Perspectives - Sam Buchanan at IMAA - One better than 'Disco Dad'

By AdNews | 10 December 2021
Sam Buchanan. Photo by Tim Levy.

AdNews is following the WFH Diaries with a series of Perspectives, asking two questions: What did you learn in 2021 and what are you looking forward to in 2022? We've also encouraged the industry to glam, dress for the best, and face next year with optimism.

This article first appeared in the November-December 2021 AdNews magazine.

Sam Buchanan, general manager, IMAA:

Of course, it’s a given that the rolling lockdowns and getting the nation vaccinated were the biggest challenges of 2021 for everyone. But for a newish industry association with big plans to grow its national footprint and without the ability to meet face to face with all our new members and hold events, has definitely been the biggest challenge for me and the IMAA.

But that’s the beauty of the independent media agency sector — we’re a resilient lot and not even a global pandemic could hold us back.

We have achieved things this year that no other industry body has, including a world-first trade credit deal, better deals for research, data, training, and media planning tools, and providing a strong voice for the sector on the issues that matter.

Our multi-channel, multi-million-dollar, national IMAA campaign has seen the media industry and marketers sit up and take notice of the refreshing offer from independents and it has delivered results.

There are, however, lessons that come out of a once in a lifetime pandemic, that I believe have made us a stronger and more unified association.

For too long, independents have not had a strong, united voice, despite our combined size accounting for $2.5 billion in media expenditure and employing more than 1000 Australians. The independent sector needed to stand up and promote the depth of talent and experience it offers, rather than allowing the global media agency holding companies to hog the mic. Independent voices are important to any debate or industry issue, and we have learnt that there are an incredible array of strong leaders willing to raise their heads above the parapet and actively contribute.

The post-lockdown talent crisis, with new employees jumping ship for more money and some leaving the industry altogether, means that we have learnt that education and training and the unique environment that indie agencies can offer is incredibly important to upskill our people and attract future generations to our industry. We aim to address this with the launch of a new IMAA Academy in 2022 for our members’ staff.

Related to attracting and retaining staff is our members’ desire to make our industry a better place. We have learnt that this goes beyond education and incentives, but also recognising the things that those working in our industry find important. So next year we will give special focus to diversity and inclusivity, reconciliation and giving with a Diversity Council, Reconciliation Plan and a charity partner.

We have also learned that physical events are really important to our members, and many have been frustrated about the lack of them. Events are important not just to network, but to knowledge share, learn and engage with our media owner and industry body partners. The IMAA will make a welcome return to physical events next year with a series of partner events to kick off proceedings.

On a personal note, I have learned to enjoy the simple things in life: that my kids now expect me to go one better than “Disco Dad” with my six-year-old’s lockdown garage disco party, that I have two sleep terrorists, and Hugboots are surely an acceptable form of footwear.

Looking ahead, what is really exciting to see is how fast indies have bounced back from lockdowns and having a positive impact on Australian businesses. They fall the hardest but are the quickest to recover. This is evidenced by our member Pulse Survey, which shows that 88% of our agencies will increase staff next year with strong client growth predicted.

Working closely with our leadership team, IMAA Partners and our members has been an incredible experience regardless of lockdowns, but we say bring on 2022!

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