known for pioneering thinking and sophistication.

A deep and major change was required. And that is what we have carried out over the last year.

The Big Ten Things We Have Done:

1. To break with the past we moved into a new office and created a new environment with the obligatory break-out areas, chill-out rooms, cool music, bar – essential for the sort of people we needed to attract.

2. Unbundled the online department – integrating them into the account teams.

3. Merged the traditional DR function with online activities (SEM, SEO etc.), creating a new department called Performance Marketing that will manage all direct-response clients (across all media).

4. Restructured and brought in new people such as Andrew Littlewood, PHD’s Analytics and DR Director – one of the only qualified Chartered Institute of Marketing practitioners in Australia and “young marketer of the year” – and Chris Stephenson as Strategy Director – selected as one of the six best strategists in the UK by the IPA.

5. For less senior recruitment, we put in place the talent-unearthed-programme to identify and interview the most talented people in the market (before we had a role for them).

6. Brought in sophisticated planning systems, databanks and intranets from the PHD and Omnicom network and localised them – ETNA and Director being the two main systems. We now have the systems in full operation with all of our people trained to use them.

7. Launched an internal development programme so that the company could start to focus on strategic thinking – every week inspirational presentations are given from outsiders to spark invention.

8. Launched an internal awards programme for invention called FABWA (Finding A Better Way Awards) to fundamentally reinforce the view that invention was a major focus now for the company.

9. Put in place KPIs for all employees, 360° appraisals, exit interviews, and created an internships programme with Charles Sturt University.

10. The team here wrote and published a book on the future of media – called 2014 – with money raised going to UNICEF.

All of this started to bear fruit that would never have grown a year ago – we won both Best Innovation and Best Strategic Insight at the MFA Awards in our first year (arguably, the most contested categories).

And it is also starting to result in brilliant new clients coming to us: Nokia Siemens Networks, PayPal, Hewlett-Packard, Channel Nine, Ferrero Australia, Fitness-First, Sunshades Eyewear.

So 2009 was the year that we fundamentally re-built a company.

2009 was also the year that PHD Australia was officially born.


It’s been a huge year for Maxus and especially Maxus Melbourne. The GFC has ensured that most agencies have struggled to prevent slippage in terms of revenue and overall health. Others have just about managed to tread water. Maxus Melbourne however has gone from strength to strength.

We started the year aggressively pitching for new business. Our involvement in the Target pitch was demonstration that we were being considered rightful contenders in the fight for any piece of business, regardless of size. We missed out, but undeterred pressed on, targeting Jetstar as a must win account in order to make a statement for our relatively new media brand.

Our new business push ran parallel to the agency’s prime focus, a restructuring to align with our unique global offering: the management of real time client data, linked through our Live TM software to dynamic media plans. Our ability to empower both clients and the agency team with dashboards that make scenario planning a robust and actionable reality is an exciting development. We’ve signed Hungry Jacks up to trial a technology and process that our Lavalife client has been enjoying the benefits of for 12 months now.

We have also, this year, adopted a ‘one office’ approach across our Sydney and Melbourne businesses, with strategic analysis being the focus in NSW and executional brilliance the Victorian remit. This will result in the Melbourne office growing in trading billings by over $50m, while our counterparts in Sydney focus on the earlier steps of the product delivery chain.

So a big year and one rewarded in June with the news that we had, after a four month process, been awarded the $30m Jetstar account. Demonstrating our understanding of a dynamic, direct response client requirement was crucial to our success. As was delivering huge year on year savings.

So in Jetstar we had a category leader. A week later we were informed that we had won Australia’s biggest education account – Monash University. Two weeks further on we were awarded the Secrets retail account. We are the only media agency members of the Australian Centre for Retail Studies, so another string to our bow in this broad category was extremely rewarding.

Our people and profile are vital tools in new business and we made a key acquisition on the recruitment front back in February with the hiring of Ben Shepherd. Digital is just a channel layer, not a channel in itself, nor a silo in an agency’s overall product delivery. Shep gets that and while he’s evangelical on the evolution of communications, he’s no blinkered online zealot and gives our clients and prospects comfort and direction with his grounded views on the evolution of media. ‘Shep’ writes the daily blog, Talking Digital and we’d encourage you to subscribe.

Finally, it’s all about results and our revenue growth, year on year, sits at 28 per cent. We’re pretty happy with that in this climate and looking forward to an even healthier 2010.


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