Sydney, Australia – KINESSO Commerce, IPG Mediabrands’ technology-driven commerce subsidiary, announced a global partnership with Vudoo, a technology company and content commerce expert. As part of this partnership, KINESSO Commerce’s activated media and Vudoo’s innovative shoppable ad technology have joined forces to offer an always-on commerce media solution that makes content shoppable 24/7 on the open web. 

KINESSO Commerce has created an end-to-end solution called “ShopNow,” which includes Vudoo technology, KINESSO’s activation and performance capabilities, and creative solutions from IPG Mediabrands. 

The partnership offers KINESSO clients increased transparency and visibility into the consumer journey, including whether or not a customer completes a purchase after adding items to their basket. It is a first-to-market worldwide solution across commerce partners, including Amazon. With a number of Australian retailers, the worldwide alliance will debut in the Australian market. Additional rollouts are planned for the UK, US, and APAC, as well as a wider range of clients. 

The combination of Vudoo’s real-time first-party data capture and KINESSO Commerce’s measurement and analytics expertise will improve KINESSO Commerce’s optimization capabilities and increase conversions for the agency’s clients. For the benefit of the larger IPG Mediabrands network, KINESSO Commerce will now be able to improve its off-retailer website and content creation services. Vudoo’s interactive video capabilities will allow digital advertisers to access customer intent signals that are now unavailable in traditional video formats, providing consumers the ability to choose what they want to view and how their user journey unfolds.

Speaking about the partnership, Hope Williams, KINESSO Australia’s head of Commerce, said, “Vudoo’s vision aligns perfectly with ours at KINESSO Commerce—we believe every story we tell needs a ‘buy button’ to ensure a seamless consumer experience, which has become a fundamental expectation for brands today, especially with younger digital-native audiences. We are confident this partnership will redefine how our global brands engage with consumers on the open web.” 

He added, “Our commitment to providing a globally scalable, end-to-end solution—including creative production, activation and insights, paired with Vudoo’s world-class commerce technology —is a testament to our dedication to client growth and success in the face of digital disruption.” 

Meanwhile, Nick Morgan, Vudoo’s CEO and Founder, commented, “We’re thrilled to announce our alliance with KINESSO Commerce, enabling consumers to shop directly from ads and content, and helping retailers achieve greater reach. This partnership is a testament to Vudoo’s commitment to innovation and our vision for a future where shopping everywhere becomes a seamless reality for consumers worldwide. Together, we hope to set a global precedent of transforming traditional advertising by making every piece of content shoppable directly on the open web.” 

Lastly, Amie Owen, KINESSO Commerce’s global chief growth officer, said, “The content commerce space is rapidly evolving and expectations from consumers online are high, particularly when it comes to the checkout process. We’re excited to partner with the team at Vudoo to make content shoppable and streamline the user experience as we believe that everything should be shoppable all the time. The 360-degree view of customer purchasing journeys and real-time analytics available on Vudoo’s platform will enable our marketers to enhance customer engagement and drive actionable insights for brands.”

Sydney, Australia – Cake.Shop, an adtech startup, has officially launched in Australia, offering brands and agencies innovative programmatic ad buying services that emphasise transparency and rich media creative ad targeting.

Founded by former AdLudio and Mindshare Australia programmatic executive Luke Hills and former Azerion JAPAC managing director Georgia Woodburne, Cake.Shop draws its name from the proverb “to have your cake and eat it,” reflecting the company’s commitment to delivering the best of both worlds in media buying.

Hills is the former VP of growth at AdLudio in London and was previously head of programmatic at Mindshare Australia. Woodburne was responsible for driving Azerion’s expansion in the JAPAC region and played a key role in rich media creative company Inskin’s expansion in the Asia Pacific region, where she held the role of GM, APAC.

Cake.Shop aims to provide agencies and brands with a trusted solution to address the industry’s biggest challenges: easy access to programmatic advertising, creative excellence, and precise measurement. By offering a unique experience, Cake.Shop helps brands and agencies achieve strong performance from their programmatic ad spend.

