PHD's Mark Jarrett on agency growth, consistency and client relationships

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 7 August 2019

PHD is an agency that has moved beyond the 'rising star' label and has become one of Australia's fastest-growing agencies, however, it is now backed by consistent client retention, significant new business and people-driven leadership.

Over the past 12-months that growth and consistency has been led by PHD Australia managing director Mark Jarrett.

Jarrett joined Omnicom in Australia in 2006 when he joined OMD Sydney. From there he has moved up the ranks, leading OMD's Sydney office and eventually joining PHD in 2016 as its MD.

Client wins for the media agency during his time have included the likes of, H&R block, Vocus Communications, Carlton United Breweries, 7/11, Caydon Property, Volkswagen and Singapore airlines.

It has also retained such clients as ANZ, Unilever, PepsiCo, Google. This year, the agency also picked up well-known clients such as the AFL and Virgin Australia.

This run of success has led PHD to become one of the fastest-growing businesses, 73% bigger since 2016 and a growth rate of over 31% in the last year.

Speaking to AdNews, Jarrett says the success of the agency has boiled down to an approach of consistency over volume, focusing more time on retaining clients than rushing to onboard new business.

"The focus isn't about a cycle of new business, it's about focusing on our current clients and trying to pick up a couple of more here or there. It's current clients first, not new business first which is important to us," Jarrett says.

"It also gives you the ability to have a much more sustainable long-term approach to your business as a whole, reduces your staff churn, protects your IP and builds closer client relationships."

Jarrett says the agency has made its mark in recent years but taking a "stay the course" approach and ensuring that every member of PHD is "buying in" to the strategy.

He adds that the broader challenge is continuing to do so while also keeping up with the changing industry landscape, client demands and new market challenges.

"The broad challenge for us is to continue to make sure that we are developing the approach that we take to market for our clients and that we understand how we pull together the short term pressures that clients have against the fact that long term outcomes are important as well," he says.

"What clients want is a partner that they can trust, one that's going to give them the best advice but also be honest and open with them about the way they're approaching things and also clear about what we can do and what we can't do for them."

Jarrett says clients are sometimes drawn into the conversations that are at the implementational end of the scale, such delivery or programmatic desks, but what remains key is having a partner that can provide them with trusted consultation.

He says PHD's success in this has come through conversations that may not always be a direct answer to the clients' requests but address their needs.

"We certainly have a focus on trying to do what's best for the clients, not necessarily what they ask us for as well which leads to more open conversations with them. So, not delivering the brief but delivering the client need is certainly a focus," he says."

"The industry has gotten so complicated that it's such a struggle for clients to understand everything that's out there that they need to understand in the amount of time that they have," Jarrett explains.

"To do this very small part of their job and that's why they need to be able to get the right sort of guidance."

Jarrett says that this can also become a challenge for agencies themselves. As the agency model continues to evolve he says the line between agency offerings is becoming more blurred.

He says the danger, particularly for larger agency organisations, is that diversification of services can potentially dilute the core of what they were about for the client.

"If you set up lots of different offerings, you're always viewed by the client as being as good as your worst offering and if you've got a specialist department with one person in it who is overworked, that is how your entire client relationship is viewed," Jarrett says.

"It's important that agencies are clear in what they're offering as a business and that they're good at executing all of those areas they bring to market."

This is part one of a two part interview. Be sure to check AdNews tomorrow to hear more from Jarrett on the evolution of pitching.

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