Jack Byrne is the founder and Managing Director of Hatched Media. Jack is unusual because he took the bold step of starting and actively running a media agency without having any experience of working in one. What’s more, he’s made a great success of it – Hatched is now recognised as a rising star in the independent agency sector. Jack shares his personal journey, what motivates him as a business leader, his sliding door moments and what he makes of the industry today and into the future.
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Hello, welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media, and advertising with industry thought leaders and practitioners.
My name’s David Angell. Today, I’m sitting down with Jack Byrne, MD and founder of Hatched Media, which I think over the last few years has established itself as a very well-respected independent media agency. Welcome Jack, and thanks very much for joining
Thank you, Dave. I’m chuffed to be here.
Oh, well, that’s always a good start. That’s always a good start. Let’s start by discussing your own journey because I’d sneaked to look at your LinkedIn profile and from what I could see, after under two years’ experience of working in a media agency directly, you left and created your own, which is pretty bold. That’s a bold move.
Oh no, I don’t know, you’re still here, aren’t you? What led you to create Hatched and what’s the elevator pitch?
Sure. So, well, the two years’ experience was actually in an agency of which I was a co-founder, so I’ve never actually worked in a media agency that I haven’t owned. So, I originally came from the media sales side of things and before that, the marketing space, but ultimately, through my time, and I worked at NOVA when Vega launched, and that’s how I got to meet the people in the industry, and the agencies and the ways of working and whatnot.
And that’s where I saw the opportunity. And the opportunity was ultimately, where I was working in these big agencies, a lot of the people that I would see on a daily basis and a lot of them are actually here in the business today — very time poor, really great people. I love the industry, love the people in it. And that’s something that I always wanted, to work in an industry that I loved turning up to work in every day.
And I also wanted to run my own business. That was kind of a lifelong dream that I wanted to do that. So, I couldn’t set up a radio station. I don’t have a spare 150 million to do that. So, a media agency was the next viable option.
And ultimately, it’s finding the people and identifying that what I saw … and predominantly, I worked in the big media agencies. And what I saw was they had a lot of clients that didn’t necessarily have a whole lot of time to work on the client’s problems.
I saw great people that were probably overworked. And you’ve been in that world, so you can attest to that probably. But moreover, the client wasn’t at the centre of the universe. So, it was predominant media deals and a bit of skullduggery and whatnot. And ultimately, I think the one thing that was forgotten is that it’s a service-based business in a service-based industry.
So, having time to work on the client’s problems … the premise of the name Hatched is all about fresh thinking. And rather than a cookie-cutter approach going, here’s a schedule that was the same as last quarter or whatever might be; that’s kind of the concept of the name and that’s why we came about it. And what we’ve come to now nine years later is it’s all about the craft of media.
So, we say Hatched is where media is crafted, and that’s kind of the essence of what I started out nine years ago. Is actually showing that care, showing that level of approach to complex solutions or complex problems and providing solutions for clients. And we’re now, a team with over 60 staff predominantly around Melbourne, kitchen tables and whatnot.
You can attest to the office today, we’ve got two people…
It’s a very nice but quiet office out there due to COVID.
Yeah, correct. But those people across planning and performance programmatic, you’ve got account management and finance and whatnot. So, ultimately, it’s the premise of how Hatched started out, the way we’re always going, if all agencies have the same access to systems and data and it’s all the same systems and data, and there’s a little bit of proprietary stuff around, but predominantly, 80, 90% we’ve all got the same access to the same stuff.
So, predominantly, it’s the people that define an agency. And that’s probably what has been the key to us. Really, our business has been built on four principles and the first one is being independent and a hundred percent independent and I’m the only shareholder of Hatched. And ultimately, I think independence is really important.
I think there’s often an indie versus global argument, but I don’t necessarily adhere to that. I think independents and the benefit of independents is that you’ve got freedom to A, think independently and act independently. So, that ultimately, means that you can put the best interest of the clients first and foremost, and that’s kind of what we set out to do. So, we are answerable to our clients and our team, and that’s what I love about the independents. And that’s the benefit of being an independent, I think.
