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Deep Dive 9 Dec 2020 - 5 min read

Mi3's biggest media and agency stories of 2020: S4 Capital lobs bombs; WPP's Jens Monsees strikes back; Cummins & Partners gives back; the rise of the indies; and the many returns of Simon Ryan

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

Some news is good news: The Cummins & Partners team (pictured pre-social distancing) is back to full pay, and reimbursed for Covid cuts.

2020 proved an opportunity for some, with independent agencies gaining traction while the big agencies and media owners grappled with surviving Covid in one piece. Mi3 readers were drawn like moths to the flame of Simon Ryan's next move; how Jens Monsees is bending WPP's wires to his will; Publicis Groupe's structural overhaul; the apparent refusal of Sir Martin Sorrell's S4 Capital to pitch for business; and the emergence of RXP, owners of The Works and in the process of being acquired by Capgemini, as another potential rival consultant. Plus OOH, cinema, TV and radio bosses on what's coming next.


"He is a close friend of 15 years and will always remain one, but he's going to assess and do what's best for him."

Simon Ryan, CEO, RyanCap

Former Dentsu bosses Simon Ryan and Konrad Spilva enter indie agency fray with new venture

The most read media story this year... and it changed before Ryan's new agency venture even launched. Spilva, while involved early on, instead decided to launch his own consultancy, Shadowboxer. It was former Carat Melbourne MD Joseph Pardillo with whom Ryan officially launched Ryvalmedia some three months later.


“Obviously, it will be linked to business performance and ours has been good, but you really need to understand the impact this has on your staff’s lives. It’s not like you have just stopped the free coffee, you have actually impacted their livelihood. Respect that.”

Cummins & Partners, CEO, Chris Jeffares

‘It’s the right thing to do’: Cummins & Partners takes seven figure hit to payback all staff in full for Covid cuts

After implementing Covid pay cuts, Cummins & Partners in October returned all staff to full wages – and paid employees back what they lost. It’s been “emotional” according to agency leaders Sean Cummins and Chris Jeffares. But both cuts – and paybacks – were necessary. Now their 100-strong Australian team is looking forward to growth.


“If someone is telling you that two seconds is enough, don’t believe them. A deeper understanding of real human attention within the advertising ecosystem is what it takes to leverage ROI for media spend. Don’t mistake this comment for advocacy of lower CPMs though. Seeking low cost reach is a fool’s errand. The simple truth is you should pay more for quality attention if you want to grow your brand.”

Professor Karen Nelson-Field, Founder and CEO, Amplified Intelligence

'Fools errand' and the billion dollar question: Is 1.7 seconds enough exposure for ads to work? No, but it's beyond Facebook

In numerous "advertising attention" studies now done across Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and TV in Australia and international markets, Professor Karen Nelson-Field has data which answers the critical question many marketers and media specialists are either still not asking or care for: How much time does an ad need in front of a user or viewer to be effective? On average around 50% of "time-on-screen" has no viewer attention paid at all. And no platform is immune. Here's everything you need to know - fast.  


“There’s space for a disrupter. If you look at the holding companies, they have been struggling for the last year and a half, two years. The consultancy businesses are, I think, slightly too far from reality in [delivering on] client needs right now and being able to operate and act quickly.”

Michel de Rijk, APAC CEO, S4 Capital

Shift happens: Sorrell’s S4 Capital APAC CEO Michel de Rijk on why his boss couldn’t reinvent WPP, the arbitrage model of Xaxis and what S4 plans for Australia

WPP’s founder Sir Martin Sorrell was ousted in 2018 and is now at the top of the $US2.1bn challenger to Accenture, the big consulting firms and global marketing services holding company giants and agency networks. S4 is banking big time on tech firms like Adobe, Salesforce and Google for its growth and blending those capabilities with fast, borderless content production and digital media and business transformation. S4 APAC CEO, Michel de Rijk, talks frankly about more acquisitions in Australia and why the consulting and communications company models will continue to struggle. “We don’t have all that internal bullshit,” de Rijk tells Mi3, although he says there are "very smart people" in S4's crosshairs. 


“Sunita has a reputation for being a connector of people, solutions and building partnerships that all drive the customer growth agenda.”

Jonathan Restarick, Accenture Australia Managing Director for Communications, Media and Technology

Ex-WPP Chief Customer Officer Sunita Gloster lands Accenture, United Nations roles as revolving door continues between consulting firms, marketing service giants

The to-and-fro hustle between consulting giants and global marketing services groups keeps on giving with Accenture Australia confirming recently departed WPP Chief Customer Officer Sunita Gloster has been appointed Senior Advisor in the firm’s Communications, Media and Technology (CMT) Practice.


"No hierarchical and geographical layers, no long approval processes, just great work and getting to business outcomes quickly to solve 'the now'."

