‘Growth with a performance mindset’: iProspect’s plan to chase clients and effectiveness

“The next step for us is now the work,” plus “awards recognition and new business wins.”

iProspect is focused on embedding a culture of effectiveness within the agency, winning clients and awards, growing sustainably, and raising its profile.

“Lots of people probably still think of us as a digital performance agency, which is what we were,” national iProspect managing director Marcelle Gomez tells Mediaweek.

“We’re very proud of that heritage, we don’t shy away from it. But probably about three and a half years ago, we merged Vizeum into iProspect globally. Australia was the first market to activate that and bring the new brand proposition to life. And that was around the time I joined the business. And that really gave us the platform to go to market with a full end-to-end media capability.”

Since Gomez joined, iProspect has tripled in headcount. Chief strategy officer Nick Kavanagh joined her leadership team a year ago. He had previously worked for Havas, McCann, OMD, and Naked, and “was looking for something different. I wasn’t sure what.”

“This shape of agency, with a heritage and a strength in performance and data and digital was really interesting to me,” he said.

“And the proposition of trying to scale that up and out through to brand, I think’s a really interesting juxtaposition. It’s been a really intellectual challenge.”

Gomez and Kavanagh both want to lift the profile of the agency, Kavanagh said, “because there’s a really interesting story to tell. And the category, the industry, at the moment feels right for something new and interesting. Hopefully, people are getting a sense of the momentum of the agency.”

In March, Jason Smith was promoted to head of client partnerships. In May, it named its 2024 Level Up Committee, a shadow executive management team that forms one of the eight pillars of the agency’s employee value proposition (EVP), ‘where the ambitious accelerate the possible.’ The agency also has a reverse mentoring program called Mentor Up.

Also in May, and as a result of those initiatives, it earned a coveted spot on the AFR BOSS Best Places to Work list.

“What’s central to all of it is that the teams are empowered, they have a voice. It’s not a dictatorship,” Gomez said.

“We’re not going to tell you how things are going to be done here. Great ideas can come from anyone in the team regardless of tenure, experience, role.”

Kavanagh said it’s a priority that people feel psychologically safe at the agency, so they can do work that is “progressive and innovative and reflective of how things are changing, but not doing that at the expense of our people.”

“The next step for us is now the work,” he added, plus “awards recognition and new business wins.”

iProspect works with MOOD Tea – a new client win from April – Ferrero, Air New Zealand, MYOB, and Kathmandu. Some clients “use all of our services, some … are more brand leaning, some … are more performance leaning, and I think that’s the beauty of iPro, is that we flex to what our clients need,” Gomez said.

Its pitch to prospective clients is “predicated on the idea of change, and the pace of change, and the rate of change,” according to Kavanagh.

“In order to navigate that change, you need two things,” he continued: agility, dynamism, and flexibility; and a different perspective.

“The premise of our agency story is about accelerating growth with a performance mindset, so that we’re building brands and building businesses.”

Its holding company dentsu has been going through a period of change, including former media boss Danny Bass exiting as part of a restructure that divides the business into two divisions: client counsel and commercial, and product and practices.

Gomez said brands like iProspect are central to dentsu’s model, because “they’re generally how clients come into the business and what they connect with.” Brands across the holdco share dentsu’s values, but iProspect’s specific “special sauce” is its EVP.

“If you’re looking for a positioning in terms of what differentiates us versus Carat, generally we tend to work with ambitious brands,” Kavanagh added.

“They may be second, third, fourth in a category, maybe don’t have as much money to spend but want to out-think and are looking to do things differently, and to supercharge their growth. Because we have that mindset as a business, we’re looking to grow rapidly. And we’re tending to attract those businesses.”

The agency wants to keep doing better for its clients and people, Kavanagh reinforced – “How are we tracking our success? How do we optimise? How do we get better?” – and part of that is creating a culture of effectiveness.

“So that we are able to link brand and performance together seamlessly, that we are able to demonstrate to clients the impact that our work is having on the short term in terms of sales, but also the impact that our work’s having on their brand health too,” he said.

“I think in terms of the next 18 months, it’s going to be how we anchor performance effectiveness with media creativity.”

iProspect’s mission to build its brand and become renowned for an effectiveness culture comes amidst a shake up of the media agency landscape. Initiative is losing its three top leaders to Accenture Song, where Melissa Fein, Sam Geer, and Chris Colter will build a full-service media unit for the consultancy. Kavanagh’s former Naked colleague Mat Baxter is back in the country and running Mutinex, the market mix modelling platform with huge ambitions. And independent media agencies are enjoying momentum too.

Kavanagh thinks while the industry is always in flux, this period of change is unique. The industry “sits at the confluence of technology, and data, and commerce, and culture, and entertainment” and each of them “are being disrupted.”

“So many areas that touch what we do are being disrupted at the same time. And it’s going to be really interesting to see how the next two years, five years pans out. I think it’s unique. I think this instance is unique. But I think it’s going to be a better industry for it.”

Both Kavanagh and Gomez are ready to help clients navigate that disruption. They are also both cautious of the cultural risk that comes with continued growth, especially “when you need to fill lots of seats very quickly.”

“Managing that growth whilst maintaining our cultural integrity has been really important,” Gomez confirmed.

Kavanagh, a year into his role, is confident that they have the right leadership to manage that risk.

“We’re very supportive of one another,” he said, “and it flows down through the rest of the agency, right, they can see that we’re pushing each other and it’s all for the good, and we’re good friends, and we can do great work, but we can also have fun while we’re here.

“To be honest, that is probably a Naked thing for me, an echo of the past, that you can have a great agency culture, and be doing fab work, too. That’s where we want to be getting to.”

See also: Mediaweek Agency 50: iProspect’s Marcelle Gomez celebrates her team’s drive and growth journey

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