Cummins&Partners reveals plans for bigger media ambitions

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 16 May 2019
Chris Jeffares and Paul Murphy

Independent full-service agency Cummins&Partners will double down on its media offering, as the business looks to target more clients unable to "buy their way out of trouble".

Speaking to AdNews, Cummins&Partners Australia CEO Chris Jeffares says brands that sit between the $3 million to $15 million annual media spend mark are becoming increasingly frustrated by the "typical media model".

Cummins, which has been bolstering both its media team, with the hire of former Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) national media manager Paul Murphy, and client roster, most recently winning the $8m Jenny Craig account, is looking to capitalise on this market sentiment.

"There are opportunities certainly from $3 million to $15 million or so. That is probably the most neglected area and they're also at a level that they can't buy their way out of trouble," Jeffares told AdNews.

"A lot of the businesses in those areas are challenger brands that need innovative thinking flowing through their media just as much as creative because they can't pick up the phone and ask someone to buy their way out of some of the situations they're in."

Murphy agrees, adding that there isn't a capped level of spend Cummins can't handle. He says that as marketing spend shrinks and CMOs are forced to "answer more strategic" questions, a full-service model becomes more attractive.

While admits he may be overly ambitious in his intentions to "knock on the door" of bigger media players, Murphy believes the key to bigger client wins lies in securing and holding onto top talent.

"We have people approaching us who are very keen to join the structure we are developing, with the intention of actually servicing even larger clients and that's something we are heavily focused on and now it's really about building up momentum to get there," Murphy says.

"When you look at people like Lisa Mier joining the business in particular, who has come from Ikon and worked on major clients such as Myer, or myself who has worked on NAB and internally with CUB, you can see the play we are trying to make."

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He says the agency is seeing people from larger holding groups looking to make the jump into the indie space, mainly because they see the opportunity to "invest themselves".

"We get a lot of people enquiring who are pushing uphill with work in media businesses, now looking for opportunities on our side of the fence," he says.

"We're very happy that we've got people that have run in excess of $15 million pieces of business that are complex and multi-dimensional, and so you have the capability in your leaders to build trust and confidence with clients while also being able to scale up teams over time.

Jeffares believes clients will continue to work with Cummins as matters of continuity, transparency and lingering legacy models remain areas of improvement for larger agency groups.

He says the shifting industry landscape, which is seeing a rapid proliferation of media and more channels of revenue than before, is causing clients to look for a "closer relationship" with their agency, a relationship that requires a new level of "agility and co-operation".

"When you're not protecting historical revenue models or hidden revenue models you can actually change your own operating strategy quite quickly and in a very transparent way in partnership with clients," Jeffares says.

"The same goes for our approach to data, we're not protecting your own tech stacks or anything like that because we're a lot more tech agnostic in how we work across those areas of the business, and I'm not talking just programmatic, but all aspects of our media offering."

Murphy says the changing nature of client needs is eroding the idea of bigger agencies being leaders.

He says in the past big clients could "smother a category", such as big sporting events, however as interest in traditional mediums wane, such as the decline in TV ad buying, smaller players have had the door opened for them.

"Less than a decade ago, you could really own a sporting code, for example, you could lock everyone out and you could own it for three nights a week," Murphy says.

"However, that's not the case anymore, and whether you're a small, medium or large client, the truth is the demands are changing.

"It requires a new model and way of thinking, and we believe by having talent pooled from all aspects of the industry, we can offer a unique point of difference that can shift with those expectations."

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