Joseph Pardillo, Managing Director, Ryvalmedia

Finally official: Joseph Pardillo steps up to run Simon Ryan's venture Ryvalmedia; digital agency merger 'imminent'

After a few blazing saddles, former Dentsu CEO Simon Ryan officially confirms the launch of the first agency inside his start-up independent group, RyanCap. With ex-Carat Melbourne MD Joseph Pardillo at the helm, Ryan is targeting "aggressive growth" and acquisitions in a bid to scale.


“If we are decided this is the right way to transform the business, and we have alignment with London, with the board, with the management team among us, then we are going down a certain track. If there are some people that are not aligned to the strategy, then it's always their choice to support the strategy or to also say, that's not for me and step off the bus.”

Jens Monsees, CEO, WPP AUNZ

Smoke and fire: WPP AUNZ boss Jens Monsees rubbishes rebellion rumours as board instigates CEO review; counters Sorrell on S4 Capital's 'new model'

Jens Monsees is one year into running WPP’s AUNZ operation and the market is now heaving with talk of broad internal leadership unrest over how he’s transforming the business and 'doing culture'. In this frank conversation, Monsees addresses talk of a fallout with COO John Steedman after the veteran's recent, abrupt exit, a board-instigated review of Monsees' performance across staff and clients and he fires back at S4 Capital’s jibes around the troubled future of holding companies.


“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic putting our people first has been our guiding philosophy; ensuring their safety and well-being, and protecting as many jobs as possible so that our team is in the best shape possible to help our clients through their recovery.”

Michael Rebelo, CEO, Publicis Groupe ANZ

Publicis Australia enters stage four of pandemic response, 30 jobs gone as Forrester predicts agencies to cut 100,000 jobs globally through 2021

As Covid's impacts and aftershocks continued to be felt across the economy, news of further pay cuts and redundancies across Publicis and other agency groups garnered attention for obvious reasons.


“We’re in survival mode. The important thing for us, and for a lot of other businesses right now, is just survival. Our revenue has dried up.”

Damian Keogh, President & CEO, Hoyts Group

Hoyts CEO Damian Keogh says 50% hit to Box Office likely, media faces 'accelerated structural change'

As Covid hit and Hoyts shuttered cinemas for the first time in its 111 year history, CEO Damian Keogh offered an honest appraisal of its prospects.


"We are an industry that that is centred on its people, its creativity, its thinking, its passion, the way we drive ideas forward and the additional work that people put in that no one else ever sees. I worry about what sort of industry we will have moving forward if our industry is centred on people working from home."

Danny Bass, ex-IPG Mediabrands CEO

Bass on the outside: Ex-IPG Mediabrands CEO says culture needs agencies, media people back in the office for magic

Danny Bass is convinced that the agencies that can get their people back in the office, or at least physically interacting beyond Zoom, will have “first mover advantage”. He says the industry’s collective culture needs it for creativity, ideas and magic. And he talks irony and Sir Martin Sorrell's S4 Capital. 


“A lot of teams are looking to get back together and learn from one another. It’s much easier to sift through ideas when it’s not just you for the majority of the day. It can be very simple things, such as learning from the person next to you. How often have you had challenge or problem to solve at work and a manager or colleague has demonstrated it for you?”

Michael Rebelo, ANZ CEO, Publicis Media

Bringing everyone back together: Publicis chief Michael Rebelo on full service, half full offices and why creative agencies need to know their enemy at next year’s TV upfronts

Publicis Groupe ANZ CEO Micheal Rebelo admits the group got lucky by rolling out its homeworking strategy just before coronavirus hit. He's also used the time to rejig leadership and reshape the business for the post-Covid era. As clients prepare for a volatile and cost-conscious year ahead, he's backing a full service capability and fully integrated model to bear fruit. It's not just about realigning media and creative, he says, but bringing everything together, including staff, to power out of the pandemic. Meanwhile he's eyeing a new creative competitive set.


“The rulebook is out the window. On the one hand it’s never been a more difficult time to launch an agency. On the other, it’s been brilliant because if you’ve got something new that is doing things like brand experience or e-commerce-focused development and design, then clients are willing to take a chance.”

Aden Hepburn, CEO, Akcelo

‘No red tape’: Former VMLY&R boss Aden Hepburn is ditching old models, eyes 100 staff, CX, media and programmatic unit

Former WPP executive Aden Hepburn reveals that just six months from launch his new shop Akcelo has amassed 30 staff, a client list that includes Lion, and a multi-million dollar digital transformation project. His ambitions don’t stop there.


“Acquiring Dominion supports our strategy of combining technology and commerce with experience and communication services.”

Jens Monsees, CEO, WPP AUNZ

WPP AUNZ CEO Jens Monsees overhauls to a 'campus' model, new exec teams

At the beginning of the year, WPP's AUNZ boss Jens Monsees laid out his mandate for the company's new operational approach, tilting the holding group towards a heavier tech focus and introducing a new 'campus' operating model. 


“The [JBZ Digital] acquisition was a perfect fit and we will continue to build with the freedom to deploy the right media and align with the right technology, audience engagement tools and systems.”

