Peter Skarparis - who formerly served as client managing partner at Essence Mediacom - was named the GM of Sydney for Hearts & Science just under a month ago.
After a career that began at Starcom MediaVest Group and also included time at Carat, UM and Mediacom in the UK, Skarparis said there were four reasons he wanted to join Hearts & Science.
"The first is the rare, unique, incredible chance to help build an agency that, at four years old, is still nimble and growing. I've never taken on a role like that," he said.
"The second reason was that ‘connections that matter ‘philosophy; when speaking to Jane [Stanley, CEO of Hearts & Science ANZ], she has a real passion for the craft of media planning and making that really, really good. This means better media experiences for consumers and better outcomes for advertisers.
"The third one was access to Omnicom Media Group (OMG). We’re very much all in one building, so it’s very free and open. I can go and chat about investment, data science, content - it's all very much ‘plugged in’, rather than bolted on, so we can access all of OMG really easily."
The final reason Skarparis jumped at the opportunity to join the agency and what he says got him really excited about this role is the ability to wear many hats.
"I like being a generalist, and I think maybe that word is a bit dirty now or it's not sexy, as we have more and more specialists, but in my point of view, why wouldn't you want to get involved in lots of stuff?" Skarparis gold AdNews.
"If I'm a client, I’d rather speak to a couple of generalists rather than lots and lots of specialists. It's simpler, it's more seamless and it feel like you've got someone on your side who's just more connected and knows everything about your business."
With close to 100 people in the ANZ business, spanning locations in Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland, it was an adjustment for the nearly 20-year veteran of the media industry, where in Sydney alone at EssenceMediacom Skarparis said there was at least a couple of hundred people.
"For me, that was a big motivation and challenge as well; you're going into a smaller place that has its great things and it's challenges, so this is going to test me, give me new problems, give me new things to tackle day to day and long term and I thought that's exciting," he said.
A month into the role, Skarparis said he already has a number of priorities already laid out from now and into late next year, the first being setting a standard when it comes to the way Hearts & Science works internally and the output it produces.
"Coming from the UK, I went there to learn a lot around comms planning, the craft and the work, so I feel like I can really use that to set a really good standard here," he told AdNews.
"And with the way we work to get that output, I really want to see how we can gel more as specialisms and functions and departments here. This will result in driving better advice and recommendations for our clients."
"Commercial acumen is a big priority too. We definitely think need to think about clients’ businesses and our own business more as like a commercial organisation, rather than just being accounts."
He said that such a mentality will make the agency be unafraid to talk about margins internally, but also make it unafraid to talk about remuneration with clients.
"Generally as an industry, we’re probably a bit afraid to talk about that stuff, but I think building that commercial acumen is really important," Skarparis said.
"The crucial part of that is feeding the commercial acumen through the whole agency, not just a senior level, so if you're at a junior level, you understand your role in us having a good cash flow, getting remunerated and being as profitable as possible.
"I think we get taught that stuff quite late in our careers and I think it's really important our junior people learn that earlier on."
The third priority for the Hearts & Science Sydney GM is people's progression and development - and not just a set of vague objectives and KPIs such as ‘improve client relationships’.
"I'm talking proper development plans and the conversations that come with that," he said.
"I'm talking with our head of people and culture and she's got this development template: 'What are your objectives? Where are you at now? What do you need to do to get there? And then what's the kind of measure of success?'
"I'm a big believer that ‘where am I at and where I need to get to?’ is way more motivating than ‘here's some stuff you've got to do’."
Skarparis said one element that makes Hearts & Science different from other agencies is how well connected and in contact it is with the Melbourne and Auckland offices, especially because Stanley is based in Auckland.
"With that Melbourne, Sydney, New Zealand close relationship, I think what sets us apart is, for lack of a better term, 'a band of brothers and sisters' type relationship," he said.
"No hierarchy, no hidden agendas. That feels very different to big companies and layers of hierarchal management, lots of people maybe not being connected together. We're a small group of people, so we have to have a similar outlook and mindsets, which we do."
"The second thing that makes us really different is the dual recipe of this close-knit size, while still having a brave appetite for reimagination."
Skarparis said the agency wants to build something that's better and more stronger in market.
"We have an appetite to reimagine what our roles are as modern media professionals," Skarparis told AdNews.
"That's really exciting because we can evolve at speed with our clients. I'm now at the place where I'm at the best of both worlds – a close-knit size which means you can get through stuff quicker with less red tape, but that close-knit size does not mean we’re not brave, because we've got a leadership team who are really energised about building a really great agency offering for 2023, not for 20 years ago.
"The final thing I'd say what makes us really different is our specialised services - they are our services, as opposed to these special extras basically. It's the core of what we are and I think that mentality makes us quite different."
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