‘The biggest pitch since Coles’: The top creative account and talent moves of 2023

2023 was much like any other year in the creative sector with a huge number of talent and account moves. Mumbrella's Lauren McNamara asked leading creatives what the biggest moves were, in their opinion.

Gayle While, CEO, Havas Host

The most interesting, and biggest pitch this year was definitely Telstra. It will be fascinating to watch how the new +61 model comes to life next year. This bespoke partnership has the potential to forge a new path in ways of working, and I’m excited to see what impact bringing those brilliant minds together has on the work.

Also, R/GA winning QuickBooks in Australia was a coup for the agency. QuickBooks are an innovative challenger brand and hopefully the combination of R/GA’s smarts and creativity will help bring some brave new thinking and creativity into the increasingly cluttered B2B category.

On a different scale I’m also excited to see how DIG build on the iconic ‘Get some Pork on your fork’ campaign.

On the talent side, Hilary Badger moving to Ogilvy Melbourne at the start of the year was a big change for Ogilvy. But in Hilary they’ve brought in a talented and exciting creative leader. I’ve no doubt that she will be having a significant positive impact on the work, and their culture.

Dave Bowman joining Publicis as CCO across ANZ was another one. It will be interesting to see how he can connect the group’s breadth of capabilities and specialisms through the lens of creativity. Hires like Mandie and Avish clearly indicate his creative intent and the group’s investment in world class creative talent.

It will also be interesting to see how Steve Coll settles back into agency life at M&C Saatchi following his time at Meta. A proven creative leader and innovator, he will make a huge impact on the momentum and direction of the next era of creativity across the M&C Saatchi group.

Dan Monheit, CEO, Hardhat

Telstra to Bear Meets Eagle on Fire (BMEOF) was huge. It’s a huge account, responsible for producing highly visible work and BMEOF getting (half) the gig is a huge vote of confidence for Micah, the team and indies everywhere.

Country Road to SDWM. Bringing in an agency for the first time in 10 years is a pretty big deal, especially when you’re one of Australia’s most iconic brands. SDWM have been quietly bubbling away as a creative hot shop and it’s great to see them continue their ascent.

Uni Melbourne to The Royals. A solid win in a series of solid wins for the Royals, an agency I’m excited to see back on the up.

Justin Graham, Australian group CEO, M&C Saatchi

The Telstra process was hard to miss. Regardless of the result, this was one of the largest brands in the country being very deliberate about what partnership should look like, taking an active interest in the evolving state of agency offerings, and again blurring traditional lines of engagement.

I hope to see more innovative agency models in 2024. To the successful parties, congratulations, I look forward to seeing some brilliant work!

On talent, it was great to see several creative leaders jumping into big agency roles after spending time on the platform and tech side, specifically with Google and Meta.

There is such a convergence of capability in our industry at the moment. Tara McKenty heading to BMF, Dave Bowman to Publicis and our own Steve Coll heading to M&C Saatchi, to name just a few of the headline acts. This is exciting for the industry, and the divergent skill sets will no doubt show up in the work next year.

Hilary Badger, ECD, Ogilvy

Industry’s biggest account move was absolutely Telstra to +61. What a massive change for so many agencies and a huge creative opportunity for this exciting model. I can’t wait to see the work that results.

As for industry’s talent moves – can I say ours? So many great hires for us, including welcoming to our shores the driest man on Earth, Clark Edwards. Bridget Jung to ECD. Aisling Colley joining us as managing partner in Sydney. Plus, Melbourne’s very own Ant Simmons. Exciting times for Ogilvy.

Psembi Kinstan, group ECD, DDB Melbourne

Telstra. Telstra. Telstra. The biggest pitch since Coles and another bespoke agency model created by some smart people. +61 will be launching with the legacy of the fantastic work that’s been made this year on the brand. A tough act to follow, but one no doubt they’ll absolutely smash.

On talent, Publicis, Saatchi’s, Dentsu, M&C, WundermanThompson/VMLY&R/VML… There’s been some massive musical chairs this year and it looks set to continue into January and February with a few notable chairs still empty.

Coulson at Dentsu is an exciting proposition for their network. He’s a gentleman and a genius, so I’ll look forward to see the work that comes in the new year.

Jess Wheeler, creative director, SICKDOGWOLFMAN

BCF’s catalog of work is unquestionably iconic. The tone of voice, the aesthetic, a series of ownable brand assets/codes, the brand building was really something to admire. I was surprised to see the account move, and to be honest, even more so once the first piece of work landed.

