BCM partner Phil McDonald on the agency’s growth and taking on the Sydney market


• McDonald also discusses the impact of the pandemic and his outlook for the year ahead

Phil McDonald joined BCM Group as a partner and managing director after more than a decade with Y&R Group.

BCM, which has been around since the 1970s, has continued to be a trusted agency that provides clients with a full integrated media offering.

McDonald spoke with Mediaweek about the agency’s continued growth, overcoming the pandemic and BCM’s outlook for the year ahead.

The agency and his role

BCM was established in 1978 and, over the decades, has grown to become a top agency with a range of offerings, including creative, digital, and branded content and a team of two partners and more than 40 dedicated staff members.

“The original partners are no longer in the business. In that time, there have been five partners. So, it’s been a consistently managed successful business. I imagine one of the longest standing independent agencies in Australia,” McDonald said about the company’s history.

Before joining the agency, McDonald was the regional CEO of Young and Rubicam group in Australia and New Zealand, encompassing Y&R, digital agency VML and retail agency Ideaworks. He also served in various leadership positions in Y&R ANZ.

McDonald explained that he knew the partners of BCM and was looking to move back into offering a more specialist integrated media when the partner opportunity arose in 2018.

The agency has an above the line media planning and buying agency, a digital and performance team, earned media PR company called IVY and a fully integrated media offering.

As managing director and one of two partners in the business, McDonald’s role sees him work closely with clients and the strategy team to deliver the campaigns they roll out.

“We do digital and performance media, above the line media planning, earned media and use PR in combination with the paid media. But underpinning all of it is that we have a trading team, and we trade directly with the media owners across Australia.

“That’s been part of our DNA since the business started. We have trading terms with all the major media companies across Australia and use an agile trading platform to do that on behalf of our clients,” he said.

McDonald noted that BCM’s specialisation is integration. In a fragmented media landscape, he said that clients are looking to be more efficient and focused with their budget to drive a better investment return.

“You’ve got to use every single channel as effectively as possible. I think the concept of integration is something that not many independent companies can offer. A holding company can offer it, and they can bring different companies to work together theoretically to do that.

“I think having specialist integrated skill sets from media professionals to performance media professionals, through to media trading professionals who can bring a media partner into that mix and create something different for clients.

“I think that’s certainly what we do a lot of and what I would say we specialise. I think that’s what our clients want more of; they want more holistic solutions. Clients realise if you’ve got a specialist skillset, that’s great, but nothing works in isolation as well as it,” he added.


Long-term clients and recent wins

BCM’s long-term clients include the Queensland University of Technology for the past 20 years. The agency has also worked long-term with Crimsafe Security Systems and The Dairy Company.

Recent client wins for the agency include the national media planning and buying and creative business for G.J. Gardner Homes and Tourism Sunshine Coast as the media planning, buying, brand and creative agency.

The impact of the pandemic

In terms of the impact of the Covid pandemic on the business, McDonald said BCM was lucky to do well.

“We had some hard-hit clients that we had to support during that period,” he said, noting Flight Centre group and Travel Associates among the hard-hit. 

“But then we had other clients that just kept going, as normal. In many respects, we were lucky that we got through very well,” he said.

“But we also worked smart and hard to get through it. I think mentally and socially, people up here are not as affected as some of the markets that we’re in lockdown a lot longer than up in Brisbane,” he added.

Outlook for the year ahead

McDonald shared that BCM has an exciting year ahead with business picking up in the Sydney market.

“We’ve got a small office in Sydney; what’s happening now is we realise that to service some of those Sydney based clients, we will have to have more of a foothold in the Sydney market, which is great. So that’ll be our focus this year, to continue to move down into the Sydney market. That’s a priority for us,” he said.

McDonald also noted that growing their earned media and PR business and integrating that into our media business is another priority for the agency in the year ahead.

“Clients are just finding that if the brand’s earning its own media, then it’s a fantastic opportunity for them to use that first and then look to invest media behind that momentum that media can create.

“The idea of PR and media working closely together is a huge opportunity for us, which we’re focusing on going forward this year,” he added.


McDonald joined the management board of the IMAA in January 2021, a move he called a great personal highlight, with BCM as the first Queensland-based member of the group.

“Being able to get in and help the fantastic team at IMAA shape the offering over the last 15 months has been just a great personal highlight for me,” he said.

McDonald noted that the IMAA’s benefits are sharing industry knowledge, networking opportunities with like-minded people and training frameworks that independent agencies can utilities for their people.

“It’s great to find like-minded people doing the same thing and sharing learnings with them in different markets,” he added.

McDonald also noted the IMAA drives initiatives and plans that independent agencies don’t have the capacity for, including Reconciliation Action Plan and sharing knowledge around diversity and inclusion, which he noted was an element they as a collective are working hard to improve on.

“It’s been it’s been a fantastic initiative, and it’s certainly one I’ve been very proud to be a part of shaping,” McDonald added.

Top image: Phil McDonald, partner and managing director of BCM


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