This year, Aussie ad agency BWM is celebrating 18 years in business. With an array of new client wins, strong creative leadership in Sydney and Melbourne, and a 30 per cent increase in revenue over the past year, Belgiovane Williams Mackay (BWM) has plenty of reasons to pop the champagne.
BWM was born in 1996, fathered by the vision of founding partners Rob Belgiovane, Paul Williams, and Jamie Mackay, to build a great Australian advertising agency. The vision, and the partnership, has been one of the most enduring in Australian advertising.
Eighteen years on, BWM is now comparable in size to some of Australia’s largest multinational agencies, with more than 150 employees across Sydney and Melbourne, and revenues exceeding $30 million.
Paul Williams, BWM Group CEO, said: “We first started thinking about opening our own advertising agency when Jamie, Rob and I were mates sharing a weekender on Pittwater together, but all working in different agencies. At the time the industry was deregulating media, so we spent many a late night in our boatshed figuring out how to position a new, more agile creative alternative to our big multinational employers. We also shared a love of music, which gave us permission to form the BWM band. We still play today; ironically, we’re probably the Australia’s Rolling Stones of advertising.
“This friendship, a passion for great advertising, and a belief we could go it alone is what BWM was founded on. It’s amazing to think the bold dream of a creative, a suit and a planner is today a flourishing 18 year old independent agency, with headquarters in Sydney and Melbourne and a new generation of talent driving its mission to create ‘Ideas that get Australians talking’,” he said.
Jamie Mackay, BWM Group executive planning director, said: “We opened the doors to our Ultimo office in June1996, with little more than some shared office space, a $30,000 bank loan from Westpac and a few small but brave clients. It was certainly a big change from our big cushy multinational offices, but we were ambitious and weren’t afraid of hard work.”
In the early 2000s BWM won a number of seminal accounts including AAMI, Telstra BigPond, LG, Freedom Furniture, Virgin Money, Ateco and Suncorp-GIO, gaining momentum as Australia’s leading independent advertising agency.
Award winning campaigns included Aussie Home Loans ‘We’ll save you’, TDK ‘Evolve’, Freedom ‘Think outside the square you live in’, Telstra BigPond ‘Father and Son’ and ‘Call Mum’, Selleys ‘Do it before some else does it for you,’ Virgin ‘Everlasting Love’ and NIB ‘It’s worth it’.
In 2006, BWM sold 51 per cent of the business to listed communications group Photon. Following six years under the watch of Photon, partners Rob, Paul and Jamie bought the agency back and implemented a renewed strategy to take the business to new strengths.
Rob Belgiovane, BWM Group chief creative officer, said: “Taking back ownership of BWM reinvigorated us with the flexibility and freedom to structure our Group in a way that enables us to move with more agility, using our broad skills set and partner companies, Sputnik and Cox Inall, to conceive and execute organising ideas that build brands internally and externally across all platforms.”
In 2009 BWM dared to go where many Sydney agencies had failed … Melbourne. The success has been impressive. Starting with founding client Simplot and a handful of staff, BWM Group’s Melbourne office is today a creative and digital powerhouse, recreating the revenue of the Sydney office in just five years. The agency has produced notable work for Kmart, Birds Eye, I&J, John West and most recently Real Estate Australia.
Mackay said: “Australian advertising history is littered with the wreckages of Sydney agencies that tackled the Melbourne market and failed. It’s a tough market that has a unique way of doing business. So we are doubly proud that our business model has bucked the trend, that we were fortunate enough to have a few large founding clients like Simplot and Kmart who backed us, and that our people have been able to replicate in Melbourne a model and a culture that is true to the BWM brand.”
In 2011 BWM found it’s true positioning as the agency that creates ‘Ideas that get Australians talking.’
Belgiovane said: “Ideas that get Australians talking (ITGAT) is something that BWM had stood for since the days of its inception.
“It’s always been a part of our philosophy and at the heart of the thinking behind every successful campaign – from the BigPond ‘Father and Son’ campaign, to the repositioning of Kmart, through to our latest work for Real Estate Australia featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger. ITGAT is all about building a bold and engaging story that speaks to everyday Australians,” he said.
In 2013, BWM Group Melbourne welcomed a change of leadership with the appointment of Mark Watkin to the role of Managing Director, and Murray White to the position of Executive Creative Director. With Watkin and White at the helm, BWM Group Melbourne has achieved 43 per cent year on year total revenue growth.
To accommodate for rapid growth, earlier this year BWM opened new state of the art offices in Windsor, Melbourne.
Williams said: “This year we have achieved our long-term business objective of recreating the success of the Sydney office in Melbourne. In terms of creative firepower, employee growth, blue-chip clients, and agency revenue, BWM Melbourne is now on par with Sydney.
“The success of both the Sydney and Melbourne offices, following client wins for Jemena, NBN, News Limited, Medibank float, RACT and CarsGuide, has enabled BWM Group to get back to the level of success we achieved pre-Photon, when our work for AAMI, Aussie Home Loans and Telstra were household staples,” he said.
Today, BWM Group consists of six complementary businesses that span the entire communications value chain, including: BWM agency (Sydney and Melbourne), Sputnik, The POP Agency, Cox Inall Communications, Cox Inall Ridgeway and Blue Boat Productions.
At the core of BWM’s culture is a partnership and friendship that was forged at a beach house almost two decades ago, that has withstood seismic changes in the industry, and periods of turbulence within the industry and company over the past 18 years.
This creative culture has shaped the agency – at its heart BWM is a culture of empowered entrepreneurs and bold creatives focusing on the only thing that really matters, client success.
Belgiovane said: “We’re proud of what we have achieved and every day we’re excited by the fantastic talent we have in the agency and the stand out campaigns we’re producing to get Australians talking.”
Williams said: “We look forward to what lies ahead for BWM. We can see the agency doubling in size over the next ten years. Whatever we do, we will be bold, live fearlessly, and have fun – that will never change.”