Joseph Pardillo, MD Ryval Media

Simon Ryan’s RyanCap agency consortium acquires first digital shop; Bob Jane and Fernwood Fitness on board as indie group trend continues

A month after launching his RyanCap venture, former Dentsu Aegis Network ANZ CEO Simon Ryan acquired Melbourne-based digital agency JBZ Digital. JBZ folds into RyanCap's existing media arm Ryvalmedia and brings with it Bob Jane T-Marts, DFO and Fernwood Fitness. According to Ryan, another three deals are in the wings.


“The deal means we can hold our own to the point where maybe we're seen as an incumbent – and some of these others that you refer to as the 'big four' become an alternative to us, and not the other way around. It puts us in a new space, no doubt.”

Ross Fielding, CEO, RXP

The next Accenture Interactive, Deloitte Digital? Capgemini and RXP CEOs on the Australian deal the holding companies missed

Capgemini’s takeover deal for listed Australian tech, CX, brand, data and design group RXP buys it a firm generating about $120m from specialist expertise across Salesforce, Microsoft and ServiceNow. It also brings into the fold The Works, the Sydney-based agency RXP acquired in 2018 for circa $33m. Is Australia witnessing the emergence of another Deloitte Digital or Accenture Interactive, and have agency holding groups missed a trick by not getting in there first? Capgemini ANZ CEO Olaf Pietschner and RXP CEO Ross Fielding outline what’s next.


“If we really want to compete with big tech, we have to scale up. We have to give greater accessibility and to huge audiences. Therefore, I think that's going to drive more collaboration and more sharing of platforms in the future.”

Tom Goddard, chairman, Ocean Outdoor & president, WOO

Hardest hit from Covid, global out of home bosses eye programmatic spoils, digital budgets to boost recovery; WFH shifts overcooked

Out Of Home (OOH) was arguably the media hardest hit by Covid-19. But the CEOs of some of the world’s leading out of home companies - with iconic sites like New York's Times Square and London's Piccadilly Circus in their line-up - say the recovery is underway and that talk of structural change post-Covid around WFH is overcooked. OOH, they say, is now competing for digital budget pots – and they’re aiming to take revenue from the big tech behemoths. But they won't repeat the mistakes of publishers into open digital exchanges and other ticket-clipping intermediaries.    


“We've got 65 locations. We're going to keep those locations open. They are a very important part of the community in every place we operate and it's an important part for our people.”

Grant Blackley, CEO, Southern Cross Austereo

Generational split: SCA CEO Grant Blackley says 2000 staff back to the office on full pay; creative and younger talent eager, older gen need 'coaching'

Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) CEO Grant Blackley opens up on bringing staff back to work. While younger staff are raring to get back to the office, he suggests "only half in jest" that older workers have seen remote working as a "wonderful gift" and some may need a little encouragement to return.


“Nobody would want to foreshadow companies going broke. But clearly companies that are not capable of weathering this storm might have to merge or disappear.”

Robert Morgan, Clemenger BBDO Executive Chairman

Clemenger BBDO chair Robert Morgan: Agency consolidation looms as holding groups retool for e-commerce

Significant consolidation is likely in the coming months as agency groups adapt to the post-Covid environment and scramble to integrate greater data and e-commerce capabilities into more traditional shops while cutting costs, says Clemenger BBDO Executive Chairman Robert Morgan. But Clemenger "will absolutely not" replicate WPP's centralised production model. 


“One truism of our industry is that the agencies with the best people always win. Always. Over the last two years, we’ve seen a real migration of top tier talent from networked agencies to independents. You don't really see it going the other way.”

Dan Monheit, Founder, Hardhat

Howie doing? 18 Australian indie agency founders already convincing post-Covid Australia that the future is independent

As CHEP boss Chris Howatson makes a break for independence, 2021 is shaping up to be the year indie agencies whet post-Covid corporate appetite for change, agility and fresh ideas – and step into markets traditionally the preserve of holding companies and their networks. Leaders and founders at Akcelo, Akkomplice Group, Bastion Collective, Bear Meets Eagle on Fire, Cummins & Partners, CX Lavender, Hardhat, Hatched Media, iNC Digital Media, Magnum and Co., RyanCap, Ryval Media, Shadowboxer, Special Group, The Hallway, The Royals, Thinkerbell and This Is Flow welcome Howatson and co to the fray - and an increasingly competitive environment where the old rules are being remade.


"A competitive network set is great for the market. It means programming is strong and reduces the audience churn that we’ve seen in previous years. From a client and agency perspective, it also means all three networks are a viable and potential option if you’re targeting the under 50s."

Lucy Formosa Morgan, Managing Director, PHD

Agencies see the end of the two-horse TV race; Ten prepares for "trading shake-up" in 2021

Ten's turnaround means it is no longer the laggard in the TV race. Agencies say that is good news for brands. Meanwhile, sales chief Rod Prosser signals a major shift in how the network will trade and transact in 2021.

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