The company stated that it aims to disrupt the media buying process through a four-pronged approach: creative-led, with attention-grabbing ads designed to engage rather than annoy; sustainable marketing, by measuring, reducing, and optimising to meet sustainable goals; technology ownership, by eliminating intermediaries for greater control and transparency over marketing technology; and commercial flexibility, which allows businesses to grow sustainably.

For Hills, traditional managed service options are not working, and agencies and brands need control over their technology choices and must work transparently with their partners. 

Meanwhile, Woodburne believes that transparency is at the core of Cake.Shop’s ethos. 

“We believe this should be reflected in fee structures and solutions,” said Woodburne.

Speaking more about the launch, Hills shared, “We’re thrilled to introduce Cake Shop to the world. Our mission is to support agencies and brands in achieving sustainable growth both commercially and environmentally. We aim to make effective advertising more accessible for brands of all sizes. Cake.Shop is designed to lower the barrier to entry, providing market-leading solutions that enable agencies to deliver world-class services to their clients. By stepping into the gap left by larger technology companies, Cake.Shop offers a local and global, client-focused alternative for businesses.”

“Our flexible approach means clients can reduce spending without the pressure of restrictive contracts. We’re possibly the only business in the market advocating for clients to spend less, focusing instead on quality, ownership, and transparency for long-term brand growth. With significant headwinds in marketing through privacy, compliance, and sustainability, we believe legacy solutions in the market will struggle to meet the demands of local businesses. We’re here to help companies navigate these pressures with solutions that complement our sustainable vision,” Hills added.

Australia – Accenture Song, The Monkeys and Droga5 have been appointed by Tourism Australia to provide the agency with creative and digital services for five years from July 2024, structured as a three-year initial contract with options for two further one-year extensions.

According to Phillipa Harrison, managing director at Tourism Australia, the contract with Accenture Song has been finalised after a competitive tender process.

“We have a very specific brief at Tourism Australia with a global footprint that sees us actively market into 15 key international markets. Our campaigns have set a high benchmark over the years and as our operating environment continues to evolve we need to ensure Australia stands out on the world stage,” Harrison said.

She added, “During the tender process Accenture Song, along with The Monkeys and Droga5, proved they were best placed to provide Tourism Australia with the integrated global creative and digital services we need. We look forward to working with them to showcase the best Australia has to offer to the world.”

Meanwhile, Susan Coghill, chief marketing officer at Tourism Australia stated that the brief for the tender was for a panel that would allow Tourism Australia to respond to future opportunities and challenges.

“We will be working closely with Accenture, The Monkeys and Droga5 to remind the world why ‘There’s Nothing Like Australia’ and are excited to learn more about the creative ideas and big thinking they can bring to the table as we look to get Australia’s tourism industry back on a path of sustainable growth,” Coghill said.

She added, “I would also like to take this opportunity to thank M&C Saatchi and Digitas for all of their hard work over the past five years. It was a challenging period and thanks to both agencies we were able to pivot into the domestic space, with the ‘Holiday Here This Year’ campaigns, and once international travel resumed we launched our current global campaign ‘Come and Say G’day’ welcoming travellers back to Australia.”

David Droga, CEO at Accenture Song, commented, “This win means a lot. Professionally and personally. We are thrilled by the wonderful opportunity, immense responsibility and the rekindled partnership.”

Lastly, Mark Green, president of Accenture Song ANZ as well as the co-founder and group CEO of The Monkeys, stated, “It’s a privilege to partner with Susan and her team of outstanding marketers to help transform and elevate Tourism Australia’s global creative and digital marketing approach. Combining the creative firepower of The Monkeys (Australian agency of the decade) and Droga5 (US agency of the decade), underpinned by the technology and global footprint of Accenture Song, we have some of the best Australian talent from around the world coming together to bring the best of Australia to the world.”

Melbourne, Australia – UM Australia has announced Michael Mellington’s promotion to the newly created position of head of media planning. The promotion will take effect immediately. He will work in Melbourne and report directly to Raj Gupta, UM’s chief strategy and growth officer. 