An obvious one that everyone will be watching closely. The work this year from The Monkeys should be applauded, but as a long time fan of anything coming out of Bear Meets Eagle on Fire, I’m keen to see where they take it from here under the new +61 structure.

Then, there’s every account won by an indie against a multi.

We can’t win pitches on scale. We can’t win on headcounts. We can’t win on logos on a website. We can’t win on fancy offices. (And having 47 of them across the globe.) We can only win pitches on two things – the work and the people. And it takes those people working fucking hard to slay a giant. So, to my fellow indies out there, I see you and I feel you – hope you had a great year and an even better break. Bring on 2024.

Dee Madigan, ECD, Campaign Edge

The Monkeys continue to produce outstanding work- and their account win for CUB brands VB, Pure Blonde and Peroni means we will see some great campaigns next year.

The biggest talent move of the year will be the new producer who joins our agency by sending their CV into create@campaignedge.com.au (see what I did there).

Ollie Beeston, partner – creative, Reunion

2023 was characterized generally by a lack of big moves although the key ones worth mentioning were: Telstra – a bold move by bold marketer; TA – and the changing shape of their pitch; P&O – moving to indie Supermassive, as anchor client; Menulog – moving to Thinkerbell; Rest Super – moving to an upstart called Reunion, beating out two major competitors.

On talent, Steve Coll replacing Cam Blackley at M&C Saatchi was big. A big agency A big agency shuffling big names at a big moment. Also, the revolving door at Dentsu – There’s been too much to mention here. It’s been hard to keep up!

Scott Nowell leaving The Monkeys/Accenture Song was huge too. The departure of a seasoned creative leader with a career full of impact and influence.

And as a bonus, who can forget the launch of indies like Reunion and Supermassive…Wait, who?

Jim Ingram, national chief creative and founder, Thinkerbell

I’m sure this will be on everyone’s list but the Telstra move from Monkeys (aka Accenture Song) to ‘+61 model’ (Bear, TBWA, OMD) was obviously a big talking point. I think the Accenture Song (aka The Monkeys) have actually been doing some brilliant work building the Telstra brand (more on that later), so will be interesting to see how it evolves under a new guard.

Lots of interest and chat about Tourism Australia pitch. The desire for an integrated, joined-up agency approach was bold (and probably the way of the future) so it will be very interesting to see how that one unfolds.

My last view is a more broad one – it really felt that his year there were loads of little moves and shuffles from clients and agencies on a smaller, or more project-based level. Perhaps coming out of covid (remember that??) clients are still looking to fine-tune and refine who they work with (and how) and are more open to building relationships with a few partners rather than lumping it all in one.

On the people side, I think Simon Bagnasco’s move from Saatchi’s to Bullfrog was a really interesting one. You probably couldn’t get two more different agency dynamics – from a big network powerhouse, to a young hungry not-so-startup anymore. They’ve got quite a good team building there at Bullfrog now, so I’ll watch with interest.

Whilst not entirely news on our shores, there were two global moves that caught my eye. I liked seeing Samira Ansari’s move from Deutsch to CCO at Ogilvy NYC. She’s killing it abroad and I hope she continues to fly the Aussie flag in the Big Apple. And John Mescall’s decision to step down from global ECD of McCann Worldgroup was huge news. He’s a bloody good guy, who’s done amazing work here in Australia and for the group globally. I’ll be very interested in what he decides to do next and hope he comes back home to do it!

Brent Smart’s move to Telstra is the obvious big one. The impact of his arrival was evident in the work, almost immediately. As I said, I think he and The Monkeys had been building some really nice work for the brand, so I really hope it continues (which I’m sure it will) with Smarty’s steadfast focus on building business through creativity.

Jardin Anderson, head of creative, MONA

Bear Meets Eagle on Fire picking up Telstra is huge obviously. One of the country’s biggest accounts awarded to a super-fresh small shop is an exciting, slash somewhat risky move and I love to see it. Looking forward to watching where Micah and team take it.

Got to say, Cam Blackey hanging up his hat at M&C Saatchi after a huge innings was the biggest talent news. I’ve always been a fan of Cam’s creative work, but my own stint in his team in Sydney pre-pandemic has had such a lasting impact on me when it comes to creative leadership. I can’t wait to see what he does next.


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