Belinda Rowe inducted into the MFA Hall of Fame

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 22 September 2023

Belinda Rowe has been named the 2023 inductee into the Media Federation of Australia (MFA) Hall of Fame.

At the annual MFA Awards last night at Royal Randwick in Sydney, Rowe joined Greg 'Sparrow' Graham, Anthony Fitzgerald, Charles Parry-Okeden, Anne Parsons, Henry Tajer, John Grono, John ‘Steady’ Steedman and John Sintras to become the ninth inductee in the Hall of Fame.

In inducting her, Peter Horgan, CEO of Omnicom Media Group Australia, said over a 30 year career, there have been many highlights for Rowe.

"She was a pioneer of ZenithOptimedia and Publicis Mojo, helping launch both in Australia," he said.

"I first came across this formidable woman in the late 90s, when I was an over-ambitious young trader working on Kellogg and Nestle at Optimedia. What struck us all was how she believed in the power of teams and how she was elevating the impact that media had within communications.

"She seemed to mix in rarefied circles, happily rubbing shoulders with the likes of Holly Kramer at Telstra, Geoff Dixon at Qantas or Maury Clazik at seven. She was equally supportive and approachable at all levels within the agency. All this while leading two mischievous partners in crime in Mark Kennedy and Simon Rush."

Horgan said she was a truly transformational force in the industry, "a genuine changer".

"She had a laugh you could hear clean across the building, but if you crossed her, an icy glare that could cut you in two - she was quite a boss," Horgan told the MFA Awards crowd.

"At giving back, she served as chair of the Advertising Federation of Australia for the best part of a decade and was on the board of UNICEF for five years. The late noughties saw saw her take on the global stage, moving to London, and leading Zenith and Publicis as global managing partner.

"A stint on the client side with O2 and then back to Australia, where she now sits on a number of boards, including ARN, Sky New Zealand, Temple and Webster and the Sydney Swans."

Her MFA Hall of Fame speech: 

"I just really want to thank Peter Horgan and the MFA for this prestigious honour. I just can't believe it.

"I really commend the MFA for everything you do. It's fantastic to hear that we had 1,600 people here today [at MFA EX], so congratulations Sophie [Madden] on all the work that you and your team are doing, the excellent support that you provide the media industry which is so important. Having been part of an industry body, it's hard work and it's really important work to do. It's great to see, you're celebrating a lot of people, change and the work. It's very special here to also stand amongst the other inductees; it's great to be part of that great bunch of people who've contributed so much to the industry over the last 30 years and beyond.

"The media industry does provide the most phenomenal opportunities and careers for people and I've been so blessed to have the most amazing experiences as well as make so many fantastic friends and relationships and that wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't learned so much from so many people, whether they’re in this room or outside this room.

"The wonderful teams that I've worked with; I do love working with teams, I like having a lot of fun, I’ve danced on a lot of boardroom tables as much as really worked my guts out till five in the morning to win pitches with so many fun people. There are really enduring relationships and friendships, which I'm really grateful for, so I’d really like to thank everyone I've had the pleasure to work with, whether it’s the media owners, the clients - I love clients, some of them have stayed at my house - and also just all the people that I've worked with. 

"I think there are a couple of messages I wanted to convey and part of it, which was great to hear, was about the EX event that you had today. I hear in a lot of boardrooms, meetings, and read about it - is media really here for a good cause or is it becoming bad? It kind of worries me a bit. And being part of ARN and Sky New Zealand, you just see how connected communities are to media and the importance of that role. I see that across the country here in Australia, just how reliant people are in connecting with on-air personalities, engaging in television, and obviously how brands interrelate with that. So I just wanted to really convey how special that is.

"I was just talking before with Kurt [Burnette] about the Matildas and just what a phenomenon that is. I just really see the value of obviously how uniting some of these events are and the importance for all of us to really think about how we can be part of those and get brands involved in that. I really do see a lot of good out there.  

"The media is, particularly in this room, such a great platform for all of you to have phenomenal careers. I went to a Women in Media conference last week, and I was a little bit horrified because before the conference half of the industry was surveyed and half of them had said that they were really dissatisfied with their career in media and were thinking about leaving, which was quite disturbing. But in parallel, we heard from Mia Freedman, Ita Buttrose, Beverly McGarvey from Paramount, Amanda Laing from Foxtel and other great women who have had absolutely phenomenal careers. There's a lot of grit, perseverance and bravery within that. I think everyone has had those moments of good and tough moments, but we all grow from it. 

"One message to all of you is that I really would love it if this industry worked very hard on diversity, inclusion and equity. It's so important that we embrace the whole of who we are as people to ensure that we have great success. I'm more passionate about this now than I ever have been - I've always been very supportive of diversity - but now more than ever, I think it's absolutely critical that we make this move and ensure that we have a very happy future and sustainable future for media in this country. 

"A big heartfelt thank you to everyone. I really appreciate this award. Thank you."

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