We Are Social Sydney hunts for new managing director after founder Julian Ward exits

Julian Ward


The last founding member of We Are Social Sydney’s office Julian Ward has departed the agency, with co-founder Nathan McDonald temporarily stepping into the managing director role, Mumbrella can reveal.

Ward was one of two founding partners along with Heather Ann Snodgrass when the agency launched in Sydney in March 2010, helping to build the office to 46 staff. He finished in mid-April.

Speaking to Mumbrella McDonald said: “After five years Julian was ready for a change. We’ve been growing and adapting, the agency is evolving and changing and he felt he’d taken it to a level that was enough for him and he was ready for a change.

“We wish him all the best for the future and we’re actively hiring a new MD,” he added.

The agency boasts clients including Village Roadshow, Kia Motors and is also behind the recent launch of streaming service Netflix in Australia.



McDonald said the the agency’s standing in the marketplace is a testament to Ward’s efforts over recent years.

“The team that has been built and the clients we have – both historic and current – are testament to the work that he put in, we wish him well for the future. We’re looking to the future, looking to move on,” he said.

“I’m the interim MD and we are in advanced conversations with a few people in market who are pretty excited and interested. That’s exciting, that’s the next chapter for us.”

Ward’s departure follows on from the the announced exit of We Are Social managing partner David Fairfull at the end of last month, which McDonald said was just coincidental timing.

On who might be next to lead the Sydney office McDonald was coy, saying he expected to have “completed the process by early June.”

When pushed on any potential expansion within Australia McDonald said there were no current plans to do so.

“At the moment we’re successfully working with a number of clients in Melbourne. As we grow the business in Australia generally it could make sense to open up in Melbourne in the future but there are no current plans to do that.”

NetflixIn November last year the agency picked up the social account for streaming giant Netflix having worked with them in the UK, spearheading an extensive social push for what was a digitally-led launch campaign.

McDonald said Netflix is a “fantastic piece of business”.

“They’re a really innovative client. They want to do innovative work and they want to do work that challenges and pushes the boundaries. We’re really excited to be their partner here in social.

“The launch was a fantastic success, it was a primarily digital launch which was great. We’ve been working with them in the UK for at least 18 months. It’s a fairly well established relationship in the UK,” he added.

we are social copyAustralian McDonald, who is now based in London, said in the social side the market in Australia is slightly behind its overseas counterparts, however couched his comments by saying the agency was lucky to have innovative clients.

“The market here is interesting, we’ve always felt it was a market with great potential. The size of the market has shaped the agency a bit in the fact that we have a rounded social and digital offering,” he said.

“That’s been really good actually because we’ve developed interesting bits of technology that we use here and that we’re starting to use in other markets. It’s quite a big development and tech team here, that’s good aspects of the difference.

“With the social side of the business, clients here hold back a little bit, they seem to wait before the rest of the rest of the world jumps onto something before they are willing to embrace it. We have some clients that are more open to innovation.

“We’re fortunate that we work with a lot of clients that are up for that, but in the wider marketplace, some of the stuff we see here is happening elsewhere or happened elsewhere a year ago,” he added.

Blue FocusAt the end of 2013 Chinese marketing services group BlueFocus Communications acquired a majority stake in the social media agency network, a partnership which they were able to leverage to open an office in Shanghai this month.

On working with BlueFocus McDonald said: “They are really focused on growth and on technology. Their ambition is to become a global player in marketing services and we’re part of that plan. They were really supportive of us opening in Shanghai.

“It’s only a small team there but we’re actively hiring,” he said on the team in China.

While marketers are often warned about using Western marketing tactics and strategies for the Chinese market McDonald said it was surprisingly similiar on the social side.

“The platforms are different, the technology and the interactions work are different. But our belief is that the fundamental human behaviours that drive social and social interaction are very similar across the board,” he said.

“The principles and ideas we apply in the West tend to apply in China, it’s not exactly the same, but all of those principles still apply. You still have to be relevant, you have to behave in a human way not in a corporate way, we think the broad model we have and the broad approach we have works in China.”

When pushed on further expansion plans in the Asian market McDonald was coy.

“The Singapore business is going really well and we’re naturally looking at opportunities in other markets. We’ve got a number regional clients and we want to support them in the best way possible,” he said.

Miranda Ward


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