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News Plus 1 Sep 2021 - 4 min read

From Russia with love for new business models: MediaCom's new CEO Yaron Farizon makes play for e-commerce wins, growth beyond billings

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

MediaCom was once the powerhouse of Australia’s media agencies, topping billings rankings with pugilistic leadership fighting it out on the shortlist of seemingly every major pitch. New CEO Yaron Farizon aims to reclaim the summit. But while the former MediaCom Russia chief has a track record in bringing in big new business wins, he says the old days are over – and tomorrow’s winners will be those that amass e-commerce, consultancy and creative firepower over booking more ads.

What you need to know:

  • MediaCom’s new boss Yaron Farizon brings a track record of major new business wins and retentions, wooing and maintaining the likes of P&G, Coca-Cola and Tele2 as CEO of MediaCom Russia.
  • In order to return MediaCom to form locally, Farizon must bring those skills to bear. But he acknowledges the business also needs alternative revenue streams.
  • Farizon plans to push deeper into consultancy services, with e-commerce the first "low hanging fruit" on his agenda.
  • At the turn of the year MediaCom also announced a creative pivot, with global COO Josh Krichefski suggesting neither consultancies nor specialist digital shops have the breadth to fully deliver what clients now require.
  • Farizon is shaking up his team to reflect MediaCom’s new strategic direction, last month appointing Sophie Price as Chief Strategy Officer and Prajat Khare as Managing Director of Data Led Planning & Systems Intelligence.

Far horizons: Beyond billings

MediaCom’s new CEO built a reputation in Russia for new business prowess. He needs to replicate that in Australia to return the agency to its former glory.

In March, the agency lost the Victorian Government, its $100m flagship account – at least in billings terms – to OMD, and recent years have been leaner than most.

While inter-agency poaching is arguably at an all time high with Australia’s borders largely closed, GroupM this time opted to bring in an outsider. Farizon, however, is a major cog in MediaCom’s international machine, notching 11 years with the agency in Israel as CEO of MediaCom Connections, and most recently at the helm of MediaCom Russia, where he won and retained key accounts including P&G, Coca-Cola and Tele2.

Tasked with turning the agency around, Farizon told Mi3 that new ‘old’ business alone won’t cut it. While runs on the board are a priority, alternative revenue streams beyond billings will determine success.

"I love new business, it's one of the most important areas of acceleration that I am focused on in this role. But we have to look at it with new processes and ensure we using relationships with existing clients as a proof point of what we can do," Farizon said.

"We're still test driving strategies for new business, and have been engaged with some big pitches and clients. But there are still other areas to improve – and luckily we have great people who are willing to drive that."

Where gaps remain, Farizon has moved swiftly to plug them, last month hiring Sophie Price as Chief Strategy Officer and Prajat Khare as MD of Data-Led Planning & Systems Intelligence.

Both appointments offer a clue to Farizon and MediaCom’s strategic intent: While the Australian market can be very locally focused, he said, MediaCom cannot afford to get entirely caught up in the "fame and fortune" that comes with new business; the agency’s global agenda must be executed.

This includes moving into more consultancy-led capabilities around e-commerce and its dynamic creative and content production play, as outlined at the start of the year by global COO Josh Krichefski.  Scale alone, said Farizon, no longer cuts it.

"We can still be that agency MediaCom was, but different and better suited to what modern clients want – not what they wanted 10 years ago. It's not about being one thing only but about being something for everyone," he said.

"Let's face it, ad spend is coming back, it might bounce back this year but that's only to the levels of 2019. As an agency we need to develop more value add services – whether it's consultancy, content delivery, integration project or sports and entertainment sponsorships."

E-commerce: Not just for Covid

But Farizon sees e-commerce as the biggest immediate opportunity. It may be that Australia’s ‘digital transformation’ binge is about to suffer the same hangover that oversold martech systems are still sweating out years after the first wave of integrations.

While brands have raced for digital transformation over the last 18 months, they now need agencies to tie those investments back to media buying, planning and attribution, as well as creative execution and user experience.

In other words, joining the dots and delivering the post-Covid roadmap, not just the enabling tech.

"Better leveraging technology is the now the way we as an agency can evolve a brand’s entire strategy, whether its optimising media spend, generating better measurement or guiding a client on the next stage of their digital and customer journey – it all has to connect," said Farizon.

"That's why I see e-commerce as low hanging fruit: clients have invested heavily into it. Now it is set up, they are increasingly questioning what they need to be doing to get the most out of it. That is why technology has to run through every aspect of our business, not be this cherry on top that only comes up at the end of the funnel.”

That could prove lucrative work – at least for agencies where previous integrations are starting to lose their shine.

The ability to re-engineer technological snafus while avoiding past mistakes and looking further and wider ahead than a consultant or integrator appears to be a key plank of Farizon’s plan. He thinks the territory is fertile.

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