Following his acquisition of McCann Worldgroup Australia this month, McCann creative chairman Ben Lilley has unveiled his strategy to acquire more advertising and marketing services businesses, confirming he will be taking an entrepreneurial approach to growing the agency and its capabilities.
Lilley said the strategy will deliver a broader and deeper service offering to better tailor McCann’s integrated creative services for each client. He said it also offers independent Australian agency owners a unique chance to realise the equity value in their businesses and become part of a multinational agency network, but still be senior leaders in a national Australian independent. Lilley described this as a rare window for independent agencies who are looking to sell and achieve “the best of both worlds: combining multinational clients, career opportunities and resources, but in an independent agency culture and mindset.”
“There’s nobody else in the market acquiring independents right now,” said Lilley. “And with the economic headwinds facing our industry and economy, it’s unlikely we’ll see any more buyers for several years. So for agency owners thinking about selling their businesses or becoming part of a network, this is a chance to engage with McCann while we’re actively pursuing acquisitions.”
McCann Australia has itself grown on the back of a number of strategic acquisitions, including Lilley’s own independent agency SMART, which McCann acquired in 2011 and installed Lilley as McCann chairman and CEO and then McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific Creative Leadership Chair.
At SMART, Lilley also undertook a number of acquisitions, starting with digital agency M4 Interactive and followed by creative boutique VCD/Kindred, retail specialist The Foundry, design agency Illuminati and Queensland specialists Turner Sands and Logan Meo Walters. At McCann, Lilley also completed two further acquisitions, buying PR specialists The Red Republic in 2016 and design agency Studio Woo in 2017, who are still a core part of McCann’s national offering.
Now Lilley intends to maximise McCann Australia’s full-service creative scope and scale by integrating more businesses in creative, data, design, media, technology and PR across its Sydney, Melbourne and Queensland offices. “Our strategy is to scale McCann’s suite of best-in-class solutions to best address each clients’ own specific suite of marketing communications needs,” Lilley said. “This requires both scale and talent; the smart play is not just to build, but to buy. I invested in McCann with the ambition of continuing to build it into the best possible creative agency it can be, for the benefit of both our clients building their businesses, and our staff building their careers with us.”
Lilley said McCann Australia will also continue to pursue organic client growth and that after 2 years away from advertising, he has returned to McCann Australia with a renewed energy and focus. He is dedicated to honouring the company’s global mantra of Truth Well Told, and McCann Worldgroup Global Creative Chairman Rob Reilly’s personal mantra “Creativity Is The Only Way To Survive.”
“Creativity is the number one proven and quantified way for brands and businesses to maximise their marketing effectiveness,” said Lilley. “It’s a no-brainer.” It’s the same focus the business adopted when Lilley last took over management in 2011, which saw McCann Australia achieve record growth over the next 7 years and named both the most awarded agency in the world and Australia’s most effective Effies agency. “Truth Well Told and our focus on creativity has propelled McCann globally to be both the Cannes and Effies Network of the Year this year. It’s more relevant today than ever before.”
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