Excellent creative might land you a trip to the south of France in June, but we all know who's paying the bill - Media! Such is its importance for both agency prowess and keeping things in the black, B&T set itself the unenviable task of finding the top 10 most powerful media players in adland in Australia at this very moment.
To procure the final list, B&T probed some of the best minds in the industry to see what they thought. And, no, they couldn’t pick their own agency!
And it’s arguably who’s not on the list that’s as important than those who made it. When you’ve got names like Atomic 212°’s Barry O’Brien, Publicis’ Mike Rebelo, Howatson+Co’s Chris Howatson and Wavemaker’s Peter Vogel missing from the final wash-up, you get the enormity of the task.
We’ve already had our 10 best creatives, entrepreneurs and content producers and in the coming weeks and months, we will be revealing the best in the following disciplines: Data Scientist, Commercial Director – Creative, Recruiter, Film Director, Public Relations, Strategist – Creative, Technologist, Consultant, Strategist – Media, Project Manager, Executive Leader – Creative, Mentor, Executive Leader – Media, Media Director, Developer, Casting Director, Industry Association Chief, Experiential Producer, Social Change Maker, Journalist, HR, Planning Director – Media, and Marketer.
And now, the best media operators in the business, counted down from 10 to one…
10) Danny Bass
CEO, Dentsu Media
When Bass mysteriously disappeared from IPG in late 2019, only to be later discovered running a corporate wellness retreat in western Sydney, it was assumed the seasoned media veteran had been lost to adland for good. Not so! Bass proved just the man to fill Dentsu Media’s CEO chair following Sue Squillace’s departure, Bass returning in August last year to whip Carat, iProspect and dentsu X agencies into shape. After a turbulent few years that saw senior staff departing quicker than the clients, the Dentsu ship appears to have righted itself with Bass heading media and the irrepressible Kirsty Muddle leading creative.
9) Joseph Pardillo (special mention: Simon Ryan)
Managing director, Ryvalmedia
Tricky one here, as B&T was super tempted to hand ninth position to boss of Ryvalmedia’s parent company, RyanCap boss and adland veteran Simon Ryan. Instead, the glory goes to Pardillo for turning Ryvalmedia into arguably the most impressive independent media agency in Australia. Since Ryan quit his Dentsu post (bar a quick pitstop at a C-suite gig at Carsales) to start Ryvalmedia back in mid-2020, the agency has not only punched above its weight, but punched the head, nose and bottom line of the holding companies, too. As regular readers of B&T would know, the agency regularly tops martech site R3’s monthly ‘new business wins’ and now boasts offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with a client list that includes Ray White, bet365, myob and Live Nation.
8) Tom Frazer
Managing director, Half Dome
When B&T was scouting industry brains for nominees for today’s list, virtually all those in the know offered up Half Dome’s Frazer as a deserved candidate. Frazer co-founded the bubbling agency back in 2017 and, to put words in his mouth, its success is undoubtedly down to a collaborative effort from a very dedicated team (namely business partners Will Harms and brother Joe). When not polishing his and the agency’s innumerable industry award trophies (that, it would be remiss to say, includes a listing on The AFR’s 2022 Best Places To Work), Frazer has championed the agency’s unlimited paid annual leave initiative. A self confessed proud “indie”, Half Dome’s 65-person strong agency represents clients in Melbourne, Sydney, Geelong and Ballarat across full-service media planning and buying, SEO, and performance creative production.
7) Virginia Hyland
CEO, Havas Media Group
Is there a nicer, more professional, more knowledgeable human in Australian media than Virginia Hyland? B&T very much doubts the fact. When her eponymous agency Hyland was acquired by Havas in 2020 many assumed it would be golf and long lunches for the former agency supremo. Not so, as Hyland took the media reins of arguably Australia’s most inconspicuous holding company, Havas. A regular fixture on B&T’s annual Women In Media power list, Hyland posted 17th position in 2022’s outing. In a recent chat with B&T, Hyland said: “Every day when I wake up, I ask myself the question: What can I do today that is going to count the most and make the greatest difference to my team, our clients and the industry more broadly?” In March, Hyland was named deputy chair of industry body the Media Federation of Australia (MFA).
