Melissa Fein celebrates Initiative Australia’s hard work and efforts following their landslide win at the MFA Awards

Melissa Fein - Initiative Australia CEO

“Awards are never the goal; it’s the inputs that matter, and right now, the inputs are exceptional from our bench of talent and tools”

Initiative Australia won 10 awards at the MFA Awards on Thursday at the Winx Stand of Randwick Racecourse.

The media agency’s LEGO City Goes Nitro campaign was the most successful of the evening, winning five awards – most notably the Grand Prix.

Melissa Fein, CEO of Initiative Australia, spoke to Mediaweek about how she marked the win, the key to the agency’s success, the effectiveness of the LEGO campaign and her outlook for 2024.

Celebrating Initiative Australia’s success

While it was a big night for the Initiative Australia team, it was an early night for Fein, who revealed she had early morning meetings the following day.

Instead, she shared that the agency will be celebrating across the country this week in different ways by state and client group.

Melissa Fein said that she and her team rarely stop to reflect on what they’ve achieved as they are always on to the next thing. But for Fein, she said Initiative’s wins at the MFA Awards were a noteworthy accomplishment.

“I took the time out over the weekend to reflect on what this has meant to us and our clients, but also an opportunity to reflect on what has/ hasn’t worked and how we can’t rest on our laurels,” she said.

Fein noted that Initiative’s DNA is in the work output and that the agency remains “relentlessly focused” on the work to deliver consistency to all of their clients, not just a select few.

“This recognition was especially special for Chris Colter and Sam Geer for years of relentless focus on the work!

Fein said: “Awards are never the goal; it’s the inputs that matter, and right now, the inputs are exceptional from our bench of talent and tools.”

Initiative Australia team at the MFA Awards

Melissa Fein and the Initiative Australia team at the MFA Awards

Fein on the key to Initiative Australia’s success and the important figures who made it happen

The year so far has been quite the successful journey for Initiative Australia, with client wins, impressive campaigns, and a swag of accolades.

Fein said that this success for the agency took time.

“Initiative’s success this year was born three years ago with a transformation strategy and a clear three-year plan. It has been a brick-by-brick strategy, and we are still on that journey.”

Fein explained that the agency has a clear employee value proposition – “that you come to Initiative to do the best work of your career.”

“We understand people may move on, but we ensure they have a great impact whilst they are here and build their personal brand and equity to increase their value in market,” she said.

Fein highlighted Chris Colter, chief strategy and product officer, and managing director Sam Geer for their leadership on the work.

“I am in awe every day of working with these two guys. Their energy and smarts are contagious through the agency!”

Fein said that together, they build a high-performance culture where pride is instilled into every Initiative employee, no matter their department.

“Great talent attracts great talent, and we have built out the strongest talent bench in the country; our depth is incredible across all crafts!”

Fein also noted Mediabrands Australia’s chief operating officer Geoff Clarke, whom she has worked with since day one of the agency and described as “instrumental in driving the transformation of Initiative.” 

“There are many Initiative heroes across the board, from Michael Chong (who leads our analytics team – for which we awarded at the MFA Awards) to our cultural drivers (our market MDs), to the chairs of our DEI / ESG committees, and everyone in between,” she said.

“Building a high-performing business is like naming the team line-up to play at the Grand Final. Every individual plays a critical role and contributes to our success in their own very important way,” Fein added.

Initiative Australia - 10 awards at the MFA 2023

Initiative Australia – 10 awards at the MFA 2023

What makes Initiative Australia’s campaigns effective

Five of Initiative Australia’s ten awards went to LEGO City Goes Nitro. Meanwhile, two awards went to the Cricket Covers for NRMA Insurance.

For Fein, the non-traditional use of media was part of what made the campaigns effective. She highlighted that it was about thinking beyond what could be bought off a shelf and what would create impact.

“These were both stellar examples of maximising all owned, earned, shared, paid (and adding new ‘made ‘channels) to command attention and drive conversation,” she added of both campaigns.

Fein also noted that the message was also part of the reason why both campaigns, respectively, were effective.

“In both cases, the brands enhanced the experience versus badged it, bringing their own unique promises to life in meaningful ways. From HELP and protection with the cricket covers to creativity and imagination in enabling kids to design their own stunt vehicle, these campaigns prove focusing on acts over ads delivers greater impact.”

Fein also noted that both examples were brokered by Initiative and MBCS, which she said was “almost unheard of for a media agency to be involved in these decisions, let alone drive them.”

“It just goes to show the strength of our strategic partnership with our clients and the trust they have in our negotiations and executional delivery.”

Fein’s outlook for the rest of 2023 and the year ahead

With just three months left to the end of the year and achievements under the belt, Fein noted that as a retail-heavy agency, they have a busy period ahead for their teams.

“We have some exciting, innovative executions launching in coming months,” she said.

“We have also had some great new business wins recently, so we are taking stock and focusing on embedding those businesses into the Initiative portfolio,” she added.

Looking to the year ahead, Fein shared that they are currently planning for 2024 and where her attention will be.

“I have one eye focused on our investment + growth plans for Australia,” she said.

Fein also revealed that the new year will see Initiative invest more into its launched NZ operations.

“We have had such a warm welcome into the market. It seems the market was ready for a new energised challenger brand, and we will be delivering the energy the market deserves,” she added.

See also: Initiative Australia wins Grand Prix at the 2023 MFA Awards

Top image: Melissa Fein

To Top