Metropolis MD Mei-ling Billing reflects on the agency’s evolution and its exciting future ahead

metropolis - Mei-ling Billing

Billing also discusses the benefits of specialising in the property industry

Metropolis was founded in 2006 and has established itself as a marketing consultancy for the property industry.

In its 17 years, the independent agency has partnered with developers, agents, designers, builders, lenders, owners, and managers, making its name in the sector.

Mei-ling Billing, managing director of Metropolis, spoke to Mediaweek about the agency’s evolution, the benefits of specialising in the property industry, its performance in 2022 and its outlook for the year ahead.

The Evolution of Metropolis

Billing explained that the agency – founded by James Cooper – began when it was part of the URSA Group and won its first foundation client, CBRE Commercial, in 2006. 

“James, our founder, approached the directors of URSA who were old colleagues of his with an idea to start an agency in property. They were a healthcare agency, and many of the outputs at the time were quite similar. So, they saw a mutual ability to share resources across the two agencies.”
Billing recalled that Metropolis was competing against large, multinational agencies in the pitch for the CBRE commercial account and won. She said that win was the start of Metropolis and credited a piece of technology that the residential property market had used.
” We proposed converting it to be used for the commercial property market, and after several years developed our own technology platform, CAMPAIGNxpress. The commercial accounts are high volume, maybe 1500 or 2000 campaigns a year.”
Through their platform, the agency was able to automate that process and bring it online, which connected to publishers, suppliers, photographers, signage companies, as well as major metro and regional publications.
“An agent could build their campaign quote, get their client to sign it, pay for it upfront, and we would push the campaign live. All of the suppliers would receive a purchase order and artwork created in the platform within the push of a button,” she said.
“By introducing that piece of technology, we were able to bring it into a specialist, independent media agency environment where the account received a lot more attention, a greater level of service, higher touch, and is managed by people who are passionate about property and have a depth of understanding of the category,” she added.
Billing also noted that Metropolis, an integrated agency that works across creative, digital, and media, has grown across the various property asset classes and in scale. The agency began with a team of five and has since grown to 35, and the type of clients they work with has expanded.
“We pride ourselves on having a deep understanding of who the customer is and helping our clients better understand their customers and connect their brands with them,” she said.
“Ultimately, being a media agency, we’re on the hook for the outcome. Ensuring there is a commercial success for our client or the project is incredibly important to what we do,” Billing added.

Billing on setting the pace and energy of Metropolis

As managing director of the agency, Billing considers herself someone who sets the tone and energy for the agency. She works across agency strategy and performance, client relationships, the resourcing and development of talent within the business, brand strategy, and new business.

“All of the staff here have an integrated skill set. They’re able to work across creative media and digital as opposed to us having siloed teams.”

metropolis logo

“Australians are obsessed with property, and we’re equally obsessed with property”

Metropolis specialises with clients in the property industry. Billing said: “Australians enjoy some of the highest homeownership rates. There isn’t any more important purchase in a lifetime than buying a home. Australians are obsessed with property, and we’re equally obsessed with property.”

Billing explained that since the agency’s start in 2006, the agency has continued to challenge itself to understand and connect with customers in almost every asset class in property. This includes residential houses, commercial, retail hotels, co-working spaces, and the build-to-rent sector.

Billing noted that Metropolis understands the nuances of the sales and leasing process and the differences between asset classes, which enables them to dive deeper into understanding the buyer journey.
“Now, more and more, we see projects and clients developing precincts, mixed-use places, and so we’re doing more placemaking. Usually, these places involve hotels, co-working spaces, a commercial tower, residential apartments, and transport,” she said.
“Understanding all of the fundamentals that go into the decision-making for a buyer or a tenant of one of those spaces enables us to deliver a much deeper outcome for the client,” she added.
Billing also highlighted that there aren’t many agencies specialising in property and fewer that are integrated, like Metropolis, which: “ensures continuity between creative, media and digital”. She added that it sets them apart from other agencies and helps them to improve results for clients.

“Our clients are often developing exciting mixed use precincts, that usually involve a hotel, co-working, commercial, residential, retail and sometimes transport,” she said.

Metropolis and its strong relationship with its clients

Billing said that the average tenure for their clients was about five years but noted that more than 50% of their clients had been with them for longer than five years.
Billing shared that the agency has been proud and excited to see its clients grow, such as Villawood Properties, whom they work with across Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.
“Our partnership started from a single EDM brief, and now they’ve grown to be one of our most significant clients. We’re working across digital, media and creative which has allowed us to use the full breadth of our skills.”
Billing said that Metropolis focuses on partnering with and growing with our clients. She noted that this has happened with several of their clients including Geocon, Pointcorp and S&S Projects.
In addition to their strong relationships with their clients, Billing highlighted Hometown Communities among the agency’s recent client wins.

Metropolis in 2022

Looking back at the agency’s performance in 2022, Billing called it a strong year coming off the back of Covid.

In addition to a solid performing year, Metropolis also made its first acquisition of a boutique design agency specialising in the property space called Charles Lloyd.
Billing described the acquisition as a full circle moment as Charles Lloyd was founded by the Metropolis founder. She said of the design agency’s acquisition: “It’s come full circle and is a great complement to our work.”

Looking to the year ahead

Billing shared that the agency is launching a new data reporting platform for its clients in the coming months. She said: “That’s been high on our radar. We haven’t had access to consolidated reporting via an API from all publishers in the property space making it challenging to provide reporting to our clients.
“We have worked hard with our industry partners to drive improvements and our new platform will provide a more dynamic view of campaign performance for our clients.”
Billing also noted that the agency’s Melbourne office, will see further growth in the year ahead.

“Our IMAA has enabled us to reconnect with that world”

Metropolis joined the IMAA in 2021. Billing said that being part of the industry body connects them to the media, advertising, and creative world.
“We spend much of our time as an agency, deep in the property world. That’s where we invest a lot of our time ensuring that our team learn and understands the trends within the industry in which we operate,” she explained.
Billing added that the most significant benefit from their membership had been the access to training for our staff.
“I think the content they share and the training platforms they offer have been great. It’s been a huge benefit for us to be part of and to connect back in with the industry,’ Billing added.

Top image: Mei-ling Billing


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