6) Imogen Hewitt
CEO, Spark Foundry ANZ
Since leaping across from rival Havas back in 2019, Spark, under Hewitt’s stewardship, has become the bill-paying, powerhouse of Publicis’s local operations. Interestingly, Hewitt is one of those rare agency bosses these days that has successfully dabbled in both the media and creative spaces. Hewitt says: “Clients and agencies alike benefit from sustained commitment to one another and a deep understanding of each other’s people and businesses. Enduring relationships create the conditions for alignment, empathy and trust which in turn breeds innovation and better business performance.” Just last month Hewitt was kind enough to be front and centre of the latest episode of B&T TV, which you can watch HERE.
5) Jimmy Hyett
CEO and Founder, This Is Flow
Young, funky and tech-inspired, Hyett and his agency, This Is Flow, make the list purely on their cool credentials alone. Hyett – a previous B&T 30 Under 30 winner – started the indie agency back in 2015, having cut his teeth at the likes of MediaCom and Virginia Hyland’s Hyland. Along the way, Hyett and team have been at the pointy end of practically every industry award possible including a finalist in last year’s B&T Indie Agency Of The Year, while the agency was named one of Australia’s Best Places To Work in the same year. Recent business wins include A2 Milk, AirAsia and Rockface that saw the team go north of 40 employees.
4) Laura Nice & Sian Whitnall
Co-CEOs, OMD Australia
When OMD CEO, figurehead, pioneer and women’s agenda advocate Aimee Buchanan surprised most people by jumping ship to the industry Death Star that is WPP’s GroupM back in mid-2021 a collective cry of “oh shit” befell arguably Australia’s number one and most progressive media agency, OMD. “Problem sorted,” declared Omnicom supremo Peter ‘Horgs’ Horgan, naming not one but two CEOs for the agency in the intimidating duo that is Nice and Whitnall. Testament to their success, in October 2022 the latest RECMA ‘Qualitative Domestic Report’ ranked OMD Australia as its top performing media agency. Arguably the team’s most recent highlight winning the NSW Government’s $70 million media account in mid-2022.
3) Melissa Fein
CEO, Initiative Australia
“No surprises there” we hear you muse at the inclusion of Initiative supremo, industry sage and B&T’s 2022 Woman Of The Year, Melissa Fein. Under Fein’s six-year stewardship, Initiative has become the powerhouse of IPG’s local agencies, boasting a roster that includes the likes of Pernod Ricard, Energy Australia, Fitness First and the Unilever brands. In 2021, RECMA named Initiative Australia the fastest growing media agency in the world. Fein is also an MFA board member, member of the National LGBTQ Executive Allies Forum and a lead advisor for the iMedia Summit. She is a board member of Swimming Australia, Cancer Chicks and social enterprise, Little Colossus.
2) Aimee Buchanan
Buchanan made herself arguably one of the industry stories of 2021 when she was poached away from Omincom’s OMD to head up rival GroupM’s agency roster as CEO. By all reports, Buchanan was the standout from a host of local and overseas candidates and continues to excel and thrive in what could be described as one of the toughest and most competitive media jobs in the country. As CEO of OMD Australia, Buchanan has been recognised across the industry’s top agency and culture awards, with OMD taking home the Media Agency of the Year and People & Culture awards (for large agencies) at the 2021 B&T Awards, as well as winning the Employer category at the 2020 B&T’ Women in Media Awards. Buchanan is definitely no stranger to the pointy end of the B&T Women in Media Power List, having topped the rankings in 2018, received third place in 2019, a silver in 2020 and topped the list again in 2021.
1) Peter Horgan
CEO, Omnicom Media Group
Industry veteran, agency supremo, nice bloke and boss of the media agencies OMD, PHD, Hearts & Science, Peter Horgan is B&T’s most powerful media player in the local landscape. With a 25-year media career, Horgan was famous for transforming OMD while CEO that helped guide the agency to its position as the most successful and awarded media agency in Australia, doubling billings to over $1 billion. Unsurprisingly, he was elevated into the Omnicom Media boss’ chair in 2016 and now oversees more than $2 billion of bookings annually. When not cracking the whip at his Omnicom agencies, Horgan also finds the time to chair the Media Federation of Australia (MFA). He puts his success down to three things – the power of teams and diversity of skills, but more importantly, diversity of opinion.
Published by B&T, 18th March 2023