Meet the Team: A modern Clemenger Melbourne

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 25 June 2017
Clemenger Melbourne 2017

This is a free feature from the AdNews April issue to mark Clemenger BBDO Melbourne being named Cannes Lions Agency of the year 2017. THe agendy won 56 Lions in all, with TAC's Meet Graham and Hungerithm for Snickers leading the way. You can download a digital version of AdNews or subscribe to the premium print edition here.

Beyond the agency’s performance in 2016, Clemenger has decades of consistency, strength and success that is unrivalled in the Australian market. From award-winning work, like TAC’s Graham, Bonds’ The Boys and Snicker’s Hungerithm, the agency prides itself on the ability to evolve by integrating disciples such as data-led creativity and creating long-term brand platforms that have impact well beyond these shores.

“We’ve completely shifted from what we were renowned for 10 years ago,” said creative chairman James McGrath, who has been with Clems more than a decade. “Work like Hungerithm is a good symbol of the success that we can have delivering non-traditional campaigns that transcend not just digital, but show an understanding of retail activation and the type of relationship we have with long-standing clients.”

“We are in no means perfect, but we are beginning to make real sense of how we operate beyond traditional mediums.”
Ant Keogh, the world class ECD has also been with Clems a decade, said: “We don’t want to be just good in Melbourne, or just good in Australia, we want to have the reputation as being one of the top agencies globally.”

“We have the ability to think of big ideas but also translate them across non-traditional mediums without losing the impact.”
McGrath credits CEO Nick Garrett, who has been at the helm for 18 months, for refocusing the agency and future-proofing its position as a leader in not only the Australian market, but globally.

“There’s no doubt that Nick reoriented and refocused our minds on the right things when he joined,” McGrath said. “He had to have some tough conversations initially, but they are conversations that every agency has to have to survive and be brilliant in the future.

“We’ve had a humbling 18 months, but in truth, we are still in the midst of our transformation.”

In the time Garrett has been at the agency, Clemenger has moved to one P&L, dissolved its account management function, splitting the department into business directors and project directors and grown to just under 300 people.

It’s these structural changes that help the shop better service blue-chip clients, like Myer and NAB, which are increasingly demanding more integration. The recent win of Myer’s digital account, which saw Clemenger go up against Australia’s best digital shops, and picking up a major creative project for Airbnb is a credit to the new model.

“Clients want integration and having 10 specialist agencies has probably fragmented their budget and control of their brand,” McGrath said. “To make our agency collective, we needed to remove the financial constraints and also realign our culture, which takes time and energy.

“We are six months in and it still feels raw. It will take us 12 months before we are feeling completely comfortable because we are writing the rule book. There isn’t one agency that’s in our gravitational pull – there’s no benchmark, so we’re setting it.”

New business wins and awards aside, Garrett said he is most proud of the launch of its graduate program, ‘Exceptions to the Rule’, which hires outside of traditional university grads.

Despite the changes, and a great focus on CRM and data-led work, Clemenger won’t waiver from its mantra: The Work, The Work, The Work.

“It’s almost unimaginable that you can have something that’s so enduring and survives the significant change the industry has undergone,” Garrett said.

“There’s a lot of chat about science and technology. We aren’t ignoring it, we are embracing it, but it’s not creativity versus technology or art versus science. It’s completely interlinked and that won’t change. It’s intimidating to some, but it’s exciting to us.”

Paul McMillan – MD

How has Clemenger changed over the time you've been there?
Clemenger is 70 years young this year. I have been here for the last 10 years of it, and in that time we have been involved in some fantastic work, as had the team that ran the business for the previous 60 years. The last two years have seen a marked change not only within Clemenger, but in the industry. Those that aren’t in front of this change are already left behind, but what has never changed in all that time is the power of creativity.

What are Clemenger's values?
We have a raft of values that drive our behaviours, but it's best summed up by “The Work, The Work, The Work”. It is a great beacon to guide our people. It steamrolls all of the bullshit – the excuses, the politics, the tension. At the end of the day, it’s the only thing that matters.

What's been your proudest moment at Clemenger?
Accolades are great recognition of what we do, but for me there are moments everyday that make me proud to work here. Mostly when I see brave work being made, and more importantly, when I see clients who have taken a risk be rewarded – it genuinely gives me a buzz.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
My biggest challenges are in the small, tough moments that make or break an idea. They are often unnoticed to the naked eye, but are pivotal in the success of a campaign. They are the difficult calls that can only be made through a true partnership and trust with our clients. That, and when I run out of almonds on my desk.

What's the role of creative agencies in the future?
What is interesting to me is that for 70 years, Clemenger Melbourne has seen everything that a fragmenting evolving industry can throw at it, and it is still thriving. There are snake oil salesmen on every corner but Clemenger has always had a firm hand on the tiller, guiding our people and clients through difficult, ever-changing waters. This is what we will continue to do, but as long as I am here, it will be with creativity at its core, as it is still the most powerful multiplier of business success that we have.