The other one is we’re obsessed with delivering outcomes and effective outcomes for our clients. As I mentioned the craft of media is something that we stand for and really how we do that is by applying experience. So, a lot of our staff, and we’re quite top-heavy, we have experienced staff that work closely with the clients.
And that’s really to speed the process up and to set up the adults table as we call it and actually solve problems in real-time. That expertise and the experience really helps rent that home. Then collaboration, being independent, we don’t really care where we sit in the pecking order. We’re not precious as to we need to be the lead agency or whatever it be. So, collaboration’s really important with other agency partners of our clients.
So, we plug in and we play a really important role because media is obviously a very expensive line item in their budgets, but we need to be collaborative. And that’s where, again, being independent allows us to do that. We are not pushing a barrel, we’re not cross-selling.
And then ultimately, it’s the customer-centricity. It’s going, okay, we want to put our clients at the middle of the centre of the universe. We want to get that client an unfair share of attention. And I’ll talk to our attention planning philosophy around the planning, but it’s ultimately, the output is we want an unfair share of attention for our clients and their media efforts. And we want clear commercial outcomes for our clients. So, put a dollar in, what do you get back? And that’s ultimately what we are here to do.
We’ve got two more principles, one being we want to be the place where the very best and most experienced talent want to work, stay and grow. So, we put a lot of time and effort in one-to-one development plans. It’s not cookie-cutter.
And we prioritise our people above everything, which goes against us putting the client at the centre of the universe, because really, we put our people at the centre of our universe and that’s where our attention is. But as a direct benefit, happy team is happy clients. And we set out to have 20-year clients. And ultimately, we can’t do that if we have consistently churned over staff.
So, that happy team, happy clients is really important. And ultimately, we like to set the bar higher in the industry. We kind of do run our own race. The one benefit of not working in a media agency. I don’t know how it is done. I just kind of operate on how it should be done. So, setting that bar higher it means that we treat our clients’ money as if it’s our own, we’re direct, we’re pragmatic, we’re real.
And ultimately, by doing that, if you know Media Eye and all that sort of stuff, and the scoring that they do, which we use as great feedback. We’ve got the number one NPS score of all Melbourne agencies and the only positive NPS of any agencies in Melbourne. So, I don’t know if that says more about us than the industry. But it’s something that ultimately, we walk the walk as well as talking the talk and that’s really important to us.
Well, that’s a great summary and I want to draw on a few threads there of what you’ve talked about in no particular order. You talked a lot about people, you talked about time poorness in media agencies generally, which is true. You talked about clients being at the centre of your universe and you talked about experience.
To answer some of the comments you make, because I am a media agency veteran. I mean in my past career….
I’d say by the gray hairs.
Yeah, correct, I’m trying to hide them.
In my experience, being time-poor in a media agency is very much … there is a delicate balance. Media agency people are often time-poor because they’re under-resourced and the client’s not paying properly, all of that kind of stuff. Or the media agency is trying to cut corners or whatever it might be.
But also, a large reason for media agency people being time poor, is often just to do with poor process and the clients asking them to do things that are just not efficient or that spin wheels. How do you approach your client? You put them at the centre, experience will count for a lot in terms of how you handle them. Do you have any insights into the way in which you communicate with clients that reduces that inefficiency and reduces that churn ultimately?
Sure. So, a lot of that starts at the planning. So, the interrogation, the recovery of what are we trying to do? And we were talking off-air if we call it that, with Better Briefs and we’ve got PP that work out of our office, and the reason being is that we really truly believe in what they’re doing is really just working on understanding what the problem is from our client’s perspective.
So, the empathy of their world is really important and often — and certainly, the Better Briefs Project talks about how marketers lean on agencies to develop the strategy. There’s a big portion of them to do that. Now, that’s not to say that they’re lazy, but they’re time-poor as well.
I think it has never been harder to be a marketer than it is right now. You have to be an expert in so many fields; creativity, market mix modeling to return on investment to MarTech, to ad tech. The world of marketing is so big and so broad and so diverse now, that to understand that is really challenging.
So, it starts off the client end, being time-poor. And if we can help them materialise or understand what is the challenge that they’re facing and how to actually solve that, then ultimately, that’s going to make everyone’s life a bit easier. So, we like to kind of chunk up if you will, and really work with a client in articulating what is the problem and how can accommunication strategy answer that. So, that’s really the marketing piece.
