“An award like this gives gravitas”

Australia’s Initiative on how winning Campaign’s Global Media Agency of the Year gave the agency a winning mindset

Now entering their fifth year, the Campaign Global Agency of the Year Awards are judged by a panel of global and regional chief marketing officers, with the process audited by PwC.

To find out what makes these awards so special for the agencies that win, Campaign sat down with Sam Geer, National Managing Director at Australia’s Initiative, which was triumphant as Media Agency of the Year in 2022.

Campaign: How did this award-win help Initiative Australia, and in what ways has it impacted the business?

Geer: “The truth is – whether you like it or not – awards matter a lot in our industry. Our reputation is our commodity; the thing that brings us value. From a business point of view, awards and reputation are so important. It matters for pitches, which are the lifeblood of an agency: if you’re not winning, you’re not winning.

“You’re only as good as your last pitch, and an award like this immediately meant we went on every pitch list that came out that we were eligible for. And it makes a huge difference in our economy right now, both in Australia and globally.

“We also became a very attractive proposition for talent, an award like this gives gravitas and, proof that this is where you come to do the best work of your career.”

Campaign: How did the win affect the agency’s culture, thinking about what it means to employees and teams?

Geer: “It was incredible timing when we found out we had won the award; we were altogether at a three-day company-wide national event called CultureFest in the Glenworth Valley, just outside Sydney. Standing together with our chief strategy officer, Chris Colter, (pictured) at the event’s big party night, I shared the news with everyone that we had won this award. It was a huge moment for the whole agency, and definitely the highlight of my career.

“In the serendipity of that moment, the award transcended work for everyone. It gave us a true self-belief, because although we’ve been telling everyone they’re the best in the world for years, they don’t necessarily believe us until we win an award like this. And now, one of the ways we motivate our staff is by reminding them that they work for an agency that can win on the global stage.”

Campaign: In what ways did the win elevate Initiative’s profile in the wider international community?

Geer:One of the particular points of pride in winning an award like this is winning it from Australia. I often say this market down here has market dysmorphia. We think because we’re at the end of the world and we’re just a population of 25 million that we can’t play on the global stage. People here don’t believe that they can create work that’s good enough to get recognised at global awards, so this wasn’t just a sense of pride for our agency; it was a sense of pride for the entire market.

“It has inspired our people and shown them we can punch above our weight and stand on that global stage. We can do work and create culture that competes with – and even outshines – the bigger markets.

“Within our own network we’ve now got far more recognition. Since the win, we’ve been asked to lead global pitches, and our Australian talent has been over to the US and the UK, so they get to experience leading global pitches. That wouldn’t have happened previously. Now that we’ve had this recognition, our position as an agency within our own network is significantly elevated.”

Campaign: What advice would you give to other agencies thinking about entering this time around?

Geer: “You must be firing on all cylinders. Think about how you are creating work for your clients that motivates your people. What we found is that creating great work is contagious; people push each other. But that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to embed that high performance culture. Once you do, it really does flow, and that becomes the expectation, not the exception.

“In these awards, everyone’s got great stats, good commercials, brilliant work. So it might be about finding one thing in your agency that your people really care about and focusing in on that. Tell a compelling and emotive story to the judging audience.

“But don’t bother next year, because we’re going to take it home again.”

Inaugural live awards ceremony for Campaign Global Agency of the Year

For the 2023 awards, winners will be revealed at the awards’ first live ceremony at London’s Carlton Tower Jumeirah on 13 June, ideal timing for a pre-Cannes Lions Festival warm-up en route to the sunny Promenade de la Croisette.

The black-tie event will bring together judges and the world’s top agencies, with a sparkling drinks reception followed by a three-course dinner, before the unveiling of the 2023 winners, with time to network and celebrate.

Entries are now open. Find out more at the Agency of the Year Global Awards website.

See the full list of last year’s winners here: Campaign Global Agency of the Year Awards.