MFA CEO Sophie Madden looks ahead to the exciting industry events and living up to its purpose

Mediaweek Agency 50 - MFA CEO Sophie Madden

“We must continue to invest in brands in order to emerge stronger when the tide turns”

The Media Federation of Australia (MFA) has quite the year ahead with its industry-acclaimed programs, milestones, and upcoming events.

Sophie Madden, CEO of the MFA, spoke to Mediaweek about navigating challenges, the exciting year ahead and how the industry should live up to its ‘We Are the Changers’ purpose this year.

The MFA’s purpose is ‘We Are the Changers’. Madden explained that it reminds the industry that it is at the dynamic epicentre of commerce and society and aims to inspire its professionals to take pride in their work.

Madden noted that with the many initiatives in place, the industry body is working collectively as an industry that lives up to its purpose.

“These include continuing industry education, awareness and benchmarking in the area of DE&I, developing an industry-wide ESG framework, and creating the MFA Workplace Safety Action plan to guarantee the safety and inclusion of everyone who works in the media agency industry,” she said.

Highlighting industry recognition MFA Awards 2023

Nominations for the 2023 MFA Awards are underway and play an important role in elevating the work of media agencies across the entire industry. The awards also demonstrate the MFA’s role in generating long-term business growth for their clients.

Madden shared that she expects indisputable proof in the Outcome categories of media agencies’ influence on business, culture, and the economy. Such categories include example, Business Impact, Behaviour Change and Longer-Term Results, among others.

Madden also noted that the MFA expects more entries from media owners, who can enter all Outcomes and Execution categories along with Pro-bono.

“In addition, media owners may enter the Channel Excellence categories in conjunction with the lead media agency, and NGENers from media owners are encouraged to enter the NGEN Award category if they’re members,” she added.


Madden shared that she was particularly excited to see the nominations for the ESG category and the newly launched category of Media For Good, which was set up to encourage the industry to drive a positive impact in culture through responsible media activation.

“This is all about how we as businesses are changing our craft and how we can make the world better – whether that’s reducing media’s environmental impact, creating inclusive media experiences and more – which is another way of demonstrating our We Are The Changers purpose,” she added.

Returning as the Grand Prix Sponsor of the Awards for the 14th consecutive year is Seven, whom Madden noted they are incredibly grateful to have on board as a long-term partner.

“Their sponsorship is a tangible demonstration of their support for the media agency industry and highlights the important role our media agency partners play in helping our industry deliver to its purpose,” she added.

The continuing legacy of the NGEN and MFA 5+ 

The MFA’s NGEN and MFA 5+ are long-established programs of the industry body and have been crucial to developing and supporting the talent in the industry, which is a core pillar of the MFA.

Madden highlighted that MFA training and development starts before joining the industry and includes its e-Learning courses, NGEN, and MFA 5+.

“Our focus is on ensuring that individuals are equipped with the right skills to excel in their roles and have long and successful industry careers, as well as setting industry standards.”

NGEN is the MFA’s largest and longest-running industry training and development program, marking its 15th anniversary earlier this year. 

“It’s goal has always been to empower media professionals with less than five years experience to build successful careers through learning, building peer networks, and providing tools and support. Approximately 15,000 individuals have benefitted from NGEN over the past 15 years, and it has helped build the career of 7 in 10 people working in the media industry today,” she said.

NGEN alum includes Seven West Media national sales director and ThinkTV Australia board member Natalie Harvey; This is Flow founder and CEO and MFA board member Jimmy Hyett; Initiative managing director Sam Geer; Procter & Gamble senior sales account manager William Berber; and Initiative global strategy director Jacqueline Osborn.

MFA 5+ is the next level for professionals with five to 15 years of experience; it aims to build the industry’s commercial acumen and leadership skills by inspiring and challenging the next generation of leaders to think differently.
Through the MFA 5+ Inspiration Series events, the MFA covers topics such as leadership in the ESG era, developing a long-term mindset, creating a high-performing culture through diversity, and much more. 

“Our programs provide valuable training and development opportunities, and a number of them are open to the wider industry, including media owners and clients,” Madden said.

mfa 5+

Injecting new talent into the industry with Career Changers program 

In December, the MFA announced the launch of its Career Changers program, which aims to attract ‘career changers’, employees with experience from outside the media agency industry. Madden shared that the response has been positive as it concerns the long-term structural change in the industry.

“As part of the Career Changers program, our member agencies have taken the 1 in 10 Pledge – committing that one in every ten people they hire will come from a non-media agency background. In return, the MFA will administer accelerated training and provide support by bringing together a cohort of career changers,” she said.

Madden noted that their focus is on diversifying where talent is recruited from in the future and developing a program for upskilling them in an accelerated way. “We are currently in the recruitment stage while we complete the training content creation, and we expect the first cohort to commence their training upskilling later this year,” she added.

The next of the MFA EX

The MFA Effectiveness Expo, or MFA EX, is a highlight event for the industry. Last year it attracted more than 2,500 media professionals in 2022 across two events in Sydney and Melbourne.

And this year, Madden said it will be bigger than before. 

“The days are designed to educate and inspire all of us working in the Australian media industry, from newcomers to the most experienced media professionals – and not just MFA agencies, media owners and technology partners and clients are also encouraged to attend

“Aside from networking with 2,500-plus agency people of all levels, the conference content will showcase emerging and future industry trends and challenge industry norms. Our purpose is to represent ‘media for all’, positively impacting the entire industry – not just a select few – inspiring and educating us to deliver greater effectiveness and ultimately create more value for our clients,” she added.

Madden noted that the MFA is excited to see a wide range of ideas from their member base – from smaller agencies to larger groups and added: “We expect two exceptional and standout events.”

mfa ex dates

Madden on the industry in the year ahead

Looking at the year ahead, Madden noted that the industry is facing challenging times ahead and that influence and ability play an important role in delivering positive outcomes for the economy and society.

“A key thing for all of us to remember is that in a slowdown, we must continue to invest in brands in order to emerge stronger when the tide turns,” she said.

“The year ahead for the MFA involves living up to our We Are The Changers purpose by looking at our role as an industry in contributing to greater sustainability and in better looking after our people – in addition to the work we’re doing to help brands grow,” Madden added.

To keep up with MFA initiatives and news, follow the MFA on Linkedin.

Top image: Sophie Madden

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