Behind the doors of… Whybin\TBWA

Behind the doors of… Whybin\TBWA
SHARE
THIS



2012 was, in short, a great year for Whybin\TBWA Sydney – perhaps even it’s greatest. But where does it go from here? Lucy Clark interrupted the flow of work at the agency’s buzzing Pyrmont offices to find out.

To say Whybin\TBWA has undergone a transformation in recent years would be an understatement. In the past three years, the fast-changing agency has been on one heck of a journey.

To kick off 2013, Whybin\TBWA was named the number one creative agency in Australia and ninth in the world in the recent Big Won Rankings. The agency has set itself a high bar.

“To be ninth in the world is wildest dreams stuff and was a huge surprise,” says CEO and partner Paul Bradbury. “We knew we’d had a good year, but this wasn’t even on our radar.”

Building the foundations

Bradbury joined the Omnicom-owned Whybin\TBWA in 2007 and was promoted from managing director to CEO in 2010, after it had been through some tough years that saw former partners Scott Whybin and Neil Lawrence split acrimoniously, followed by major client losses and a “revolving door” of creative directors, CEOs and managing directors.

Determined to recruit a top management team, Bradbury’s first hire was Hristos Varouhas, as executive planning director. “We really wanted to restart the whole agency,” recalls Bradbury.

Joint executive creative directors Matty Burton and Dave Bowman both worked at Whybin\TBWA Sydney when it was a start-up – Burton in print production and Bowman as an intern. Working at the likes of Droga5, Saatchi & Saatchi and The Glue Society in between times, the pair joined Whybin\TBWA to work together again in 2010.

“Dave kept trying to hire me at Saatchis, and I kept trying to hire him at Droga,” says Burton. “We were enjoying what we were doing and competing on a number of accounts, but we always talked about combining forces,” adds Bowman.

Pointing to his executive planning and creative directors, Bradbury explains: “This is the core of the agency. We all have similar ambitions, a similar work ethic and similar paranoias. We’re all concerned about producing bad work or losing clients.”

With the foundations in place, the agency embarked on a three-year turn around.

“It kicked off with the NRMA Insurance win,” recalls Varouhas. “We had pitched the strategy, and it then became a shoot-out for the creative.”

The NRMA win was swiftly followed by winning NAB Trade as a client. “The place needed its momentum back,” says Bowman. “If it stagnates, it’s hard to break that pattern.”

The first campaign the newly-led agency put out for NRMA, ‘My Car is Your Car’, signaled a “step change” for Whybin\TBWA, according to Varouhas.

Far from being a traditional ad campaign, it was an experiential campaign. Bowman adds: “The campaign was so ridiculous in terms of the amount of time we had to pull it off. It forced everyone to collaborate. We had 260 activations in a four-week period.”

Onwards and upwards

Steady growth through more big wins in 2010 and 2011 (the $30m IAG account, and ANZ amongst others) led to the launch of both Eleven PR and shopper marketing agency Integer.

Collaboration grew to be integral to the way the agency operates and is now something that Whybin\TBWA believes singles it out from the pack. Varouhas explains: “Matty and Dave introduced something wonderful – if you walk through the creative department, all the work is on big boards for all to see. It was a massive cultural change. Until this, the creative team was very protective of its work. It’s still led by the guys there, but there is an openness. I’ve not seen that at any other agency.”

“It requires a huge amount of trust,” adds Bowman. “If you lose that confidence, it can be irreparable.”

Varouhas adds: “We push for a check-in with new clients about what’s at the heart of their organisation.

Often, that’s about spotting sacred cows – the things they don’t want to change, but are holding them back.”

Every single brief in the agency is reviewed on Tuesday and Thursday mornings – and a client never receives a brief that hasn’t been approved by the whole management team. “It means much healthier, happier client relationships,” explains Varouhas. “It also means that we’re not using the creative team to get the strategy right,” adds Bradbury.

Philosophy

The motto that the agency has lived by for a long time is ‘None of us are as good as all of us’, along with the company’s strategic philosophy: Disruption.

“It’s not a case of ‘what do we want to be like?’, it’s a case of ‘when do we become our best?’,” explains Bradbury. “And we’re at our best when we work as a unit together.”

The motto’s subtext is: “No bullshit, no politics, no dickheads.” Bradbury adds: “It’s all about getting all the conventions out on the table and finding out which is the biggest that we can overturn. There has to be a confidence that your suggestions won’t be laughed at. Often, out of madness comes genius.”

Looking ahead

Last year’s work – and awards – has catapulted Whybin\TBWA Sydney into 2013. The agency has set itself a high bar. So where to now?

The biggest challenges facing the industry, according to the Whybin guys, are data and marketers. “Everyone is talking about data and trying to get into that space, which is a challenge we’re facing,” says Varouhas.

And Burton adds: “The biggest challenge is marketers who sit in their chair for one or two years and want to be famous. They think short-term and not long term. It’s a massive issue.”

“It’s an issue that no-one is talking about because it means you can win business,” adds Bowman. “But it’s a really dangerous short-term game.”

Not long ago, the agency was fighting for work. But Bowman says: “One thing that makes it slightly easier is that we have got people knocking on our door now. Three years ago, we were having to bend people’s arms behind their backs, and people were taking leaps of faith to join the team.”

Bradbury adds: “We’re also beginning to get clients knocking on our door, which is great.”

The agency’s 2013 focus is clear: do good work. “This year is going to be about doing work we enjoy doing, and producing great work,” says Bradbury. “Our other priority is to keep great people. This agency churns to reckless levels. You cannot be good if you keep churning, so we are fixated by that.