The UM national media planning team will be headed by Mellington. He will manage the national planning team and attend to the media planning requirements of UM’s national clientele, focusing on clients located in Melbourne.

Mellington joined UM in 2016, having previously worked as head of partnerships in Melbourne. 

Speaking about the promotion, Anathea Ruys, CEO, UM Australia, said, “We are very excited to have someone of Mello’s experience and capability fill this critical role in UM’s evolution. Exceptional media planning is a cornerstone of client success, and on a daily basis, Mello demonstrates his dedication to the craft of planning and his commitment to client growth. More recently he has worked tirelessly to establish and deliver a plan to uplift the craft for UM. With his leadership skills so apparent, the entire planning team – and our clients – will see his efforts come to life as we move forward.” 

She added, “I am truly delighted Michael has taken on this new role and challenge and I am excited about what the future of media planning looks like for UM with him at the helm.” 

Meanwhile, Mellington said, “I am a firm believer that the craft of planning in our industry is pivotal to client growth and needs a renewed focus, so I am thrilled to take on this new challenge working with the incredible talent that is across our national team. My aim moving forward is to balance our approach of people and data to unpack the full spectrum of creative media solutions to drive tangible client outcomes. With the fast-paced evolution of our industry, this is the perfect time for UM to take a market leading stance and I’m honoured to lead this charge with our planning community.”

Australia – Australian sports brand retailer rebel has released its latest campaign via The Monkeys, which is a subsidiary of advertising agency Accenture Song.

Building on the ‘Sport Is Calling’ brand platform established in 2020, the campaign features the incredible journeys of Australians whose lives have been radically transformed by sport.

Specifically, the campaign spreads its message through a series of films, directed by Finch’s Christopher Nelius, telling the incredible stories of outback grazier Brendan Cullen, and Olympian Sinead Diver.

Coinciding with a busy time on the sporting calendar, the integrated campaign also aims to inspire Aussies watching on at home to start their own sporting journey.

Talking about the campaign, Rosemary Martin, GM of ecommerce & marketing at rebel, said, “Brendan and Sinead’s stories demonstrate rebel’s belief that sport can be the catalyst for incredible change and growth in our lives. Not just physically, but mentally too.”

Meanwhile, Adam Slater, creative director at The Monkeys, commented, “Sport really is stranger than fiction. Whether it’s a farmer who dealt with a drought by swimming laps of the dam, or a 47-year-old I.T professional turned national record holder, we’ve loved unearthing the best sports stories Australia has never heard of.”

Sydney, Australia – Advertising agency DDB Sydney has just announced the appointment of Rupert Price as its new chief strategy officer.

As the new chief strategy officer at DDB Sydney, Price will lead the planning department in its sharp focus on effectiveness delivered through the power of emotionally charged creativity across clients such as Westpac, Volkswagen Group and McDonald’s.

With a 25-year career background in agencies across London and New Zealand, Price has spent the last 12 years as DDB Group Aotearoa’s chief strategy officer and will now continue his momentum in Sydney.

In his time at DDB Group Aotearoa, Price has been instrumental in the agency’s success, with numerous accolades and achievements ranging from Cannes Gold Lions to a coveted D&AD Black Pencil. In addition, he has steered the agency to four NZ Effies Agency of the Year titles, as well as winning many effectiveness awards at both regional and global shows.

During his career, Price has also worked with Interbrand as director of strategy, head of planning at Ogilvy NZ and Ogilvy London and was board planning director at Saatchi & Saatchi London.

Speaking on his appointment, Price said, “It was a tough decision to leave the agency I’ve called home for the last 12 years but the opportunity to work with the Sydney team to continue their trajectory was too good to pass up.”

Meanwhile, Sheryl Marjoram, CEO at DDB Group Sydney, commented, “I couldn’t be happier to have Rupert joining the team. We’ve long been admirers of his impact and momentum across the Tasman and it’s always a special moment to be able to recruit much loved and respected DDB’ers within the network. His passion, commitment and results speak for themselves and I can’t wait for everyone to see what’s next for DDB Sydney.”

