Summer Series: 2021 proves to be a huge year of growth for the IMAA


• Mediaweek looks back at the most notable stories of the year

The IMAA, the national, not for profit industry association for independent media agencies launched last year. Since then it has continued to grow its membership base and make a series of big announcements, including its trade credit deal and a number of new media partners.

2021 began with the IMAA naming Sam Buchanan as its inaugural general manager, and the organisation has continued kicking goals ever since.

Mediaweek has been profiling members of the IMAA all year – previous features can be found here. 

Mar 30: IMAA names Sam Buchanan General Manager

Independent Media Agencies of Australia (IMAA) has announced the appointment of Sam Buchanan as its inaugural general manager.

The IMAA, the national, not for profit industry association for independent media agencies launched last year and within its first 12 months amassed 50 members, the number now sits at 65.


Buchanan brings almost 25 years of media experience to the role, working in a variety of roles across media owners and agencies.

Buchanan has held several senior executive roles in large media organisations, including Fairfax Media, Jetstar Media, NewsCorp Australia, Prime 7 and SCA before moving to media agencies, working as chief commercial officer for foundation IMAA member McKenzie Partners, helping the agency commercialise its data insights and identify new revenue streams.

“I’m thrilled to be appointed into this role; I am passionate about the independent media agency sector and have spent a vast majority of my career either working with indies or for them, so I’m confident I can continue to bring my experience and industry knowledge to the new leadership team,” he said.

“The IMAA continues to grow, in fact we’ve had a massive 325% growth in members since our launch – with more than 65 members now on board nationwide, and 25 media sponsors. The success of our organisation in its first year of business – and in a pandemic! – surprised and delighted us all, and I know 2021 is going to be another big year, with several initiatives planned and more new members joining us.”

The appointment follows the announcement of the IMAA’s new Leadership Team for 2021, which includes Angela Smith, managing director, MediaSmiths (NSW), Steve Fagan, director, Media Republic (Victoria), Jacquie Alley, chief operating officer, The Media Store (NSW), Tom Frazer, co-founder and managing partner, Half Dome (Victoria), Phil McDonald, partner and managing director, BCM Group (Queensland) and Ant Colreavy, chairman, sandbox media (NSW).

Apr 28: “Game changing”: Sam Buchanan on how the IMAA will shake things up in 2021

By Trent Thomas

The Independent Media Agencies of Australia (IMAA) announced the appointment of Sam Buchanan as its inaugural general manager in late March.


Buchanan has held several senior executive roles in large media organisations, including Fairfax Media, Jetstar Media, NewsCorp Australia, Prime 7 and SCA before moving to media agencies, working as chief commercial officer for foundation IMAA member McKenzie Partners, helping the agency commercialise its data insights and identify new revenue streams.

Following his appointment, Buchanan spoke to Mediaweek about his role, and the big plans that the not for profit has for 2021 – including a game changing world first for independent media agencies.

Who is Sam Buchanan?

Buchanan said that he has come from a media family and has worked across all three sides of the industry including media vendor, client side and agency side.

“Whilst I have worked almost everywhere at an APAC level, indies have sort of been my favourite place to work with or in.

“I was part of the founding five agencies two years ago, then last year when we launched with 20 agencies, I put my hand up and was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to run it.”

Buchanan described the role as varying from day to day and includes tasks such as promoting the IMAA, education platforms, and evening out the playing field for independent agencies.

“My world is just basically building out opportunities and putting attention onto indies.

“When we first started no one knew how big that it was going to be or the appetite for it on both sides of the media and the agencies themselves. Now we are in a position of what do we want to do and how we are going to go about doing it.

“It is a sector that’s worth 25-32% of all media dollars and been in growth for the past 13 years so it’s a pleasure to work on.”

Achievements of IMAA since launch

It has been a busy year for the IMAA in the last 12 or so months, growing from 22 to 72 members.

The group has also announced a partnership with thenetworkone, the world’s largest independent agency network, providing its members with a range of benefits and access to events.

The IMAA also ran its first ad campaign last year through a partnership with ARN, and a major campaign is expected in July 2021 about the benefits of working with indie agencies across TV, digital, out of home, radio and print.

“Originally when we first started it was about putting a spotlight on indies but now, we realised that there is so much more that we can do.

“We have built out a network and a community of support for everyone and made sure that our indies made it through Covid.

“We also developed an accreditation for indies, and now agencies are proud to have the IMAA badge displayed on their websites and signatures.”

What’s next for the IMAA? 

Buchanan said that the goal is to continue to collectively solve the problems of indies.

“There are so many things on a day-to-day basis we are working on, being a non for profit it makes it very easy to be picky and choosey because you’re not driven by anything other than the benefits of helping indies.

“Indies are so hot right now it’s our opportunity to maximise what we can do together. Our goal is to level the playing field a little bit, whether the gaps are in education and helping the next generation of staff come through.

“We also want to do some good work such as working with charities, and to provide our agencies with purpose.” 

Big things coming in 2021

Top of the to-do list for the IMAA this year has been the lofty task of significantly reducing trade insurance, in what Buchanan described as a world first, game changing, trade credit deal.

