Pippa Berlocher named EssenceMediacom CEO as Pat Crowley moves into client lead role

GroupM’s largest and newest agency, EssenceMediacom has a new CEO in Pippa Berlocher, with current boss Pat Crowley set to stay with the agency, moving into the client-facing role of managing partner.

Berlocher arrives from IPG Medibrands, where she has been APAC president of Reprise for the past two years, based in Singapore, with the move further evidence of EssenceMediacom’s digital-first focus. Berlocher is also the second CEO to be hired by Aimee Buchanan from the Mediabrands agency in the past year.


Buchanan, Berlocher and Crowley

Crowley was appointed as Essence’s CEO in late 2021, then being given the top job at the combined agency last year, leading up to its official launch last week. As managing partner, Crowley will take a more defined role in leading EssenceMediacom’s largest client accounts, including Commonwealth Bank, the account he has led for over 15 years.

Speaking to Mumbrella, Crowley and Buchanan said it has been a “huge job” bringing both agencies together, which culminated in last week’s ‘Founders Day’. Though now with that completed, the pair can address the best path forward in taking the proposition to market.

“Towards the end of last year, I said to Aimee that it doesn’t tick my box, that being the operational side of running a 550-person business. I’m really passionate about clients, obviously CommBank is an important one, but there are a bunch of others too. I’m passionate about the industry and doing my thought leadership work, and that has suffered a little bit in the CEO role, and not made me happy ultimately.”

Alongside Commonwealth Bank, the agency’s roster includes Adidas, Bayer, Dell, Google, Isuzu, KFC, Mars, Myer, Nib, The Coca-Cola Company, Uber, and more.

Crowley continued: “Thankfully Aimee, the group, and EssenceMediacom globally have said: we should be allocating people to roles where they are one; happy, and two; giving value back to our business.”

“I’m not wrapped up in ego. I don’t mind not being the CEO, so I’m going back into a role to get back on the tools and do the job that makes me happy around servicing clients and instilling a different way of thinking amongst the agency through that thought leadership.”

Buchanan added that with the agency now launched, it is the right time to bring a new face in, that can help define the next stage of the agency.

“The bigger truth is that the ambition of EssenceMediacom, to drive breakthrough thinking for clients and brands in the new communications economy, requires a different capability in the business,” said Buchanan. “Yes, some of that will come from Essence, and some will come from Mediacom, but if it’s just the blending of those two things together, it’s not truly the creation of something new.

“Sometimes disruption is not what you want, you don’t always want to lean into it, and I think there’s a natural uncomfortableness with change. But when we had this discussion, we had a lot of debate around who and how, and I didn’t want it to be another CEO coming from another agency, because I thought that’s just moving someone across.

“I wanted them to be someone who represented the capability and the vision of what clients are going to want in that new economy, and Pippa does that through and through, both from a technical point of view, from a specialist point of view, from the breadth of her experience across the region, but importantly culturally also.”

The agency now positions itself as ‘the breakthrough agency’

Berlocher’s experience prior to joining Reprise includes launching the first DWA office in Singapore, and leading it until it was acquired by Merkle.

On joining, she said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to move back home and take on the CEO role for EssenceMediacom ANZ. Having the chance to lead a newly created agency, with the depth of talent and capability in EssenceMediacom and the scale of the global network is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I am incredibly excited about.

“I know we are going to create something truly special for the ANZ market and I can’t wait to get started.”

With Buchanan and Crowley leading the search for his replacement, both said the chemistry between them both was going to be essential in finding the right hire.

The pair said Berlocher has the necessary experience in data, tech, and transformation, relevant to the direction of the new EssenceMediacom agency, as well as having “rebuilt Reprise in the region, along with a cultural reset”.

“She very well represents the vision of where we’re going with EssenceMediacom,” said Buchanan, “which was critical, because we went ‘let’s get someone who represents where we’re going and can help lead that journey with the support of Pat and the team’.”

“And importantly, likes doing all the things that I don’t like doing that much,” Crowley jokingly added.

“I want to help Pippa, side-by-side, to drive the agency forward because I believe in the proposition,” added Crowley. “If I didn’t believe in the proposition, and I didn’t like Aimee Buchanan, I would’ve left the agency.”

Buchanan added that this reshuffle demonstrates GroupM’s breath and scale to make things work for them, and its staff.

The executive leadership team at EssenceMediacom is now representative of an even split across Essence and Mediacom staff, as well as incoming hires.

New hires and existing talent: [L-R] Nick Thomas; Stephanie Douglas-Neal; Matt Scotton; Celia Wright; Carl Colman

Stephanie Douglas-Neal as Sydney managing directors Matt Scotton as chief product and marketing officer,Jack Graham as head of planning

“We’re building a new agency, and it’s been important for both of us to go, it can’t just be the two. It’s something we’ve naturally been pushing.”

Joining Douglas-Neal as market MDs are Carl Colman in Melbourne and Kellie Dawson in Brisbane, with Essence national managing director, Chris Hitchcock now the agency’s chief transformation officer.

Chris Hitchcock, Sophie Price and Jeremy McNamara

Simon Pugh, who joined Essence last year as Brisbane managing director from Publicis Groupe, has now been moved into the role of chief client officer, with Mediacom’s Sophie Price taking the national chief strategy officer position.

Former managing director of Essence in Melbourne, Jeremy McNamara has been made general manager of the combined office, while former Essence Sydney MD, Andrew Burger is now managing partner.

Other appointments include Celia Wright as chief operating officer, after joining Essence as chief growth officer in 2022, while Mediacom’s chief investment officer, Nick Thomas takes on the unified role at the agency.

The major focus and first priority for the year is “galvanising our team around this proposition”, said Buchanan. “We are unashamedly putting out energy into making 550 people believe, passionate about and able to articulate why EssenceMediacom can drive breakthrough thinking in the new communications economy.

Getting staff aligned is the first task, then going to clients and market more widely with the proposition will follow, she said.

“But I think our feeling was if 550 people can’t get into a lift and can’t tell people why EssenceMediacom is the agency they should work for, or with, we will never win. That’s our absolute focus, opportunity, and our challenge.”

“Aimee will get the best out of me in this role, and we’ll get the best out of Pip in this role. That’s what will come: happiness, job satisfaction, and better work.”

Berlocher starts at the end of April, with Crowley remaining as the agency’s lead until her transition is complete. She will be based in Sydney.


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