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News Plus 10 May 2022 - 4 min read

‘Killing legacy structures, stripping out the fat’; Ex-PwC CMO Advisory bosses gaining momentum with new agency model, equity stakes, specialist alliances

By Paul McIntyre & Brendan Coyne
Sayers Brand Momentum's Genevieve Reynolds, Nicky Bryson and Justin Papps.

Left to right: Sayers Brand Momentum's Genevieve Reynolds, Nicky Bryson and Justin Papps.

OMD is the first big alliance partner for Sayers Brand Momentum, part owned by three former PwC CMO Advisory execs who followed PwC’s ex CEO Luke Sayers and Chief Creative Officer Russel Howcroft across to set-up a Melbourne-based boutique rival to the big consulting groups. They say their hybrid agency model of strategy at the core with alliances of specialists in creative, media and CX is landing in market. Start-ups are particularly strong, where the Sayers Brand Momentum team take equity stakes. OMD's media alliance is only the start - it's going broader to creative and beyond.

What you need to know:

  • Sayers Brand Momentum, helmed by ex-PwC CMO Advisory leads and running out of Melbourne-based boutique advisory Sayers says its new agency model is landing.
  • Delivers strategic consulting capability, then pulls together specialist teams – on and offshore – to execute across go-to-market, creative, media, packaging and beyond.
  • Has taken three equity stakes and struck a partnership with OMD for media.
  • Parent company has dedicated tech and platforms unit.

We don’t want to be the consulting business where the partner wins the work and then disappears.

Nicky Bryson, Partner, Sayers Brand Momentum

Start-ups are buying into an agile agency-advisory model helmed by Justin Papps and former PwC CMO Advisory colleagues Genevieve Reynolds and Nicky Bryson – and Sayers Brand Momentum is buying right back, taking three equity stakes to date.

A leaner model pulling together specialist creative, media and consulting capability from Australia and offshore is gaining equal traction at the top end, with the outfit also working with energy firms and government clients aligned with parent firm Sayers, set up in 2020 to challenge the big four consultants.

The partners suggest the top end of town is sick of corralling agencies. “They don’t have the time or energy to do that conductor piece anymore,” said Papps. “So we haven’t had any pushback.”

Strategy, execution, fat burning

Sayers Brand Momentum is owned by its three founding partners and boutique consulting group Sayers, run out of Melbourne by former PwC CEO Luke Sayers and backed by billionaire trucking magnate Lindsay Fox and Seek co-founder Andrew Bassat.

The group runs operates two divisions – wealth and advisory – with Sayers Brand Momentum sitting in the advisory arm alongside units dedicated to tech and platforms, government, infrastructure, plus strategy and deals.

“We are a strategic core – what is the problem and what is the best solution,” said Principal and co-founder, Nicky Bryson. “But then we actually execute.”

“Basically we crack the strategy and then we’ll bring in the right team to deliver it. We cut the fat, so you don’t have the legacy structures, you don’t have competition, you don’t have baton passing,” said Bryson. “You have one contract, one plan, one agenda, one outcome.”

Sayers’ purpose is to ‘do things better but do better things,’ and Bryson said that extends to Brand Momentum.

“It’s about killing legacy structures that have held things back. We love that, because it’s not just about creating business outcomes for clients, but society. That means we get to be quite selective about who we work with.”

Start-ups, equity stakes

The roster spans working with enterprise firms on sustainability initiatives across their supply chains, to start-ups like Lego Master Ryan ‘Brickman’ McNaught’s BrickFit, in which Brand Momentum has taken an equity stake - one of three the partners have invested in to date.

“We're working with Ryan on his go to market strategy for BrickFit, which uses wearable technology and motivates kids to get out and be active by rewarding them with Lego builds,” said Papps. “Kids get the box of Lego, they get the wearable, and they get the app. The more active they get it unlocks different things that Ryan's created. It's a great idea.”

That’s borne out by pilot work.

“The normal product time for a wearable, kids are usually done with them within 14-16 days. The pilot group were 90-days plus – and the top two users were kids or young adults who have autism who have not previously been into exercise,” said Papps.

“We've done the capital raise for them through our strategy and deals business. We're doing the go to market strategy through our business, talking with retailers, talking with media, working on the media. We're doing the packaging. So it's a full soup to nuts on that.”

Papps said the Brand Momentum stake is “a combination of sweat and money” rather than straight cash investment. “It does change things. You think differently when it’s your own hard earned [money] and it allows us to be a bit braver with a client who may not be as experienced as we are. But we would never have that flexibility if it wasn’t our business.”

To execute media, the firm has a preferred arrangement with OMD “and we’re partnering with them on a lot of things,” said Papps, but will work with any agency or build teams that best suit the brief.

“Our understanding of the industry means we can say, this feels like it best suits X. We approach them, tell them this is what we are doing, this is how we work, you might want to come in on this with us.”

To date, he said the response from agencies “has been really strong. They are putting their best people on it and giving it a go. So that is what we are able to convene – one strategy, one agenda and one team – and that makes a huge difference, particularly when you have to move at pace.”

Scale ups, growth ops

Sayers has pulled together an all female team of six for journalist turned direct-to-consumer skincare entrepreneur Zoë Foster Blake, who sold a 50.1 per cent share in Go-To last year to ASX-listed BWX for $89m.

“We were brought in to help them with the next stage of growth. Traditionally they would have to go on the journey of engaging full service agencies and media agencies, and they would probably go to pitch and endure that whole rigmarole. For them that is time consuming, expensive and not really effective, because Zoë herself is chief creative officer – and she is the reason there has been a huge amount of growth in that business,” said Bryson.

“She wants to be hands on with the work. So instead of going through the process of engaging partners, we created a team. We did strategy … brought in the right creative, we’re now scoping production and talking about media buying. Normally they would probably have to involve three agencies to get to where we are.”

Enterprise, boardrooms, reappearing act

Through the broader group, Sayers is also accessing big clients.

“We’re working with federal and state agencies, utilities, energy companies,” said Papps. “There is a gap with boards, and giving boards confidence with go-to-market strategies is where we’re spending a lot of our time. It is different when you can walk into the room and say we have the experience in creative strategy, media strategy and consulting and we’ve been in the CMO scene. You can have a different conversation. Bringing together all those threads has been really important.”

But delivering on that advisory is critical, said Bryson.

“We don’t want to be the consulting business where the partner wins the work and then disappears.”

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