“It is going to blow the world of trade credit insurance up, which is really really exciting.”

However, despite the excitement surrounding this announcement, Buchannan said that the IMAA isn’t done with more big ticket items planned for 2021.

“We have proven from what we are about to announce that we are a 5,000-pound gorilla emerging from the forest and together we have a very, very loud voice.

“We will be launching the IMAA academy later on this year for new starters in the industry that anyone joining the industry can have access to and can do a digital, out of home or TV module.

“We will be doing physical events in H2 when we can emerge from the Covid haze. The first will be called Operation Bounce Back. That will be either around Australia or streamed around Australia, we haven’t quite worked that out yet but we will be working with our 27 media partners on what that looks like and what indies need to know going into the next 12 months.

“We also have a few surprises up our sleeve.”

May 10: Independent Media Agencies of Australia announces 10 new media partners

Independent Media Agencies of Australia (IMAA), the national, not-for-profit industry association for the independent media agency industry, has welcomed 10 new media partners as supporters.

Independent Media Agencies of Australia

The partners are: Amobee, BlisMedia Australia, Criteo, Gumtree, GWI, LinkedIn, Moove Media, Shopper Media, Val Morgan and Weatherzone.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, established to create economic opportunities for the global workforce.

LinkedIn managing director ANZ, Matt Tindale, said: “Both globally and locally, independent agencies represent one of the most important and fastest growing partnerships to LinkedIn marketing solutions. They are often nimble, agile, and very tailored in their specialities, providing high value for their clients. 

“We are incredibly excited to partner with the IMAA and further collaborate, innovate and inspire great work in the independent space. By providing the tools, education and insights needed, we will further enable agencies to leverage the LinkedIn network as a powerful B2B marketing tool to drive the conversations that matter most for their business and clients.” 

Amobee is an independent advertising platform, unifying advertising channels like TV, programmatic and social, across all formats and devices.

Amobee vice president of sales ANZ, Andy Dixon, said: “There’s no doubt that indies have played a big role in growth of the industry in the last few years. Having worked with a few independent agencies, we at Amobee understand some of the challenges they face. We believe in what the IMAA stands for and are extremely passionate about giving indies access to resources so they can scale and achieve long term success. Partnering with the IMAA not only solidifies our commitment to innovation and collaboration, but also to empower brands, agencies and broadcasters with advertising solutions for the converging world.”

GWI is a national team of independent advisors to government, business, and communities, working with clients to create business value, solve problems and guide decision-making.

GWI vice president, mid markets sales EMEA and APAC, Josh Radford, said: “Indie agencies are notoriously agile and innovative – they’re known for this. But they rarely get the chance to compete on the big stage. We want to help change that and level the playing field. By leveraging GWI, they can show brands of any size just how transformative their work can be – backed by insight that’s original, known, and trusted. We’re truly excited to be partnering with the IMAA.”

IMAA general manager, Sam Buchanan, said: “We are thrilled to welcome our new partners to the IMAA, who all bring their unique skills, insights and advice to our organisation. Our increasing number of new partnerships demonstrates the value of the independent media agency sector and its growth, particularly in the past 12 months. We have witnessed a strong level of media owner support for indies, with many major media owners opting to appoint indie agency sales executives for the more personalised service they provide. Our membership has grown 275% since inception and continues to soar – I am confident it is going to be the ‘Era of the Indie’.”

The new members join IMAA’s other partners including ARN, EMX, Facebook, Foxtel Media, JCDecaux, Kargo, Network Ten, News Corp, Nine, Nova Entertainment, oOh! Media, QMS, Quantcast, SCA, Seven Network, Spotify and Verizon Media.

Oct 26: IMAA reaches more than 100 members in under two years

The Independent Media Agencies of Australia (IMAA), the national, not-for-profit industry association for the independent media agency industry, has reached the milestone of more than 100 members.

The independent sector represents approximately $2.5 billion in media expenditure and IMAA member agencies employ more than 1,000 people that all contribute to the Australian economy.

The latest new members are:

• AFFINITY                                               
• Alpha Digital                                         
• Baker Advertising and Marketing          
• Boon Digital                                          
• Bungle Media                                       
• c three agency                                     
• Cummins&Partners                               
• Digital Minds Group                             
• First Page                                             
• Full House Media                                 
• Global Media Solutions                                                   
• Handle Media
• In Marketing we Trust   
• JSL Media       
• KWM Media Group  
• Longreach Media             
• Loop Media        
• Mediavive
• Mumur Group
• Stratosphere
• The Wired Agency
• Trade Indy
• Vonnimedia

IMAA general manager, Sam Buchanan, said: “In under two years since our launch, we’ve grown from just five agencies to 100 members, and reaching this number makes us a strong and influential industry association. All agency applications are evaluated before being approved as IMAA members and all have scale and clout.

“I’d like to warmly welcome our newest members at a time when the IMAA is really making an impact. We’re excited for what’s to come with big plans in 2022 in the era of the indies.”

