Meet The Team - Half Dome's rebrand to unlock the 'Whole Potential'

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 28 November 2023

Six months into a new brand positioning, centred on the agency’s promise to unlock the ‘Whole Potential’ of its clients and people, independent media agency Half Dome is seeing it’s new focus resonate with the market.

Joe Frazer, Half Dome’s co-founder and head of growth, said that the initial impetus for the rebrand was identity-based, with the feeling being like the agency had “grown up a little bit” and thus needed a brand identity that reflected that.

“We started embarking on a journey and like many of those journeys, the second you start peeling back a layer, you're like ‘oh, there's so much more to this’; you can't do a brand identity unless you have a really solid understanding of where you sit in the market and who's the target customer,” he said.

“All of this research that we found ourselves doing in order to nail that body of work ended up becoming as much like a business strategy as it did a brand strategy as it did a brand identity.

“We brought in external brand consultants Untangld who encouraged us to survey our existing client base, survey a cross section of our staff from all different levels on different teams, as well as a few people in the industry who worked with us either directly or indirectly, to really dial in on what it was that made us distinctive and what it was that made Half Dome a really compelling partner.”

Frazer said that revealed areas where the agency was critical on itself internally where clients saw positives and vice versa, areas where Half Dome thought it was succeeding but clients weren’t engaged with.

This helped to figure out what the ideal target customer was as well as understanding Half Dome’s ‘superpowers’ - the areas that it’s not only good at now, but heading into the future too.

“Bringing that entire piece together was the tagline ‘Half Dome - Whole Potential’ and that shoots to the core of what we're trying to do with our staff and our clients,” he told AdNews.

“It's probably what differentiates us as an agency now as well, which is that we're not just doing media planning and buying and booking and reporting and optimisation and all the rest of it, but we're actively working with clients to develop their capability, so that where they're at 12 months after working with Half Dome is fundamentally different and what's possible is fundamentally different than when they walked in the door.

“That means from a technical standpoint, from a data standpoint, from a strategic standpoint, from a media understanding within their business standpoint, on the client side, and then on the people side, it's why we've got such a big focus on developing their hard skills and their soft skills concurrently.”

Joe FrazerFrazer (pictured right) said connected to that is understanding what clients this makes sense for. The term used by the agency internally is ‘digitally emergent enterprise clients’, meaning companies who've got an enterprise level of spend, are big enough to want an integrated partner and want to be unlocking new capability.

“That mindset, that intent, that desire to unlock capability, is a challenger mindset in our mind. We call them challengers; doesn't matter if they're a market leader or a startup, I think the concept of a challenger mindset can exist in both of them,” he said.

“Our superpowers are the things that those clients need and want: best in class technical talent; marrying strategy and performance in a melting pot that has a nice amount of friction; a market-leading people product; a concept of not just giving recommendations, but going on a journey with our clients in a very consultative way; and being able to engage with CEOs all the way down through to the junior members of the staff.

“That’s a nice, sweet spot where I think we can go head to head with holdcos, but we can still have a personality as an indie; we can not take ourselves too seriously and we can retain some of the gusto that makes Half Dome a bit different to some of the other places.”

Frazer said that the most pronounced impact has been with existing clients who have responded well to that identification, as well as the refocusing of building and investing in a product that works for them, with the piece around marrying strategy and performance media not something that had been traditionally communicated to clients despite already playing into that space.

“You probably see with some of the clients we've started attracting this year – like Vitasoy or Ecosa - we're starting to have the credibility to not just be seen as a performance digital agency but they've come to us and we're not even running the performance media for them half the time; they're coming to us because we're a strategic led agency just as much as a performance agency,” he told AdNews.

“We’ve probably been invited to pitch on two or three pieces of business this year that are $30 or $40 million dollar clients - one of those was in the auto category and was right at that intersection of strategy and performance media and then another one is much more heavily performance focused, but 12 months ago, we probably weren't getting those opportunities.”

The agency has restructured teams over the past three months to better service a more diverse set of clients, bringing strategy and client service a lot closer together into a client solution strategy team. Half Dome was recently named a finalist in the ‘Employer of the Year (headcount under 75)’ category in the upcoming AdNews Agency of the Year Awards.

Frazer said the reception from the existing client base to this change has been “really positive”, with clients appreciating that every touchpoint from an account management perspective is now laced with strategic thought.

“An ongoing body of work is making sure that we've got different models that work for different types of clients. We can't be too rigid in the way that we try and create a client engagement model” he said.

“When you're pitching against Resolution versus the week after you're pitching against Initiative or OMD, you need to have a few different models that work under different circumstances and we're lucky to be nimble enough, agile enough and devoid of red tape enough to be able to play around with that, which I think the holding groups would probably be a little jealous of that we can throw the magnets around a little bit and try new things.”

Half Dome team 2

The Half Dome team

On the product development front, Half Dome has built a stream of the business - led by Euan McDonald who's moved into a digital transformation lead role - working with clients on capability shifting project work.

“Separating the day-to-day executional team with a team that's more focused on that project work means that it becomes a bigger priority and never gets deprioritised because of the reactive nature of media,” he said.