Sydney, Australia – Full-service digital marketing agency, The Pistol, has announced that it will bring its digital media expertise to some of Australia’s most beloved retail brands, in a new partnership with the Brandbank Group.

Under the new remit, The Pistol will be managing paid media for the Brandbank Group’s multiple fashion, lifestyle, and beauty labels, helping to boost sales and brand awareness across the group.

The Pistol secured the Brandbank Group account following a competitive pitch process. In winning the account, the company was impressed with The Pistol’s integrated marketing strategies.

A key part of The Pistol’s paid media strategy will focus on quantifying the impact of long-term brand building while delivering sustainable and profitable revenue streams, all centred around exceptional omnichannel experiences.

Talking about the partnership, Natalie Motta-Reeves, GM of marketing and e-commerce at Brandbank Group, said, “Brandbank Group is excited to announce our partnership with The Pistol, who brings an innovative perspective to our digital media strategy. We are impressed by their expertise at the intersection of creative, media and technology. We’re confident this partnership will lead to incrementality and profitable business growth.”

Meanwhile, Jaime Nosworthy, CEO of The Pistol, commented, “Brandbank Group has a deep understanding of brand-building as a long-term investment, and we look forward to being part of that plan for growth. Working with some of Australia’s most popular fashion, skincare, and lifestyle brands, this new partnership is a chance to bring our marketing and media expertise to Brandbank’s retail offering.”

Sydney, Australia – Houston, a brand strategy and design firm, has bolstered its leadership team with the promotion of Gretel Maltabarow to managing director and Stacey Saunders to general manager, the appointments will take effect immediately. They will be directly reporting directly to Stu O’Brien, CEO & Founder of Houston.

In her new position as managing director, Maltabarow will have the opportunity to further develop Houston’s core competencies and creative and strategic rigour, promote cross-business divisional collaboration, cultivate new business prospects, and maintain her existing clientele. In order to promote the company’s continued success, she will also keep heading Houston’s account service division and collaborating closely with O’Brien and Saunders. Maltabarow, who formerly worked as group account director, has been with Houston for eight years. 

As the new general manager, Saunders’ responsibilities include pipeline delivery and management, improving business performance and agency culture, and driving innovation through system changes and talent development. Saunders, who was previously chief of staff, will celebrate a decade in Houston in 2024, where she has held numerous internal agency operations responsibilities. 

Speaking about the appointments, O’brien said, “But most importantly their respective promotions demonstrate their ongoing commitment to our team and shows future Houston leaders, that we’ll nurture talent and create new opportunities and pathways for our next generation of leaders to grow. I can’t wait to watch Gretel and Stacey use their wealth of knowledge to drive the business forward and create the next era of Houston.” 

Meanwhile, Maltabarow stated, “Having watched the business grow and evolve over the past eight years, I’m excited by this next challenge. I feel further empowered to make a positive impact with our amazing team and clients by elevating the agency’s offering, and bring together the cross-function expertise of our teams to power client growth. I’m grateful for this opportunity, and couldn’t be happier to share the promotional limelight with the very well-earned step up for Stacey Saunders to general manager.” 

Lastly, Saunders said, “Over the past decade at Houston, I have experienced all facets of our business and feel so excited to lead Houston into its next growth phase alongside the powerhouses that are Gretel and Stu. I am also very excited that my new role will allow me to broaden my impact and provide mentorship across the agency focusing on development and growth for the team.”

Australia – Ancestry, a family history company, has announced its partnership with Ampol State of Origin 2024 through an initiative titled “Discover Your Origin.” Said collaboration is a strategic push to which Ancestry not only dives into the deep roots of Australian rugby league players this season but also highlights its slate of DNA product offerings. 

The ad, developed in collaboration with partner agency DEPT®, ties DNA testing to the Australian National Rugby League (NRL) fan base and highlights its potential. Ancestry seeks to reveal the origins of the athletes’ DNA, along with some traits, by means of captivating social media content and exclusive access to talent, such as State of Origin players Ben Hunt and Tom Trbojevic. This will be demonstrated through material, demonstrating how ancestral discovery can speak to any kind of audience and encourage viewers to go out and explore on their own. 

