Ben Lilley is the new owner of McCann Australia

Paige Murphy
By Paige Murphy | 3 February 2020

McCann Worldgroup, part of the Interpublic Group, has announced that Ben Lilley, former CEO of McCann Australia, is to assume ownership of the agency.

Lilley will be returning to McCann after two years away.

He will re-acquire the agency that he founded 20 years ago, SMART, which McCann acquired in 2011, as well as McCann’s Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Gold Coast operations and its PR business, The Red Republic.

McCann launched in Australia in 1959 and went on to create iconic campaigns including Louie the Fly, The Milky Bar Ki’, It’s Time for the Australian Labor Party and the giant Coke Sign in Sydney’s Kings Cross.

McCann Australia will remain part of the McCann Worldgroup network as an affiliate business partner under independent ownership.

The agency will retain access to the network’s global tools and expertise, as well as remain involved on global client business.

“Creativity has been the driving force throughout my career and I believe that is what empowers successful entrepreneurial businesses," Lilley says.

"Australia is one of the world’s leading creative hubs and I’m very excited to now be able to take over ownership of McCann’s full suite of integrated agency businesses in this key market."

Lilley says he will take advantage of the global network while also operating as an independent group, allowing it to be flexible and mast to meet local demands.

McCann Worldgroup chairman and CEO Harris Diamond says Lilley bring "creative energy and vision" back to the agency and its clients.

“Ben’s deep knowledge of the Australian market combined with his experience in working closely with the McCann network positions this new partnership very well to succeed in Australia’s evolving market," Diamond says.

During Lilley’s time as CEO of McCann Australia, the agency achieved record growth and many awards.

McCann Australia made history as the world’s most awarded agency in the Gunn Report, Won Report and Adage Awards Report, for campaigns including Dumb Ways to Die (DWTD).

Named the most awarded campaign in history, DWTD featured in both the AdAge Top 15 Ad Campaigns and Gunn Report 20 Best Commercials of the 21st Century.

“The change of ownership will help the operation to better tap into local expertise, talent and creativity while still leveraging McCann Worldgroup’s integrated creative and strategic capabilities," McCann Worldgroup APAC president Alex Lubar says.

"We are pleased to be welcoming Ben back to the McCann family and know that he’s absolutely the right person to partner with us in taking forward the business for McCann and our clients in Australia."

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