Starcom Mediavest to separate into two agencies with Australian launch of Mediavest

Starcom Mediavest CEO Chris Nolan and new general manager of Mediavest Sue Kallas

Starcom Mediavest CEO Chris Nolan and new general manager of Mediavest Sue Kallas

The Australian media agency landscape is to get a new entrant with confirmation the Publicis Group’s Starcom Mediavest is to split and launch Mediavest as a separate entity, Mumbrella can reveal.

The news comes just a week after the decision by Diageo to move their media account to Leo Burnet, with Mediavest to handle the buying for the account, a move which raised eyebrows within the industry.

However, Chris Nolan, CEO of  both Starcom and Mediavest  told Mumbrella: “Globally the Starcom Mediavest business operate both brands and in the UK and US they run independently and they are both of comparable size to each other.

“If we are successful over a period of time (Mediavest) will have significant scale and will be of a similar size to Starcom.”

The Diageo move is a taste of what the agency will offer when it officially launches on September 1, according to Nolan, with strategic teams co-located with client’s creative agencies in a bid to improve communications, focussing initially on sister Publicis agencies Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi.

Sue Kallas will be general manager of Mediavest, which will have its own separate office and staff from Starcom while Annick Perrin, becomes general manager of Starcom after moving across to head the Sydney office from Initiative in May.

Mediavest will launch with a staff of 20 people and is expected to have around a tenth of Starcom’s $582m billings (RECMA) at its launch.

On his hopes of seeing the agencies achieving a similar size Nolan added: “It’s not a stated goal that we are after, but scale would be an outcome of this.”

Mediavest’s client roster at launch will include recent new business win Diageo along with global clients cosmetics giant Avon, music streaming service Spotify, and the banking group UBS.

Nolan said the idea of co-locating with creative agencies was a big plus for the new agency, adding: “There is one team, for one side, developing one idea for the campaign and then from that point on the two individual agencies get paid to activate their component.

“By virtue of what we’ve done we are looking to build new collaborative models, in particular with creative agencies.

“What we are saying within the business is how can we bring together the data and technology required to successfully drive media and merge that with a more agile approach to building creative. How can we bring those two capabilities together to deliver more brilliant activations?”

In recent times the practice of shuffling clients around media agency groups has become more common, as evidenced by Denstu Aegis shifting business between Mitchells and Carat, as new business opportunities emerge.

Asked if some Starcom clients might move across to the new Mediavest Nolan said: “We would not be opposed to it, assuming it was right for the client.”

The new boss of Mediavest, Kallas said that from her initial conversations with clients there was an strong interest in a more collaborative model.

“Most clients I have spoken to have absolutely loved the thought of it. There is definitely an appetite for it,” said Kallas, who has been with Starcom Mediavest for six years and up until May ran the Sydney office.

Kallas said that initially the focus was on clients within the Publicis Group, but she expected this to eventually widen.

“We see the focus being on the group,” she said.  “That’s the difference – and it’s working across paid, owned and earned media — and each will be planned by the same team. And you can do that on clients where you have all those services for.”

“It is different because you are faster to market, you are more reactive and you are more integrated into the creative process.”

Challenged around the risk of agency turf wars and the potential for the one strategic team to fight over a strategy that most benefit’s their own agency Kallas argued that moving the discussion upfront avoided much of the risk of conflict.

“That is where the partnership piece comes in. All of it is agreed up front and so there is no confusion about who is doing what upfront,” she said.

“The whole reason we are doing this is we want to be media neutral. We don’t want to be sitting there having turf wars over who does social, PR and all the other bits.

“Strategy is one part the turf wars come in after. A lot of the turf wars come later and are in the owned and earned part and the partnership will help allow that not to happen.”

While the formal launch will be later this year, Mediavest has been operating quietly for a number of months with the new agency pitching for the media account of Lexus dealers back in May.

Mumbrella understands that part of the offer presented to the client was that they could have the one strategic offering were they to have to have gone with Publicis creative agency Saatchis. In that instance however,  TMS retained the media business while creative went to M&C Saatchi.

In terms of working with non sister creative agencies Kallas said they were open to it.

“We would consider it but we haven’t to date,” she said. “I also see new business opportunities. I don’t think it has to start in the family.

“What we would like Mediavest to be is what works for the client, so if that works then we would look at it.”

Nic Christensen 


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