Q&A: Mark Heap APAC CEO of Mediacom on the future of the Australian business

Mark Heap MediacomAPAC Mediacom CEO Mark Heap opens up on the appointment of Sean Seamer as Australia CEO  and how they can turn around the Australian agency.  

– Why was Sean Seamer chosen?

Sean was destined for this role in someways. He had made it clear to me back in 2013 that he wanted to get back towards his family in NZ. At that time we looked at the available options and discussed a role as COO of MediaCom Australia, but the developments with our expansion plans as a group in NZ led to the opportunity for him to go back to his home town and take on an out and out leadership role. Although I didn’t want to lose Sean from MediaCom, I supported him in this move to GroupM as I knew it would be good for him, good for Mediacom NZ and good for the group.

When we started looking at new leadership for MediaCom Australia a few months ago, Sean was still in the midst of a corporate acquisition and the pulling together of multiple agencies under a new GroupM umbrella. The time wasn’t quite right.

As a few months have passed, the development in NZ has been faster than we anticipated and Sean and I chatted about the MediaCom Australia role. Having worked with him before, I liked the fact that he’s a known entity to us, and a very positive one. I haven’t met anybody who’s worked with him who has anything but glowing things to say. He’s a brilliant practitioner of our craft and great at getting to grips with what clients want and how we can help them.

Putting anyone new into such a critical role is always a gamble. There are many risks: Will they understand our culture? Will they understand our product? Will our team like them? Will our clients like them? Will people want to follow them?

We did meet and consider many potential candidates for the role. Many very talented people. However, when I considered the decision it was about minimising risk and maximising opportunity. The risk with Sean is minimal. He understands our business, our culture, our product and he’s well connected internally. He is passionate about the MediaCom brand and from his experience at GroupM also has a good perspective on how the broader group and MediaCom can best work together.

– You’ve been meeting clients today. What has been the response of clients to Sean’s appointment?

Extremely positive. Not just from our clients but also from our internal team. When I announced Sean to our Australia executive team Exco (without him present), there was a big cheer. Internally, people either know Sean or know of Sean and what people know is hugely positive. From the clients, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

– Will Mediacom globally give Sean/Mediacom Australia scope/budget to make new hires and evolve the product offering?

Of course. Our industry is ever evolving and we will continue to evolve with it. In 2016 we will be reshaping our agency operating structure to be even better aligned to the current market dynamics and what our clients want from us. This will involve us recruiting more new people with certain skill sets to complement our existing capabilities.

– Who will lead GroupM in New Zealand now?
As per the press release, Sean will continue to oversee the GRM NZ operations for the foreseeable future.

– We understand its been hard to recruit for a lot of agencies. How are you addressing that?

We have a strong internal recruitment team at GroupM and WPP levels who are well synced with our MediaCom talent team. We believe we offer a great agency experience and one of the best opportunities to develop a long lasting, successful career in the industry. I hope that we’re not arrogant – I think there are lots of good agencies in the industry and people have lots of options.

There are broader, macro challenges facing us all in terms of the overall supply of talent and attraction of people in to the industry. This isn’t unique to Australia, it’s something that is an issue all over the world. It’s a challenge and an opportunity at the same time. We’re all developing our talent strategies to try and first of all make media a career choice and then hopefully, from our point of view, MediaCom a choice within the industry.

A small example of an initiative in our broader talent strategy is our mobility programme. We set this up globally about 18 months ago and in the past year, we have moved over 250 people globally and 70 within Asia Pacific. We know that opportunities to live and work overseas are important to many of our staff and in we think it’s a great opportunity to move talent with different skills and perspectives around the world.

We are lucky to have a fully fledged content, econometrics, creative, production, programatic, performance and insights capabilities within our structure. I think this is attractive to a lot of people because it allows individuals to work with a broad spectrum of people as part of multi-discipline teams. It also provides opportunity for people to learn new skills and explore other areas than they may get to otherwise.

– We understand that Westpac’s contract is up for renewal shortly. How important is it to retain this account?

As a respected client, we will are not prepared to discuss any specific matters in relation to Westpac.


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