And then you go to the planning, channel planning and all the extra stuff. And then you go to the channel planning piece and that’s how where from an execution, and that’s where media agencys, we can help execute and get to that channel point. But really we do two roles and that first role is actually understanding that marketing problem and then working out how to solve it through a variety of paid, earned, and owned outputs.
And obviously, from a Hatched perspective, our specialty is in the paid bit and that’s what we’re at the table for, but more and more, we’re reaching up to that crow’s nest to really look what’s ahead of us? What are the challenges, how can we solve those challenges? What can we start doing today that will get us in ahead or on the edge in two years’ time.
That sort of stuff is more and more conversations that we’re having with the clients than we ever have, which helps with resource and it all led us down to ultimately, being more efficient in the marketing efforts.
Yeah, I think even taking a step back from that level, there’s… I think the role of agencies as advisors, as opposed to executioners … not execution, but you know what I mean — it’s never been more important because you’re absolutely right; marketers are so time-poor. Marketers have got so much else to do other than look at agencies.
And I think where experience comes in is where the agency is actually able to be a bit assertive and a bit kind of look, “We’ve been doing this a long time, let us help you help us. And let us guide you in what you actually need from us to get the best result.” Do you find that those conversations need to take place?
They need to take place. It’s hard to get in the circle. So, you’ve got to manufacture reasons and areas and create space to have those conversations. And the first is the hardest because to make that space, to have that meaningful conversation, and break that cycle of brief execution, brief execution, planning budgets, all of that sort of stuff, you can blink and five years is gone, and nothing’s changed from a relationship.
So, how do you take that step back? How do you actually climb to the crow’s nest, have a look at what are we actually trying to do here and to what end, and how can we plan further than the next quarter or the next even 12 months? What are we doing now for three years down the track?
Obviously, it’s pretty tough to plan three years down the track with the advancements of technology and data and legislation, all of that sort of stuff — but it’s all very relative to have that conversation. It’s just finding the space to have that conversation that is the most important thing.
But gray hairs, as you mentioned, I have a few, so do you, quite frankly, but anyway, gray hairs can help with that though. You know, being perfectly frank and this is with no disrespect to younger people who are generally more clever than I am, to be honest. But a lot of our clients often talk about, look, there’s just no ethics.
Our big account, the multimillion-dollar account is being run by people who just haven’t had the life experience, if not the industry experience to really navigate us properly. And I think that’s where it’s not independent versus global. I sort of agree with that. You know, everyone’s got their own advantages, but I think being able to think independently and being able to put experienced people closer to the client as opposed to being administrative managers, I think that can really help, I really do.
I think that’s a bit of a secret source and that’s what I saw from the sales side of things is these guns who I grew up through the industry with, they progress and then they go back of the house, which makes no sense to me. Where that experience … what you can have in an hour conversation with the clients, and that experience of all the stuff ups that you’ve done, all the things that have gone really well — all of that stuff can be diluted and really conveyed in an hour conversation.
As opposed to someone who hasn’t had that experience, trying to work out … and they’re generally at the same position as the marketer anyway. So, it’s that expertise that really expediates the problem or the solution to the problem rather, and the reason why we are predominantly top-heavy and have those senior people is ultimately, that speed turns out to be effectiveness in terms of an efficiency through the process, because you can just jump straight to what you need to jump to using that experience that we’ve got.
Yeah, as someone who has climbed that ladder a little bit in big … I mean, you’re absolutely right, you do get dragged more back of house. You do get dragged to P&L, you do get dragged to reports……..
The boring stuff.
Reporting to France or America or whatever. And career plays a very traditional way to go about it. And you do, you lose some of the cut and thrust. You even become rusty with the clients. Let’s not forget that they’re why we’re all here.
But yeah, look, we can spend all day talking about marketers and how time-poor they are, but we’ll get back onto this discussion. I want to talk a bit more about your own journey. I mean, you’ve been on the journey as a business owner and as a head of a media agency since I think 2013, correct me if that’s wrong.
Turn nine next week, Valentine’s Day.
