New independent agencies seem to emerge with a clockwork-like regularity. Supermassive is one of the most recent launches, having broken cover in June. However, unlike most independent agencies in the Australian market, it was majority founded by women.
Lead image L-R: Laura Aldington, co-founder; Simone Gupta, co-founder; Jon Austin, co-founder.
Speaking to B&T, Simone Gupta, co-founder of Supermassive and former CEO of Havas PR AU, said that when she and fellow co-founder Laura Aldington were speaking to CMOs and other influential people in the market, they bemoaned the lack of female representation.
“I’m from a PR background so, there are a lot of female founders but they’re not seeing female-founded creative agencies. The founding lineup is mainly men and maybe a female MD. One comment we heard was that ‘it’s not OK these days,'” she said.
“Put in this thriving indie agency landscape, the very positive feedback we got from senior marketers about how they would respond to a business like Supermassive in the mix. And, then there are so few female-founded businesses, that gave us the confidence to say, let’s do this.”
To be clear, there are some female-founded creative agencies in Australia — Dee Madigan’s Campaign Edge, for example — but these are the exception, rather than the rule.
“We can’t name one off the top of our head,” added Gupta, “we keep asking to make sure we haven’t missed somebody. As I said, I’m from a PR background and you’ve got people like Kat Thomas, Robyn Sefiani and Jen Sharpe. Really capable and successful women but not in the creative and traditional agency space.”
Gupta’s co-founder and former CEO of Host/Havas and Host Sydney, Laura Aldington added that while being female-founded is important to the business and something that potential clients have responded well to, it is not the be-all-and-end-all of Supermassive.
“It’s a point of difference but it’s not our core proposition. People might think ‘Women are founding agencies, maybe they’re just going to work on brands targeted at women’ and that’s not a particularly relevant part of our proposition,” she said.
However, Aldingon did say that it might present an opportunity for the agency in attracting staff, if not clients.
“It’s interesting for talent to see women owning a business because it’s so rare in the industry. When you scan the landscape and particularly the significant launches of the last five years, you’d struggle to name one which is majority female-owned,” she explained.
That’s not to say that Supermassive isn’t attracting clients. It recently picked up rebranding work with P&O Cruises, a piece of work that Aldington said was going to be typical of the agency’s work.
“They have big ambitions for the business and the brand and, what’s interesting about it for us is the scope of work on a full repositioning to look at the brand identity, the way they go to market and show up across all channels,” she said.
“It felt like a big, chunky, exciting opportunity for us.”
However, while the agency is looking at big and exciting work, we find ourselves talking to Aldington and Gupta huddled over a laptop from a garage in Paddington with pinball machines and graffitied walls serving as a backdrop. It’s a far cry from the enormous Host/Havas offices in Sydney’s CBD but, as Aldington said, the likes of Amazon and Apple started from inside garages.
Is Supermassive’s ambition similarly super and massive? Maybe, but it needs to find its place in the somewhat crowded indie agency landscape first.
“I would say that the state of the Australian independent landscape is that there is a few, but there are a few very high-quality ones that are thriving,” said Gupta.
“We know really good people in there and that have been good supporters of us — Special, Howatson+Company and the like. Something we’ve said often as we’ve been thinking about launching Supermassive is that a high tide lifts all boats and that the high quality of the businesses that have launched in the last seven years, the kind of work they’re doing, the partnerships they’re creating with clients and how they’ve been globally recognised for the work gave us confidence that we could add something to that.”
Aldington added that, despite the indie agencies ostensibly being rivals, the space was “unbelievably collegiate.
“We can all help each other to be great and it raises the standard in the industry, which can only be a good thing. No doubt that when you’re in the depths of a competitive pitch, you’re in competition but, actually, we’ve found that not to be the case at all. People have been very willing to give us their time, their contacts, their expertise and that’s been a really unexpectedly wonderful thing about the launch of the business — the goodwill we’ve had from the industry.”
So what’s in the works for Supermassive? Gupta told us that they already have “a few really lovely warm things in the making” but was not at leisure to disclose exactly what yet.
Aldington, meanwhile, said that they want to work with “ambitious,” “up for it clients” that want to do things “a little bit differently.”
As Aldington told a packed Advertising Week APAC recently, that difference extends to project- and output-based pricing.
“We’re a new business and we’re seven weeks in so I’m hesitant to make any proclamations that we’ve cracked pricing and pitching for the industry,” she said.
“What we have been talking to clients about is output-based pricing over a head-hour model. That won’t work for every client but what we have found interesting is that it changes the conversation ‘What are we going to deliver?’ from ‘How long is that going to take us and which combination of resources are required to do that?’
“That is a much more interesting and valuable conversation to have with clients because it doesn’t really matter to them whether it takes us six or four hours to deliver an output. What matters is they get a high-quality output. And in agencies, it’s not always a science how long great creative ideas take. It can be 20 minutes or 20 hours and a client shouldn’t have to pay more.”
So that’s the plan, a new, fresh bold way of looking at things. Will it work out? With the level of expertise already through the doors at Supermassive, we reckon the agency has a pretty good chance.