Ben Lilley unveils McCann strategy to acquire independents

Paige Murphy
By Paige Murphy | 17 February 2020

Following his acquisition of McCann Worldgroup Australia this month, McCann Creative Chairman Ben Lilley has unveiled his strategy to acquire more advertising and marketing services businesses.

Lilley has confirmed he will be taking an "entrepreneurial" approach to growing the agency and its capabilities.

Lilley says the strategy will deliver a broader and deeper service offering to better tailor McCann’s integrated creative services for each client.

Lilley says there will be opportunities for independent agencies who are looking to sell and achieve “the best of both worlds: combining multinational clients, career opportunities and resources, but in an independent agency culture and mindset.”

“There’s nobody else in the market acquiring independents right now," Lilley says.

“And with the economic headwinds facing our industry and economy, it’s unlikely we’ll see any more buyers for several years. So for agency owners thinking about selling their businesses or becoming part of a network, this is a chance to engage with McCann while we’re actively pursuing acquisitions.”

McCann Australia has already grown off the back of a number of strategic acquisitions, including Lilley’s own independent agency SMART, which McCann acquired in 2011 and installed Lilley as McCann Chairman and CEO and then McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific Creative Leadership Chair.

At SMART, Lilley also undertook a number of acquisitions, starting with digital agency M4 Interactive and followed by creative boutique VCD/Kindred, retail specialist The Foundry, design agency Illuminati and Queensland specialists Turner Sands and Logan Meo Walters.

At McCann, Lilley also completed two further acquisitions, buying PR specialists The Red Republic in 2016 and design agency Studio Woo in 2017, who are still part of McCann’s national offering.

Now Lilley intends to continue integrating more businesses in creative, data, design, media, technology and PR across its Sydney, Melbourne and Queensland offices.

“Our strategy is to scale McCann’s suite of best-in-class solutions to best address each clients’ own specific suite of marketing communications needs,” he says.

"This requires both scale and talent; the smart play is not just to build, but to buy. I invested in McCann with the ambition of continuing to build it into the best possible creative agency it can be, for the benefit of both our clients building their businesses, and our staff building their careers with us.”

Lilley says McCann Australia will also continue to pursue organic client growth and that after two years away from advertising, he has returned to McCann Australia with a renewed energy and focus.

“Creativity is the number one proven and quantified way for brands and businesses to maximise their marketing effectiveness,” said Lilley.

“Truth Well Told and our focus on creativity has propelled McCann globally to be both the Cannes and Effies Network of the Year this year. It’s more relevant today than ever before.”

It’s the same focus the business adopted when Lilley last took over management in 2011, which saw McCann Australia achieve record growth over the next 7 years and named both the most awarded agency in the world and Australia’s most effective Effies agency.

Lilley says interested agencies can contact him “through our awesome client, LinkedIn".

Lilley's plans follow a shake-up of McCann's leadership team last week which saw Melbourne MD Georgie Pownall made redundant and Sydney MD Hazelle Klønhammer and chief strategy officer Fran Clayton resign.

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