Big Red the big surprise in Singtel shake-up of Optus and Virgin Mobile rosters


Optus and Virgin Mobile have finalised their creative, PR and media pitches with Big Red the surprise appointment to the Optus account.

UM will take over media buying for both of the Singtel brands, with M&C Saatchi retaining a place on the creative roster. Whybin\TBWA will take the Virgin Mobile account while independent agency With Collective has won a spot on both rosters alongside content agency Emotive.

Optus is moving to a broader creative roster with the other agencies on the books being Big Red, The Works, Emotive, RE and UK-based AKQA.

Ogilvy had been in contention for the Optus account, with the agency group handling Singtel’s creative account in Asia. M&C Saatchi had been the lead creative agency for Optus for the past 14 years, but faces the prospect of battling it out for work with the other roster agencies.

The announcement also brings to an end Virgin Mobile’s relationship with Havas Worldwide and One Green Bean, which had previously spawned campaigns including Fair Go Bro featuring Doug Pitt and Game of Phones.

However it sees the brand again tapping into the creative powers of Steve Coll, who was the executive creative director at Havas during those campaigns, who is now creative partner at With Collective after a stint at Droga5.

Mumbrella tipped Whybin\TBWA to land the lead creative for Virgin in early December.

The news of a place on both rosters will also be a huge boon for content agency Emotive which only sparked into existence last February led by former MCM Entertainment boss Simon Joyce. The agency has produced a series of successful ads for Optus starring Ricky Gervais, initially promoting its Netflix offering through social media, which have since been translated to TV.

Perhaps the most intriguing agency name on the roster is that of digital behemoth AKQA, which does not currently have a presence in Australia. It is thought the agency will be forced to scrap it out with other agencies on the roster for briefs, which may oblige it to create a local presence.

The agency, founded in London in 1994 by Ajaz Ahmed and James Hilton, has offices in Europe, the US, South America and Asia, and is now owned by global behemoth WPP.  

Mumbrella revealed that Optus was pitching its creative and media accounts back in June, with a number of agencies thought to have been involved in the process. At the end of last year Optus appointed Thrive PR to handle its public relations and communications accounts.

Fellow Singtel subsidiary Virgin Mobile confirmed it was jointly pitching its agency relationships in August, in what became the biggest pitch 2015.

The loss of its biggest account is a blow for media agency Starcom which announced it had parted ways with Optus on the $50m media account this afternoon.

The account move had been tipped for months, with UM beating out the incumbent and Havas Media to win the account.

Starcom Mediavest CEO Chris Nolan, said in a statement: “We are extremely proud of the innovation and award-winning work achieved in partnership with Optus and Virgin Mobile over the last three years. Over the course of our relationship, Optus and Virgin Mobile have transformed the business from a sales organisation to a customer-centric, service and content business.”

The statements: 


Optus today announced the appointment of a new agency roster for its consumer brands following a competitive pitch process.

Optus has selected UM as its media buying agency. A panel of six agencies including Big Red, M&C Saatchi, The Works, Emotive, WiTH Collective and AKQA will oversee Optus’ retail, digital, social and adhoc creative campaign work. RE will retain Optus’ brand strategy and development business.

Ben White, Acting Managing Director of Marketing and Product at Optus said, “During the evaluation process, we looked for agencies that demonstrated strategic thinking and a creative approach to driving engagement with the Optus brand.”

“We are pleased to welcome UM, Big Red, WiTH Collective and AKQA to the Optus family. UM’s deep understanding of our brand and strategic capabilities make it the perfect partner for Optus, while Big Red, with its solid portfolio of work, is well placed to drive deep engagement with the Optus brand.”

“Optus selected a panel of creative agencies built around breadth of creative skills, strategic insights and cross-agency collaboration. We are confident our agency line-up can help deliver persuasive campaigns that stand out in the market and resonate strongly with consumers,” Mr White said.

Starcom Mediavest:

“After a three-year partnership with Starcom Mediavest Group, Optus and Virgin Mobile will leave the agency, effective April 2016.”

“SMG Australia CEO Chris Nolan, said: “We are extremely proud of the innovation and award-winning work achieved in partnership with Optus and Virgin Mobile over the last three years. Over the course of our relationship, Optus and Virgin Mobile have transformed the business from a sales organisation to a customer-centric, service and content business.”

Nolan continued: “Our teams created and delivered some truly outstanding, results-orientated and award-winning work. Some of the highlights included the global first Facebook trending initiative, strategic partnerships with Westfield, cNet and Nova Red Room, the development of the Local Area Marketing business model, and for Virgin Mobile Australia, integrated campaigns for Fair Go Bro, Meal for Meal and Game of Phones, one of the most awarded campaigns ever. We wish Optus and Virgin Mobile every success in the future.”

Virgin Mobile:

“Virgin Mobile has today announced changes to their agency roster, following a competitive pitch process. Whybin/TBWA have been appointed as lead creative agency, with Eleven PR to handle public relations and social media, and WiTH Collective announced to lead customer marketing activity.

“UM have been appointed to look after all media activity for the Virgin Mobile account, with Emotive also joining the roster as a content partner for the brand.”

David Scribner, Head of Virgin Mobile said, “Whybin\TBWA, Eleven PR, UM, Emotive and WiTH Collective all demonstrated fantastic creativity and disruptive strategic thinking throughout the pitch process.

“At Virgin Mobile we’re known for our innovative campaigns that generate talkability and shake up the market, and we’re confident that these five agencies are the perfect partners to help us continue to deliver award-winning work.”

Mr Scribner extended his thanks to Virgin Mobile’s incumbent agencies, Havas, One Green Bean and MediaVest, who will continue to work with the business until March 2016.

“Virgin Mobile have enjoyed a great partnership with Havas, One Green Bean and MediaVest for a number of years, working collaboratively to produce some exceptional award-winning creative campaigns. We’d like to thank the teams for all their hard work in making the Virgin Mobile brand what it is today”, said Mr Scribner.

Whybin/TBWA, Eleven PR, WiTH Collective, UM and Emotive will begin working with Virgin Mobile in January 2016.


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