The idea originated with Michel Gondry’s music videos for acts like Daft Punk and The White Stripes, which feature backward-moving time sequences that give his films an otherworldly and enthralling feel. AI-enhanced images, such as an 80s-style lounge space where the past and present collide, are used in the ad. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) was used by DEPT® and Ancestry to improve production efficiency. In addition to giving frames more dimension, AI made voice-over recording easier by producing a variety of options that guaranteed a flawless alignment between sounds, images, and brand identity. 

The ad is currently running and will be promoted on all platforms, including social media, TV, and VOD. Publicis Sport & Entertainment oversaw the collaboration, with DEPT® Australia handling creative creation and Spark Foundry Australia handling media strategy.

James Walmsley, head of marketing Australia and New Zealand at Ancestry, said, “DEPT really took on the challenge of embracing heritage but powering it with innovation. The use of AI to create the imagery and voice-over in this campaign was a great example of how to use this technology in a way that enhances creativity. We couldn’t be more happy with the collaboration with DEPT and their innovative spirit.” 

Meanwhile, Brad Stevens, executive creative director at DEPT®, said, “What I love about DEPT® is our constant pursuit of new ways to solve our clients’ problems. With this particular brief, we were lucky to have an ambitious client willing to embrace technology to tackle the challenge: connecting the past to the future, and doing it in a very short turnaround.” 

Australia – With consumer spending and marketing budgets shrinking, privacy rules tightening, and AI unleashing a new wave of disruption, CMOs and digital professionals are ill-prepared, a new report from Amperity and Arktic Fox reveals.

Marketers feel unprepared for looming Privacy Act reforms. Even more worryingly, they believe those in leadership positions are similarly unready – only 38% of those surveyed believe their executive group understands the importance of adapting to privacy changes and sees it as a key strategic priority to address.

They also worry they are falling behind their peers in martech utilisation, partly because they lack appropriately skilled staff. On top of all that, many are now fundamentally questioning their martech investment strategy and moving towards combining ‘best of breed’ solutions, rather than relying on a single vendor. 

Marketers’ aspirations

Australian marketers’ focus remains business growth – 77% of respondents said it was a key strategic priority. Growth is tied to customer acquisition, which came in second (48%) on the list of priorities.

So far, so unsurprising. But subsequent priorities reveal marketers hope to fatten the bottom line by leveraging technology. The third most common priority (42%) was “Building our customer data strategy and better utilising our first-party data”, and the equal fourth (36%) was “Digital Transformation”.

The study also revealed marketers and digital leaders remain focused on achieving goals (over the next 12-18 months) that are only feasible with martech tools. Personalisation was classified as “important” or “very important” by 72% of respondents, who were also strongly committed to CX management (87%), online sales and lead generation (77%) and martech utilisation (76%). To put it bluntly, without sophisticated technology and skilled staff, most marketers and digital leaders won’t be able to implement their planned marketing and digital strategy over the next 12-18 months.

“Australian marketers want to take advantage of the available tools,” notes Billy Loizou, Asia Pacific area vice president at Amperity. “The problem – as they are usually the first to point out – is Australian marketers are struggling to execute. That’s hardly a new situation, but when you add in factors such as the rise of Gen AI, imminent reforms to the Privacy Act, flat marketing budgets and Google deprecating third-party cookies, it’s not surprising so many CMOs are nervous.”

Marketers’ reality

Marketers want to – and increasingly need to – leverage technology effectively. Nonetheless, many fear they are falling behind. This was particularly apparent when leaders were asked about their organisation’s data maturity:

  • Only 29% of respondents agreed with the statement, “We are very effective at activating data to deliver great customer experiences.”
  • Only 22% of respondents agreed with the statement, “Our data is well managed and maintained, providing us with high-quality data.”
  • Only 19% of respondents agreed with the statement, “We have developed a unified view of the customer.”