The new agency members agreed the IMAA was critical in connecting independent agencies and promoting the importance of indies in the media landscape.

AFFINITY CEO, Luke Brown, said: “Never have we experienced such a dynamic, engaged and progressive group of thinkers in the IMAA and its members. This is no accident really given the type of people attracted to starting or being part of indie agencies: we love to challenge the status quo. Gone are the days where scale of buying matters, in fact quite the opposite. Larger groups can struggle to scale the thinking and that’s where the indies shine. The IMAA is the perfect platform at the perfect time where marketing is looking to do things differently, being more strategic and effective.” 

Nov 25: IMAA announces partnerships with several media industry bodies

The Independent Media Agencies of Australia (IMAA) has announced that it has formed partnerships with several media industry associations for a range of new initiatives.

The IMAA partnerships are with the Premium Content Alliance, Commercial Radio Australia, Outdoor Media Association, and Boomtown.

These industry associations and the IMAA will work together on a range of initiatives during 2022 including education, via the launch of the IMAA Academy for members, plus media sector updates and research studies for members.

“One of the key pillars of the IMAA is to work collaboratively to realise the potential of independent media agencies. We share many common goals of improving our industry. Since our launch last year, we have received fantastic support from media owners so it’s a natural progression to start working more closely with media industry associations,” IMAA general manager, Sam Buchanan, said.

“The launch of our education pillar, the IMAA Academy, is a key focus for us in 2022 and our industry body partners will play an integral role. We are looking forward to working closer together and building stronger partnerships to ensure indies are always up to date with the latest updates, research and initiatives.”

Premium Content Alliance CEO, Kim Portrate, said: “Independent media agencies are invaluable partners of the Premium Content Alliance and our shareholders. The IMAA is creating vital opportunities for collaboration across the advertising marketplace in Australia and in the coming months we look forward to working together on a number of initiatives to continue to foster a vibrant and thriving community through agency education programs and events that bring us all together.”

CRA CEO, Joan Warner, said: “I congratulate the IMAA on an amazing job in bringing together the dynamic independent media sector with the media industry bodies.  Australian-owned independents have an exciting growth trajectory, and we look forward to the many benefits this strategic partnership will bring to IMAA members, their clients and the radio industry.”

OMA general manager, Kylie Green, said: “We’re lucky in Australia to have a robust and diverse independent media sector brimming with talented people that bring entrepreneurial mindsets and challenger attitudes to the table. It’s this bold thinking and flexible approach to finding solutions that mean independents routinely punch above their weight to deliver big impact for their clients.

“We also know that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which is why partnering with the IMAA provides the best forum for us to share the latest out of home initiatives and gain insight into how the outdoor industry can better meet the needs of indie agencies. Collaboration is at the heart of how indies deliver results. I think we can do a lot of great things together by tapping into that spirit.”

SCA chief sales officer and Boomtown chairman, Brian Gallagher, said: “The Boomtown collective applauds the work the IMAA’s doing and the value and importance of independent agencies within our industry. We also share a thirst for challenging the status quo, so we look forward to partnering with the IMAA in what’s shaping up to be a very big 2022 for regional media and indies alike.”

Dec 7: IMAA survey shows almost nine in 10 agencies anticipate growth in 2022

Nearly nine in 10 independent media agencies expect their business to grow in 2022, results from the Independent Media Agencies of Australia (IMAA)’s latest Pulse Survey have shown.

The fourth Pulse Survey has revealed that 85% of independent media agencies anticipate ‘considerable’ or ‘slight’ growth in their business in the new year, while nearly nine in 10 (89%) are expecting to recruit additional staff in the next 12 months, signalling the continued momentum of the indie market.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on advertiser spend over the past 12 months, 60% of independent agencies still recorded an increase in revenue from 2020 to 2021, a sign of the resilience of the sector and its commitment to delivering – no matter the conditions.

“The IMAA Pulse Survey results demonstrate that our members have been able to snap back quickly from lockdowns and the economic effects of the pandemic to achieve growth and great successes for their clients,” IMAA general manager, Sam Buchanan, said.

“It’s a sign of good things to come in 2022 – we know many agencies are planning on investing in additional staff and expect media spend to increase so I’m excited for the year ahead and what it’s going to bring for independent media agencies across the country.”

Many indies are planning on investing heavily in multi-channel digital buying in 2022, with 67% of survey respondents indicating it would become a major part of their digital media strategy, while the three biggest media channels in terms of growth are expected to be CTV/BVOD, video and social.

The “great resignation” facing many industries across the country as a result of the pandemic and a shifting mind-set towards work/life balance, is not set to affect indies, with 87% of staff planning on staying with their current agency. However, the talent shortage is having an impact, with 59% saying the talent pool is ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.

In addition, 58% of indies have a work from home model or a mixed office and work from home model.

The Pulse Survey was conducted among the IMAA’s members in November to gain insight into the mindsets of agencies on current market conditions and views towards media owners. The survey is conducted twice a year among members.

The IMAA also has plans for 2022, focusing on offering online and face-to-face training, particularly for junior staff, and member events.

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