There you go, very romantic. You must have had some sliding door moments during that time. I mean, there must have been points at which you thought Christ, I could go one way or the other here and this can either be triumph or disastrous. What stands out to you as the decisions you’ve taken or challenges you’ve overcome, that have really redrawn the Hatched map for you?
Sure. So, I’d break that down to say key decisions, challenges, and then sliding doors. But if you look at the key decisions, it’s kind of what we’ve spoken about now, which is hiring ahead of the curve.
So, I’ve always hired staff before I’ve had the billings revenue or clients to actually justify that hire if that makes sense. So, I’ve always been a believer that you build it and they come, and from a service-based business, building it is getting the right people in the business. So, I’ve always hired ahead. So, it means that we’ve always got the high resources. We’ve also got time to focus on the client’s problems, but also time to develop our own product and output and systems and all of that sort of stuff.
So, the key decision that I’ve had from the start is hire ahead of the curve, and I think that’s been the biggest advantage that we’ve been able to have, and which is why being independent is really strong because answering to shareholders — and even if you’ve got two shareholders, as opposed to one shareholder, which says you’ve got to justify your actions, where I have to answer to myself and only to myself.
So, I don’t have to justify any of these decisions, and I don’t have to get a return on my investment or look at … it’s we can go, we can take the leap of faith if you will. And that’s generally paid off in droves because the growth has come from getting the right people in, and that’s developed our reputation and it snowballs into referrals from clients and referrals to media, whatever it might be.
But that’s been a really key decision from early on that we’ve had a direct benefit from and we’ll continue to do that. We do that today, and we’ll always do that because that really is a competitive advantage from us, particularly vs the holding companies. But I think probably for most service providers in our space is making sure that the resources, and it is a bit of a talent more out there at the moment. But yeah, it’s making sure that we hire ahead of the curve.
Yeah, I often get asked by our clients what’s the hardest thing about what media agencies have to do. 9 times out 10 my answer is something to do with the fact that you guys have to really think about the now and the next day and the later, all at the same time.
I mean, all businesses have to do that to some extent, but you have to be on top of what’s next and you have to still be doing media buying of TV, and you need to be fulfilling that through the curve. And it’s really hard do that without hiring ahead of the curve. And yes, if you have shareholders, it’s so hard to get approval to do that. So yeah, I can see what you’re saying entirely.
No, it’s something we absolutely believe in. And at the moment, we just can’t move fast enough because it’s the talent and all of that sort of stuff, which we are looking at other markets at the moment. It’s to put boots on the ground there, but also to access talent pools. And I think you’ll find by midyear, we’ll have a team in place in another market and that’s really just to access a whole new talent pool and continue to grow that because……..
Sorry, I’m just interested when you………there is a talent war, but where are you finding the biggest gaps in the market at the moment?
Well, you’ve got the technical skills of say performance programmatic, the digital strength in platforms, if you will. That’s the most challenging space that we see at the moment. But we’ve got a pretty good reputation, so A we generally retain our staff, which is super important. And B, we’ve got time to talk through other staff and approach other staff and get that. But the gap, it’s numbers, it’s a numbers game that’s out there.
And it’s confusing to be an employee at the moment because you’ve got your current employer who is really keen to keep you and willing to throw stuff at you, and you’ve got other people and other agencies that are probably willing to also … so there is a bit of a turf war and a bit of a market out there. But you need to overlook and go, okay, well, what are the actual beliefs, how are they actually actioning … how do they actually operate? You know, what are the things that make this organisation different to others? What are the values they live by? And what’s the purpose of turning up each day.
And making them meaningful because once the negotiation for a salary is done, it’s forgotten pretty quickly. It just turns up in your bank every month, but you’ve got to front up every day. You’ve got to work with people. There’s expectations of the employer on you and your role. So, how are you managing that and all of it?
So, we get to the more meaningful conversation, as opposed to just here’s extra money, because we want 20-year staff as well as 20-year clients. And we need to make sure that the values align and we’re all aligned that way.
And we do psychometric testing through eDIsC and whatnot and our people in culture, Director Virginia Scully does a lot of work in the scoping out period to make sure that we’re right for each other. Because it’s a commitment, it’s a two-way commitment. So, that’s something that we spend a lot of time in doing, but it bodes well in a long time because the churn’s not there as well.