“Having Euan and other people sitting directly next to a team that's day in and day out deploying CDP's, driving on site personalisation, looking to improve conversion rates, doing first party data strategy for clients; the osmosis into the media team and how a performance marketing team’s mindset shifts when they're starting to think about those things is having just as big of an impact on clients who are pitching us with that scope as it is for clients who aren't.”

Having also launched SEO capabilities towards the start of the year, having onboarded six enterprise-level SEO clients so far, the final piece of the product development puzzle came in the introduction of performance creative production, an area that was soft launched to the market by Half Dome just over two years ago.

“With the performance layer from a creative perspective, there's a pretty big gap in market that clients feel sometimes for somebody to be generating a high volume of performance-focused creative media channels and creative agencies just don't always have that capability as it's just not their business model,” he told AdNews.

“Clients have often historically found themselves in a position where internal graphic designers who were just as focused on the website are trying to build Facebook or TikTok or whatever display assets that appeal to a certain audience.

“We've really found a nice intersection in that space of speed, best practice from a platform perspective, and then a fair bit of consumer psychology around what works in the messy middle of that conversion funnel and we've wrapped it in a really tight testing schedule, rounding out our product, so that we can deliver for clients end to end.”


Tess Linkins

Tess Linkins - Strategy Director

What’s the biggest challenge in your role?

The strategy team at Half Dome is less than a year old, so as we work on each client we are getting closer to identifying the strategic product unique to Half Dome. The agency has always been digital first, but the onboarding of some great clients this year has created an opportunity to find new strengths in full-service media planning.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is very different! At Half Dome we have a small strategy team which requires us to work across many projects concurrently. Plenty of time is spent researching, completing segmentation analysis and working with our client solutions teams to implement strategic thought leadership.

What attracted you to Half Dome?

Being part of a business that goes against the grain and is critically working towards being the most strategic agency in market. Every area of the business works on the concept of ‘positively challenging’ and I feel this has been key to the business success over the past six years.

What are you focused on for 2023?

Redefining Half Dome’s position in market. The recent re-branding is the start of something big with everyone onboard with achieving their Whole Potential in 2023 and beyond.

What do you love most about your role?

My role is incredibly agile and provides me the opportunity work end-to-end on client briefs, seamlessly linking strategy and planning which is unique for a strategy role within the media industry. Half Dome is also full of great people and I get to learn from the best every day.


Gabe Grossman

Gabe Grossman - Head of SEO

What attracted you to Half Dome?

When I was considering joining the Half Dome team, I took the time to dig deep into the company's background. What truly caught my attention was the remarkable reputation it held in the industry, the impressive list of awards it had garnered, and the progressive policies that demonstrated a genuine commitment to putting its people first, such as unlimited annual leave. However, what sealed the deal for me was the opportunity to interview with the co-founders themselves. Their infectious energy, unwavering passion, and authenticity shone through, making it clear that Half Dome was the right place for me.

What do you love most about your role?

One of the aspects I cherish most about my role is the trust and freedom that management has placed in me to lead and shape the SEO function according to my vision. This autonomy allows me to apply the techniques and insights I've honed over many years to drive real results.

What are you focused on for 2023?

I'm thrilled to be spearheading the establishment of the SEO function at Half Dome. This service is relatively new for our business, and it has been an incredibly rewarding journey to define what that entails. As we venture into this exciting territory, we're already attracting the interest of high-profile clients, and we're in the process of building a top-notch team. My ultimate goal is to position Half Dome as the premier enterprise SEO solution provider in Australia, setting a template for future service expansions within our organisation.


Chloe Leamon

Chloe Leamon - Marketing Manager

What attracted you to Half Dome?

In an industry with a fierce talent market, Half Dome's reputation, particularly around its people experience, stood out to me as uncommon amongst common. 18 months later, I'm constantly reminded I made the right decision to join a community that lives up to its reputation, where values drive every interaction.    

What are you focused on for 2023?

Since the launch of Half Dome's new brand positioning in April, this year has been about embracing our superpowers - the strengths that set us apart from the rest- and being unapologetic about it.   

What do you love most about your role?

I get to work in a business full of extremely talented people, each playing an essential part in the Half Dome ecosystem. My role acts as a voice for the agency, which allows the contribution and value of each individual to be recognised and celebrated beyond our agency's walls. This is incredibly rewarding.


Euan Macdonald

Euan Macdonald - Digital Lead

What’s the biggest challenge in your role?

My biggest challenge is staying across all the tech and capability advancements that are happening in the ad space. Things change so quickly, so balancing building on my understanding of these whilst being close enough to client challenges to apply relevant solutions can be a bit of a challenge. But when solutions all fall into place, it’s very satisfying and all worth it!

What attracted you to Half Dome?

I did a bit of work with Half Dome back in 2018 when there were just four team members. I followed their journey on socials over the next four to five years, and was really impressed by their growth and challenger mindset. When I moved back to Australia from four years working in London, Half Dome was the top of the list for places I wanted to work – luckily they had a role going!

What do you love most about your role?

I really enjoy using out of the box thinking to solve advertising and operational challenges. I also get to work with a lot of really smart people from all across the industry which is really inspirational on a day-to-day basis.

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