“We must also keep innovating. We are interested in opening up what will be the next Integer or Eleven PR, but in the data space. We cannot be complacent.”

And there are a couple of big – unnamed – brands that Burton says “we will be going after this year”.

One thing’s for sure – Whybin\TBWA is not resting on its growing laurels.

Please login with linkedin to comment

Latest News

Broadcaster Forced To Apologise After Reporter Threatens To Beat Up Heckler
  • Media

Broadcaster Forced To Apologise After Reporter Threatens To Beat Up Heckler

British broadcaster ITV has been forced to apologise after one of its journalists was filmed threatening to beat up a young man who’d allegedly heckled him while he was attempting to deliver a live cross. As reported on B&T on Monday, journalist Callum Watkinson was reporting live from the British city of Birmingham when young […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
A Road Map To The Right Marketing Combination
  • Opinion

A Road Map To The Right Marketing Combination

In this guest post, Dan Hojnik (pictured below), head of strategy and planning at Involved Media, argues that brand and performance are more closely linked than many marketers care to admit… I remember trying to explain the benefits of brand and performance marketing working together early on in my career only to have a strong-headed […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
10 ViacomCBS And Football Australia Announce Largest Socceroos And Matildas Broadcast Deal Ever
  • Media

10 ViacomCBS And Football Australia Announce Largest Socceroos And Matildas Broadcast Deal Ever

10 ViacomCBS and Football Australia today announced a landmark media rights agreement which will see all the Australian National Teams and the FFA Cup matches broadcast across Network 10 and Paramount+. The agreement, which encompasses the media rights for all national teams (Socceroos, Westfield Matildas, Young Socceroos, Young Matildas, Joeys, and Westfield Junior Matildas) owned […]

A Home For Marketing: How Medibank Centralised Their Marketing Operations For An Agile World
  • Partner Content

A Home For Marketing: How Medibank Centralised Their Marketing Operations For An Agile World

With a goal to provide Australians with “Better Health for Better Lives”, Medibank is Australia’s leading private health insurer, with more than 3.7 million customers through the Medibank and ahm brands. In addition to private health insurance, the Medibank group also offers a suite of diversified insurance products including travel, life and pet insurance. With […]

Partner Content

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Great Southern Bank Rebrands With ‘Happily Clever After’ Via Indie Agency Richard Rose
  • Campaigns

Great Southern Bank Rebrands With ‘Happily Clever After’ Via Indie Agency Richard Rose

Great Southern Bank has launched a brand campaign this week, ‘Happily Clever After’, coinciding with its name change from Credit Union Australia, bringing to life its purpose of helping all Australians own their own home. The journey to changing from Credit Union to Great Southern Bank began back in 2020. When Australia’s largest customer-owned bank, […]

Nine Promotes Jo Clasby To Commercial Director, Publishing
  • Marketing

Nine Promotes Jo Clasby To Commercial Director, Publishing

Nine has promoted Jo Clasby to the role of commercial director – publishing, where she will report to Nick Young. She was previously director of client partnerships – publishing. Her new role establishes her at the same level of seniority as Anthony Smyth, commercial director – radio. Smyth was promoted at the start of this […]

Accor Celebrates Aussie & NZ Cities With New ‘Go ALL Out’ Campaign
  • Campaigns

Accor Celebrates Aussie & NZ Cities With New ‘Go ALL Out’ Campaign

Hospitality giant Accor is shining a light on the joy of cities through its newest campaign, ‘Go ALL Out’, which launches in Australia and New Zealand today. The gateway to the ‘Go ALL Out’ campaign is ALL – Accor Live Limitless, a lifestyle loyalty program that integrates rewards, services and experiences throughout the Accor portfolio […]

Marketing Firm Silverbean Set To Double Headcount To Support New Client Wins
  • Marketing

Marketing Firm Silverbean Set To Double Headcount To Support New Client Wins

Global affiliate and partner marketing firm Silverbean has secured new contracts with 13 major Australian brands and is now working to double the size of its Asia-Pacific team. Silverbean launched in Australia in 2019 and has seen steady growth through its work with retailers. Now, with 15 new brands joining the Silverbean portfolio, the agency […]

Xandr Launches New Guide Exploring The Future Of Identity
  • Advertising
  • Technology

Xandr Launches New Guide Exploring The Future Of Identity

Xandr, AT&T’s advanced advertising company, today released “Shaping the Future of Identity,” an industry guide exploring the approaches for buyers and sellers, as well as market participants, as they evaluate identity solutions in preparation for a future without third-party cookies.

GTI Appoints New GM Of Marketing & Strategy, Snares Fresh Client
  • Marketing

GTI Appoints New GM Of Marketing & Strategy, Snares Fresh Client

Tourism PR and marketing agency GTI has announced the appointment of longtime media executive Jenny Pham as its new general manager of marketing and strategy. Pham (pictured above) will lead the agency’s marketing division with responsibility for strategy, media and consumer marketing, while GTI founder and managing director Sarah Anderson remains as the day-to-day lead […]

Hospitality Networking Platform Clipboard Launches Equity Crowdfunding Campaign
  • Campaigns
  • Marketing

Hospitality Networking Platform Clipboard Launches Equity Crowdfunding Campaign

Clipboard, a free professional networking platform for the hospitality industry, has announced it will seek to raise its next round of funding via equity crowdfunding platform Birchal. This will power its vision to transform the way the fragmented hospitality industry connects, shares experiences, markets and recruits. With a growing member database of over 24,000 hospitality […]