Teresa Sperti, director of Arktic Fox, is worried but unsurprised by these findings.

“When we undertake digital training sessions or partner with clients on strategy, it’s not uncommon for us to have to explain to an organisation’s staff, including its senior staff, where the organisation’s data resides and help them connect the dots around their martech ecosystem. 

“Brands have been trying to develop a unified view of the customer for at least two decades. Yet in 2024, less than one in five of those surveyed could say their organisation had developed a unified view of the customer that could underpin a data-driven marketing approach. This is why there is a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in spaces like personalisation, experience delivery and more. Brands that have built strong internal capabilities and robust foundations in data and tech are thriving whilst others are finding it difficult to shift gears.”

Sperti also warns that a casual approach to managing data and, in particular, privacy might result in more than suboptimal marketing outcomes. “Businesses could soon be suffering even more dire financial and reputational consequences for failing to appropriately safeguard their customers’ privacy,” she says. “A privacy or spam breach impacts reputation and trust, which is linked to brand performance and preference. So, I’m amazed there isn’t much more focus on improving compliance and ethics by marketers and digital leaders.”

Is it the machines or the humans?

There’s a consensus that Australian marketers and digital professionals aren’t making the most of martech solutions, but there’s debate about why that’s the case.

Those who question the tools point out marketers in many countries have failed to adopt martech solutions with the enthusiasm that was expected. Many CMOs appear to believe they overspent on technology and that investment has failed to meet their expectations and deliver the desired outcomes.

That’s partly due to the shortage of Australians with martech skills. But Loizou points out that the much-publicised skill gap doesn’t explain everything.

“To grossly oversimplify, the approach in the past was to buy the equivalent of a turnkey, off-the-shelf, full-stack solution from a big-name tech company. Given that 80% of respondents in the 2024 study reported their utilisation of martech was ‘average’, ‘low’ or ‘very low’, that doesn’t seem to have worked out well. The understandable but ill-advised reaction is to devote fewer resources to martech and martech staff training. That’s happening to some extent, with only 12% of respondents reporting they plan to significantly increase their martech budget over the next 12 months. But the noteworthy development is the declining popularity of single-vendor solutions. When asked about their plans for current and future martech investments, 14% said they were leaning towards a single vendor, 29% claimed they were open-minded, and a whopping 57% stated they were leaning towards ‘best-of-breed’ solutions.” 

The digital transformation landscape

Both Sperti and Loizou remain concerned about what they see as an overly relaxed approach to digital transformation. Noting that almost all organisations now talk the digital transformation talk, Sperti wonders how serious they are about walking the walk. “Only about one in five respondents said their organisation had been transforming for a “long time”, with long time defined as three or more years,” she says. “And about one in two respondents reported their organisation was just starting, or had only recently started, their digital transformation journey.

The study also found that only 53% of leaders believe their executive group are aligned on digital transformation priorities. 

“When brands aren’t aligned around digital transformation priorities, teams are set up to compete for resources and funding. That drives siloed thinking and that means it takes twice as long to deliver on ambitions. However, when executives lean into challenging discussions and make strategic choices, it enables the organisation to focus on the digital strategies that will deliver the most impact for the business and customers alike.” Sperti says

“With martech, the two big investment priorities for marketers remain CRMs (43%) and marketing automation (41%),” Loizou adds. “It’s good that CDPs [Consumer Data Platforms] are now the number three priority (35%), but I suspect many marketers still don’t fully comprehend how central CDPs are. The elevator pitch is that they allow marketers to improve the quality of their data, therefore an accelerator to fuel smart growth, retention, and foster a data-first corporate culture.”

Loizou doesn’t claim CDPs are a magic bullet. But he does insist that, unlike more popular solutions, they can address some of the pressing issues marketers now face. 

“Just spending more on a marketing automation platform won’t solve messy customer data problems,” he says. “It’s CDPs that do that, as well as provide an enterprise-unified view, which then solves many of the other business-wide challenges organisations face. We live by the mantra better data = better results!”