It has been a bumper year for Australia’s creative and media agencies, with B&T‘s number crunching working out that there were nearly 500 account moves and wins across the sector.
But who took home the most new business? B&T has been tracking the new business wins over the months past and, without any further ado, here are your biggest winners for 2023.
For the sake of fairness, we’ve decided to split the media agencies up depending on whether they are owned by holding companies or independent. We haven’t taken the same tack with creative agencies because, at the end of the day, good ideas are good ideas, regardless of where they come from. We’ve also used COMvergence numbers and our own internal guesstimates to inform the value of these accounts — with significantly more value placed on COMvergence.
It should also be noted that these agencies have been picked due to their new business success. Retaining clients is just as, if not more important, than winning new ones. This list only reflects the wins starting from 1 January 2023 — anything before doesn’t count.
Media Agencies – Independent
Before we get to the top three, let’s lead with some caveats. There were a number of indie media shops that won huge amounts of business and we’d like to recognise their success as well. Typically, awards shows only have one highly commended entry but, we play fast and loose with tradition here at B&T so here goes.
Advertising Associates brought all of KIA’s media under its auspices this year, a huge and growing account. Ryvalmedia took home Gold in our November winners announced earlier this month after it won Racing Victoria’s account. Media Tonic and This Is Flow both had brilliant years with the former picking up the buying and planning responsibilities for the Herald Sun, news.com.au, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph. This Is Flow, meanwhile, brought in a number of fairly chunky accounts including a2 Milk, Air Asia and P&O Cruises. Top dog Jimmy Hyett even managed to find time for an appearance on B&T TV.
Bronze – Speed
It has been a great year for Ian Perrin and the team at Speed. B&T calculated that the agency brought in almost $15 million of extra billings this year, with automaker LDV representing a near-$9 million win. The agency took home Gold in our November new business winner round-up.
“We have built an ambitious and formidable team at SPEED and it’s so rewarding for those talented people to prove their abilities at the highest level,” SPEED’s managing partner, Ian Perrin, told B&T.
Other big wins for Speed this year include ELMO HR and payroll software, Clear Skincare, Stacks and Investsmart. In fact, Perrin has been so bullish about his team, he publicly called out the holding companies for their lack of innovation on B&T.
Silver – Hatched
Cast your mind back to May, winter was approaching and another incredibly successful Cannes in Cairns had just wrapped. Hatched, meanwhile, was busy putting the finishing touches on its Forty Winks account win. Now responsible for the media strategy, planning, and buying efforts, Forty Winks was one of the biggest indie wins of the year.
However, Hatched wasn’t done. It also picked up the accounts for Booktopia, Who Gives A Crap and Reece amongst others. In fact, Hatched became Booktopia’s first-ever media agency of record and, with its Who Gives A Crap win, the agency joined a range of high-calibre agencies across the UK and the US, further cementing its position as one of Australia’s best media shops.
Gold – Atomic 212º
When B&T crunched the numbers, there could only be one indie winner. Atomic 212º has brought in some 11 new clients this year, with a total billing value estimated at more than $42 million.
The agency’s biggest wins include the BMW Group, Craveable Brands, My Muscle Chef and the Northern Territory government. It also retained the sizeable NT Tourism account. It stole the Craveable Brands account away from GroupM-owned agency Mindshare, too.
That CEO Clare Fenner featured on our Media Agency Rainmakers Best of the Best list and Lorraine Woods, the agency’s national head of trading, featured on our Big Spenders list should not be surprising. Is Atomic the hottest indie media agency in Australia? The numbers certainly support the claim.
Media Agencies – Holdcos
Now, onto the holdcos. Again, a caveat, while our Gold winner stood out from the pack, there was little to choose between the remainder of the top six. Bronze could just as easily have gone to Starcom, EssenceMediacom or OMD, the latter was even named the top global media agency by COMvergence last month. But, a choice had to be made and the numbers (rarely) lie. So, here are the top three holding company media agencies.
Bronze – Zenith
Zenith won the Adobe account early in the year as part of a global win. The local billings are estimated at $36 million, making it one of the largest accounts to have changed hands this year.
However, Zenith wasn’t finished. It also took home the accounts for the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (rated at nearly $9 million) and the tasty (but unfortunately named) Lactalis, the parent company of Galbani, Lactel, Parmalat, President, valued at $6.5 million. Three days ago, it also took home Superloop’s media. It has been a very good year indeed for Jason Tonelli and the team.