Gayle While – Head of CRM 

What does your role involve?
Helping us, and our clients, navigate the changing the shape of ideas and ways we should be incorporating more data smarts into our thinking and work. We’re also supporting clients in their shift towards better utilising the data and platforms they have to make smarter and more interesting work.

What does Clemenger stand for?
'The work, the work, the work' is a galvanizing statement that unites and motivates every person who works at Clemenger BBDO. We know the work is evolving, so to help everyone embrace and feel part of this change we’re creating an environment that nurtures and celebrates a culture of curiosity.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Getting the agency to see CRM, data, CX isn’t an alien concept, or something only people with CX/CRM in their title understand. Customer was already at the heart of what we do, I’m just here to help give it more focus, and to find ways we can better use data through technology and Martech to create deeper brand experiences.

How is data and loyalty integrated into work at Clemenger?
In simple terms - end to end. Clemenger BBDO has always been as equally focused on data and effectiveness as it has creativity and ideas. But now our clients have more data and powerful tools to house and interpret it.        

Jo Howes – Operations director

What does your role involve?
My role is to drive connection and integration in the agency. I make sure we are continually evolving our processes, people and production capabilities to create outstanding work.

What's been your proudest moment at Clemenger?
Being here to see the agency win Agency of the Year.

How is the structure of the agency changing to stay fit for purpose?
We are growing our ability to be agile and fully integrated. One of the first changes I’m making is to drive our content offering to support the demand on brands to deliver entertaining and useful content in a time and budget conscious space.

What's the role of creative agencies in the future?
To work in partnership with our clients, to be able to produce contextual, real time content by working with data to drive insights.

Paul Rees-Jones – Executive planning director

What does your role involve?
The obvious answer would be the strategic development of the organisations and brands we work with, but that is the shared role of anyone responsible for the work, not just planning. Planning in all of its disciplines is about understanding the human condition and applying this insight to how we define problems and the ideas that help solve them. It’s also being the optimist in what’s possible through this understanding.  

What are Clemenger's values?
The work. It seems pretty single-minded and on one level it is, but it belies what goes into always trying to create original and truthful ideas. It requires everyone responsible for creating ideas to be vulnerable in terms of looking at things in a new way and being prepared to be wrong to get somewhere better. That requires a culture that doesn’t judge but is intensely curious.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
With the sheer amount of research and data available today, on the surface it would seem there’s never been a richer environment for insight and truly accurate problem definition. The reality is getting past the common knowledge and the obvious, and genuinely getting down to the truth of why people do what they do.

How is the role of a planner evolving?
If I’m being honest most planning has been about reflecting what’s happening in the world, but that simply is not enough anymore. It has to be about inciting change that reflects how an organisation or a brand can be more useful. This is why planning disciplines such as digital, CX, social and overall comms planning have to be part of and accountable to the possibilities of a brand, not just at a platform level but how an idea behaves.

Simon Lamplough – MD of Myer account

What does your role involve?
My role is to bring together the best of Clemenger Group to help Myer with its ongoing business transformation. We have a team of 40 people full-time at Myer’s head office and 17 people back at St Kilda Road on Myer’s Digital needs. We then access the creative and planning talent at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne for major campaign moments, the martech capabilities of CHE Proximity and the corporate communications expertise of GRA Cosway as required.

What does Clemenger stand for?
Clemenger BBDO Melbourne is fixated on the work we produce and I like to think we continually champion the case for creativity with all our clients. Our agency values ultimately boil down to celebrating people who contribute to making the work better and who bring positivity, a can-do attitude and an entrepreneurial spirit to what can be a tough business.

What's been your proudest moment at Clemenger?
‘Break Up’ for NAB, ‘Give Registry’ for Myer and ‘The Boys’ for Bonds are some highlights. Away from the work, the recent creation of ‘LogicalMagic’ to win Myer’s Digital business was very important for the integrated capability of our agency and our ability to meaningfully contribute to Myer’s business transformation.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Maintaining the illusion of being cool, calm and collected no matter what.   

Ben Kidney – Director of Digital

What's been your proudest moment at Clemenger?
I have been proud of many things during my time at Clemenger; launching for TAC, Hungerithm winning the Grand Prix at Spikes Asia, recently winning Ad News Agency of the year, however, my proudest moment was being appointed as Myer’s digital agency of record. We beat out two very good pure-play digital agencies in the process which was wonderful validation of our offering and approach.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Time, I wish that I had time to be closer to more pieces of work from a strategic, creative, account service and production standpoint.

How does Clemenger keep up to date in digital?
Clemenger has several internal and external partners and programs in place to ensure we are at the cutting edge of digital, inclduing monthly all staff lunch and learn sessions, a rotation through the digital department for graduates joining Clemenger. The task of being at the forefront of digital is shared across the entire leadership group and I sit on a Technology Council that evaluates and discusses investment and training in emerging technologies across the group. But more important than any of the above, the entire agency shares a desire to learn about and use digital in innovative ways that delight our client’s customers.

To read the whole feature download a digital version of AdNews or subscribe to the premium print edition here.

This article was originally published online in April 2017 and updated in June 2017.

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