‘They were fundamentally different cultures’: EssenceMediacom heads reflect on merger one year on

GroupM’s EssenceMediacom has hit one year in market as a merged supergroup, but it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Featuring on the latest instalment of Mumbrella’s one-on-one podcast series, GroupM ANZ’s CEO, Aimee Buchanan, EssenceMediacom ANZ’s CEO, Pippa Berlocher, and Sydney MD Stevie Douglas-Neal, reflected on the past 12 months, and what it’s like being part of a majority-female leadership team.

While it made sense strategically at a global level to merge Essence and Mediacom, as the agencies were already collaborating on a number of clients and were pitching together for new business wins, Buchanan said the merge was a “very different picture” locally.

(L-R): Aimee Buchanan, Pippa Berlocher, Stevie Douglas-Neal

“We’d gone through quite a few mergers over a short period of time, and there was a sense of exhaustion in the teams and our people. So getting stability quickly was critical,” she explained.

To ensure that stability was established as quickly and seamlessly as possible, she said the two agencies were already working as a single one well before Founders Day last year, as it was important to give people the clarity of what their roles were and what they would be doing.

“We didn’t wait to launch. When we got to Founders Day in January last year, it was the big announcement, the proposition was revealed… but the agency was largely operating as a single entity well before.”

Douglas-Neal added: “People felt like they didn’t know what it meant for them, and they were really excited once they did know what it meant for them, and got on board and came with us really quickly, which has been culturally incredible.

“But I think you can’t underestimate what that level of change means for someone who’s three or four years into their career, and for them it feels like their team and their world and their agency and the culture that they’ve bought into is changing.”

Despite being similar sizes, Essence and Mediacom were fundamentally different cultures, according to Berlocher.

“Trying to bring two very different businesses together, very different cultures together, and make us all feel like one unified, excited business was probably the biggest challenge,” she said.

“I knew going into it… the only way that we’ll be successful with EssenceMediacom is by winning the hearts and minds of our people, and that’s an evergreen journey to be honest.

“But that’s probably the biggest challenge for me, how do we get everyone on board, galvanise the 500 [people] and get them excited about where we’re going.”

The new one-on-one episode also delves into GroupM’s WGEA gender pay gap data, what having a majority-female leadership team looks like, how it impacts the network’s culture, and how they plan to celebrate International Women’s Day on Friday.

Listen to the full episode here.


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