Industry Profile: Bonfire digital marketing CEO, Clay Cook

By AdNews | 15 September 2016
Clay Cook

Our Industry Insights Profile takes a weekly look at some of the professionals working across the advertising, ad tech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles and companies across the buzzing industry.

Earlier this week we spoke to Industry Profile: Imagination MD Anthony Gowthorp.

This week we head to Perth to speak to Bonfire CEO and director, Clay Cook.

Duration in current role/time at the company:

More than 19 years.

In one sentence, how would you describe what the company does?

Bonfire is Perth’s largest and most experienced digital marketing agency specialising in search.

In one sentence, what does your role involve?

Providing strategic direction and support to Bonfire’s senior management team to provide an industry-leading service.

Within the last six months/year, what stands out as the company’s major milestones?

We really asserted ourselves as one of the leading SEO specialist agencies in Australia. Our team swelled to over 35 of some of Australia’s brightest digital minds. This would suggest we’re one of, if not the largest, dedicated digital team based in Australia. And this was all topped of by winning some real high profile accounts which include the likes of Bonds,, ENJO, Berlei, and Rusty to name a few.

Best thing about the industry you work in:

Digital marketing is continuing to grow and replace traditional media. Helping our clients embrace this new medium and achieve real, measurable results on a daily basis is very rewarding.

Previous industry related (ad land/ad tech) companies you have worked at:

Founder of one of the world’s first successful online marketing companies, ineedhits (1996)
CTO and co-founder of online parenting social network, Minti (2005)
CEO and co-founder of web 2.0 start-up, Vibe Capital (2006)
Chairman and co-founder of online marketing community, Gooruze (2007)

Career-wise, where do you see yourself in three years time?

Still the CEO of (a bigger) Bonfire.

What is the elephant in the room? The thing that no one is talking about – but they should be.

Unfortunately, there’s still a serious lack of transparency by many digital agencies that leads to a lack of trust from their clients. A lack of transparency runs across everything from click costs, percentage of media fees going towards actual “media”, work conducted locally versus oversees, what’s involved in the secret herbs and spices of SEO, manual versus computer managed campaigns, breakdown of hours worked, results achieved, etc etc.

We’ve seen many cases where businesses have been burned by agencies who didn’t live up to their pitch. This is likely one of the main reasons why we have seen a few big name digital agencies shut-up shop over the past year. Digital marketing is still a fairly overwhelming area for many businesses, being as transparent as possible with what clients can achieve, will go a long way in overcoming this cautiousness.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?

Fortunately (or unfortunately) they all know me extremely well. What they don’t know is probably too personal…

Top networking tip:

Turn up?

My favourite restaurant for a business lunch is:

Business lunches are so 90s aren’t they? A good local coffee joint suits me just fine.

My favourite advert is:

The Audi v BMW billboard war is right up there. The recent “Trump Donald” campaign by The Economist is worth a mention.

bmw versus audi

My must-have gadget is:

Addicted to my iPhone like the rest of us.

My favourite media is:

Video on my iPhone. The TV is gathering dust.

My favourite TV show is:

Recently finished watching “Vikings” on Netflix (iPhone), however mostly I watch clips on YouTube like “Would I Lie To You”, “Letterman”, “Larry King Interviews”, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” etc

The last book I read:

Layne Beachley – Beneath the Waves

My mantra / philosophy is:

I believe in a well-balanced lifestyle, and split my time appropriately between family, hobbies/sport, and business.

I got into advertising/ad tech/marketing etc because:

I didn’t want to work for anyone else and the timing of the internet was fortunate.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:

Definitely sports related. Professional sailing - America’s Cup aspirations most probably.

In five years' time I'll be:

Still alive and enjoying time with the family and continuing to keep my mind active in business.

Define your job in one word:


What's your poison:

Coffee has come back on the radar after 10 years off the stuff.


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