Silver – Initiative
Initiative has had a bumper year, it’s safe to say. The agency took Silver in our August new business winners list after it won the account for Priceline Pharmacy. Its account wins for Sanitarium and Fantastic Furniture also saw it bring in almost $20 million of additional bookings. Sam Geer, the agency’s managing director, sat down with Chris Taylor on B&T TV to tell all about the Fantastic Furniture win back in September.
It was also named the Australian Cricket Board’s media agency of record. But, it wasn’t just commercial success, while not a new business win, the agency took home 10 gongs at the MFA Awards and the Best Use of Sponsorship for its “Cricket Covers” campaign for NRMA.
Gold – Wavemaker
Could it be anyone else? Peter Vogel and the team have had one helluva year. Last month, the GroupM agency was named B&T‘s Media Agency of the Year. Two weeks before, the APAC and global CEOs flew in to praise the Australian team for their exceptional work in an exclusive B&T TV Chat.
So, onto the wins. Two days ago, it picked up Allianz’s $20 million account. At the start of the year, it picked up the near-$28 million Macquarie Group account. It also won a huge amount of work for the South Australian government. It retained the near-$30 million Mitsubishi account.
And, just to make a sweet year even sweeter, it won The Cheesecake Shop’s $1.5 million account in Q2. Will Wavemaker continue making waves in 2024? We certainly think so.
Now, the creative rankings. It’s harder to pin down exact numbers and account values here so we’ve used our reliable guesstimates and a rough “account prestige” rating to ascertain who has brought in the most new business. We’ve also rolled the indies in with the holdcos because brands are buying ideas here, rather than armies of media buyers.
Again, we were splitting hairs to separate the top three and the rest of the pack. Havas Host had a great year with Ikea a standout win. Howatson+Company’s rise continued unabashed winning Domain Group, UNSW and Maurice Blackburn — for which it has produced exceptional, thought-provoking work. Today The Brave — our Emerging Agency of the Year won four very strong accounts in 2023. Special, our Grand Prix winner, took home the creative work for Coopers, a favourite tipple in the B&T offices.
But, these three agencies stood out to us more than any others.
Bronze – Thinkerbell
Adam Ferrier and the rest of the gang have had a brilliant 2023, winning B&T‘s Advertising Agency of the Year in the process. It picked up the creative (as well as the media) account for The Reject Shop. Its first work for the retailer was a doozy, as well with a humorous spot showing off its ability to undercut the competition.
The big win, however, was Menulog. That win was announced back in March and saw the agency consolidate its relationship with the food delivery brand. Since then, Thinkerbell has produced some unique, eye-catching work for the brand ranging from TVCs to IRL stunts. Earlier this month, it got Christina Aguilera to swap her normal (and presumably expensive handbag) for a star-studded Menulog delivery bag. But our favourite was its enlistment of Wu Tang Clan star Inspectah Deck for a refreshed take on its classic “Did Somebody Say Menulog?” campaign.
Silver – The Monkeys, Part of Accenture Song
The Monkeys may have lost the Telstra account this year but that was nothing to do with the quality of its creative having produced a previous B&T Campaign of the Month. But it also picked up some huge accounts this year.
It got the work for the Sydney Opera House, more work for TAB, Real Estate View and the Commonwealth Games. It also grabbed some work for Menulog rival DoorDash. Perhaps the biggest win was CUB brands, which will see the agency producing work for VB, Pure Blonde and Peroni.
That work has been recognised with the agency picking up our NSW Agency of the Year and Tara Ford being promoted as the chief creative officer of Accenture Song’s APAC and Latin American growth markets (as well as retaining her job as top creative in Sydney). But, perhaps the biggest recognition was its Dan Wieden Titanium Grand Prix win at Cannes Lions for its “First Digital Nation” work for the Tuvalu government.
Gold – TBWA & Bear Meets Eagle On Fire
TBWA and Bear Meets Eagle On Fire are set to share the creative duties for one of the most important accounts in Australia — Telstra. Working under the new +61 model (a story revealed by B&T) the two agencies will be producing work seen by every single Australian.
“This is not just another standalone one-client agency built to deliver efficiencies,” said Telstra’s CMO Brent Smart, “We have big creative ambitions and this is about the best talent and thinking from three agencies at the top of their game, collaborating on our business as one team with one commercial arrangement”.
TBWA also won the accounts for Specsavers and Patties Foods in August, winning our inaugural new business rankings. It also took home new work for Kraft Heinz’s range of brands, South Australia Water and Henkle.
What a year it has been.
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