MediaCom on a journey to improve perceptions - Sean Seamer

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 3 March 2016
Sean Seamer

MediaCom will hire an external PR agency and is “evolving” its culture and operational structure to improve market perceptions in the wake of the misreporting scandals of late 2014.

New CEO Sean Seamer, who is four months into the role, tells AdNews the agency is getting invited to pitches, but more work needs to be done around perception to convert opportunities into client wins.

“There's obviously hesitancy, but by the same token I'm talking to clients that say 'you need a win, some big wins and that probably makes you hungrier than most',” he says.

“The invitations, to be honest with you, are more out of curiosity and we need to get them be a really genuine pitch for the business.”

MediaCom is looking to move on from the reputational damage suffered after an EY audit into the manipulation of TV campaign reporting. As a result the agency lost Foxtel and IAG and has suffered unrelated client loses since, including Cannon, NRMA Motoring and EA Games. Recently the agency has bolstered its management team, picked up Sony's PlayStation and Electronics accounts while a new GroupM agency has been established to serve its client Westpac.

'Not a cultural problem'

Seamer says the scandal was not a sign of a broader cultural problem, more a case of “a few people that did the wrong thing that we rooted out”.

“Unfortunately in our situation it's been our brand rather than those people that have copped it," he says, adding that the damage that bothered him most was the effect it had on staff.

“What hurt is for employees and potential employees to think less of MediaCom," he adds.

When probed about whether MediaCom still had a job to do to change external perceptions of a cultural problem, Seamer says it's not the culture, but processes that needed surgery.

"Perception and reality are two very different things, particularly in our business," he says."There's a lot of very good people here that are passionate about the business and have been with the business a long time.

“We have to use the technology and processes available to us to ensure that it doesn't happen again. We've done that and, frankly, we've come out the other side of that more tried and tested than any other business in the market. I'd put us up against anybody - any auditor or any procurement department to come in here."

Seamer does accept, however, the business needs "evolution" not only to address the perception problem, but also refresh after many years of little change.

External help

The Kiwi, who has worked with MediaCom globally in the US, UK and Singapore, is tasked with turning around the agency's fortune - and his first job is to improve perceptions, processes and 'siloed' operating structures.

To help, MediaCom is hiring an PR agency outside of GroupM to work on its internal and external communications.

Seamer says he spent the first few months listening to “re-learn the business with fresh eyes”, and is putting in place a new vision, with a focus on better enabling and empowering MediaCom's people.

“We've democratised the entire business planning process. Had a cross section of 20 people working with us with external consultants to define the vision for MediaCom, where we want to be, how we want to get there and what success looks like,” he says.

“We've got some fantastic products and what we need to do is pull that together because too much of it is sitting in silos. All our new product positioning is around creating systems and looking at our clients business as a system rather than sitting in silos.”

For more on the MediaCom. Read below:
GroupM forms bespoke agency to serve Westpac as account leaves MediaCom
MediaCom picks up PlayStation in global Sony review
MediaCom continues to bolster top tiers - “powerful” Melbourne team unveiled
GroupM reveals findings of MediaCom audit: outlines overhaul of processes 
Timeline: MediaCom’s audit process

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