Anne Parsons is one of the enduring figures of the Australian media industry. Now living in Paris and commuting to London every week to run her agency Cherry London, Parsons is this year’s inductee to the Media Federation of Australia Hall of Fame.
She is the first woman to be admitted and was one of the first female media agency CEOs in Australia. Parsons carved a niche for herself and remains one of the most respected figures in the industry. She doesn’t believe she ever suffered working in a male dominated domain.
“Respect comes from what you do and how you do it,” she said. “Always there are male voices, and usually there are more of those, but a well-reasoned argument is always heard. I would say I have enjoyed [operating in a male domain] and used the differences to my advantage. Women will always do well by relying on their emotional intelligence. We have it in spades and can put it to invaluable use. It’s not a secret, it is an asset and it’s why women should be on [more] boards and in management.”
Parsons left George Patterson Bates in the 90s to run Zenith Media, not the Publicis-owned ZenithOptimedia but what was then the largest independent media shop "unless you beleive Harold Mitchell, who claimed he was the biggest" she says. Zenith was bought by WPP in 2006, merged with MediaCom and created the largest media agency in Australia. She ran it until moving to France in 2010.
She describes her time running agencies in Australia, which was shortly after media and creative went their separate ways, as the time when “media became truly recognised as an immensely valuable craft”.
“It gave some very great, smart people the chance to really shine and it ensured that the way in which money was invested was seen to be as important and as interesting as the way the creative story was told. Media has always had some great talent associated with it but now they could fly and start to create and innovate in ways that mattered to the client,” she said.
Parsons had a sparky relationship with her rival Mitchell, and she describes their sparring as “a fabulous moment of debate, tension and excellent humour”.
Of her achievements, and her recognition in the Hall of Fame, she is remarkably humble. She brings it back to the importance of the MFA of bringing the industry together.
“My nomination is not specifically for any one thing or any outstanding achievement, because I simply do not believe that of myself. It's the ability for the MFA to say to the industry that we celebrate people and their contribution. We recognise that we are in perpetual motion, with challenges and opportunities, and as we all grab hold of those, we help create a better industry,” she says.
“In an otherwise hideously competitive business, where outdoing and outshining is the name of the game, having a membership which is focused on how to be the best the 'industry' can be is hugely important. The need for positive collaboration and unified thinking is the essential element to ensuring that the industry prospers.”
She handed the reigns of MediaCom to Tony Jenner before moving to Europe, where she later launched and ran the Standard Media Index.
Parsons is currently on the board of outdoor media company QMS and running Cherry, which is one of the UK's fastest growing independent agencies specialising in strategic brand partnerships. Its principles are based on the sharing of ideas and co-creating.
Her admission into the MFA Hall of Fame follows her being inducted into the Melbourne
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