Updated: Melissa Fein, Sam Geer, and Chris Colter leave Initiative for Accenture Song

Initiative at NOTB

Coad: “Mel, Sam, and Colts are still very much part of Initiative’s team and will be working at their usual high-octane and professional pace over the next few weeks/months.”

Initiative’s three most senior leaders – CEO Melissa Fein, MD Sam Geer, and chief strategy and product officer Chris Colter – have left the Mediabrands agency for Accenture Song.

Mediabrands CEO Mark Coad confirmed the news to staff in an email sent at 6:26pm on Thursday night, and seen by Mediaweek.

“In true industry fashion – this news is spreading faster than we’d like – so I am writing to tell you this news in the hope that you read it here first,” Coad wrote.

“Suffice to say, Mel, Sam, and Colts are still very much part of Initiative’s team and will be working at their usual high-octane and professional pace over the next few weeks/months. They have been very respectful and will give the agency and its clients their time and expertise to ensure a smooth transition.”

Mediaweek understands that each has a notice period of a few months, and is currently planning to remain at the agency for the duration of that notice period – however, details are still being ironed out. Mediaweek has also been told Initiative clients were informed of Fein, Geer, and Colter’s departure on Thursday.

Coad added in the Thursday night email that Mediabrands will host a town hall Friday morning “to talk more about what this means.”

In an official statement on Friday morning, a Mediabrands spokesperson said: “While we respect that there are many questions to be asked and answered, no further comment will be made at this time. Further details will be provided in due course.

“At this early stage, we acknowledge the tremendous contribution that Melissa, Sam, and Chris have made to Initiative and the wider IPG Mediabrands company.”

Accenture Song said it will be making a comment later this morning. The trio are set to build out a full-service media planning and buying unit at the firm, home to creative agency The Monkeys. James Graver, formerly of essenceMediacom, has been leading a small media practice at the consultancy since 2022.

Industry sources told Mediaweek conversations began when Accenture Song was pitching for Telstra’s account, which was ultimately won by +61, the bespoke model made up of TBWA, Bear Meets Eagle On Fire, and OMD.

In 2022, Accenture Strong created a media alliance with Initiative to pitch for the Coles account; it ultimately went to Omnicom’s solution, Smith St.

Fein has been Initiative CEO for six and a half years, joining in 2017. Before that, she was CEO of Mediabrands’ Ensemble and worked at Network 10.

Geer started at the agency in 2018 as chief strategy officer, and was promoted to managing director in 2020. He has been with the agency for almost six years. Before that, he was stablemate UM’s national strategy director.

Colter joined in 2019 as national strategy director. He was promoted to chief strategy officer when Geer was elevated to the MD role, then chief strategy and product officer in 2022. 

At Cannes last year, Geer told Mediaweek: “We’ve still got a lot of growth left. People talk about the awards and new business wins, but what comes with that is building a lot of depth in the agency. There’s depth at every single level in the agency, we can come here and the team is still absolutely smashing it on the ground. I think that allows you to continue to scale and not scale too quickly, or sacrifice other things and grow for the sake of it.”

Fein added: “It hasn’t always been roses, we haven’t always been able to come to Cannes and feel like things are okay back at the ranch. This has been years of brick-by-brick making to get to this point.”

Initiative’s global CEO, Dimitri Maex, told Mediaweek  that Initiative Australia is one of the agency’s strongest offices. “To be honest with you, they dominate – and definitely punch above their weight. I think the Initiative DNA may live most vibrantly in the Australian office.”

Recently, Accenture Song acquired martech consultancy The Lumery, won NRMA’s CX account after losing the Telstra pitch, and partnered with Adobe to develop AI solutions.

Initiative is widely-regarded as one of the best media agencies in the country, but recently lost Afterpay to indie Kaimera. Specsavers is up for pitch, as is DuluxGroup. In February, it won Crown Resorts, wrestling the account away from Carat after 30 years, and last year it added clients like Sanitarium, Fantastic Furniture, and Priceline.

Crown Resorts and Initiative were key contributors to the recently-launched ALUMNI pop-up restaurant for Masterchef, which Colter told Mediaweek was an “ambitious idea”.

Fein, Colter, and Geer won’t be too far from Crown Resorts at Accenture – its creative account sits with The Monkeys.

To Top