So, look, it’s a challenge at the moment. But I think it’s a point in time, but there’s a lot of talent leaving the industry. And that’s something that we need to either grow talents from an entry-level up and the retention, we’ve got to make sure that we are tailoring each person’s career path dependent on the person, as opposed to here’s an org structure and that’s how you follow it.
So, we spend a lot of time in the day and in the work that helps navigate and set people up for success in the future, as opposed to just for today.
Well, I very rudely interrupted your journey, and probably I’d have failed an employment test for you, for sure. My psychometrics would be all over the place. We’ve covered the importance of people and you’re obviously going to … I’ve not often heard about an agency going to that length when they employ someone, which is really interesting in itself.
But let’s go back to that question about either the sliding doors or the big decisions, whatever you want to call it; what else really has shaped you.
So, one of the challenges I’ve probably had to overcome is probably a personal one, is that imposter syndrome. So, as a bloke that’s never worked in a media agency, owning a media agency, coming from radios to the cowboy, from radio sales and all of that sort of stuff … it was a challenge personally.
And it’s like for me, that perception was never really real. It was just self-talk. But ultimately, surrounding myself with people. And that’s the one thing that I did from media sales, who are the people in the industry that give a shit about what they do and the craft that they’re in and how they actually approach clients, and how they interact with others.
That was one thing, that was a major advantage because I covered a breadth of the market. I met a whole bunch of people, and I kind of had an opinion on who that is. And I’ve since spent the last best part of a decade, trying to recruit them all in. And if you look at our exec team, it’s probably one of the strongest exec teams in the Melbourne market, all 20-year agency orphans, I call them.
But that’s the experience that we’ve got, but there’s a reason why we often don’t talk about our new wins and we’re not very good at publicising ourselves, and that’s predominantly because I would prefer to walk the walk as opposed to talk the talk.
So, we are a bit of a hidden secret, but once you’re in, and understanding who’s in here and what clients we work with, and what is the work that we’re doing, then, then you quickly realise that we are very credible and we do great work, and we’re standing on our own two feet. But that is something that I’ve had to overcome from the early days and nine years down the track, I’ve still got a bit of an imposter syndrome.
But thankfully, I’ve got a whole bunch of people who are absolute guns around me and I just hide behind them.
I don’t know, I think you’re downplaying yourself a bit there, but look, I think we all have imposter syndrome and it’s one of the reasons for when I said it’s a bold move. And it’s kudos to for still being here. I mean, it’s amazing. And I’m sure you’ve learned a hell of a lot along the way, how media works and everything else.
Yeah, thank God.
You go back to that radio station with a few surprises, right?
Yeah, correct. And then sliding doors, you mentioned, I’ve had multiple opportunities and multiple conversations with acquisitions and mergers from both independents and globals and all that sort of stuff. Very early on, we were a couple of years old, I actually got quite close with the global. So, it got to the point there was a contract in front of us. It was a big process, expensive process, time-consuming, distracting, all of that stuff.
And that was for the acquisition and the merger of Hatched into one of their offices. And I would’ve been CEO or co-CEO..… it was a great opportunity after a couple years. And ultimately, the decision was pretty clear at the end that why the hell was I doing this when I’ve got so much that I want to achieve in my own business and everything that I wanted or needed to fill those promises to myself and aspirations as a business would be restricted by the fact that I would be going into a holding group company.
I would have a boss in Sydney who would have a boss in Singapore, who would have a boss in wherever I’m going to give it away.
You’ll give it away to the next country.
So, that was the decision, but it was a big sliding door moment. Because you’ve got the money and the prestige and its kind of going back to that imposter syndrome, it’s like, okay, I’ve made it. If I’ve built a business and sold it, that’s the rubber stamp going, okay, well, I’m not an imposter.
But in the end, I realised that that validation’s kind of bullshit anyway, and ultimately, it’s like I need to be in control of the decision making to build the business that I need to build. And I’m very thankful now for walking away, because we’re a much better business now, anyway. We’re a much bigger business and we’re doing much better work and that’s what’s meaningful to me.
You must have recognised, I guess from a personal point of view, a financial point of view, it would’ve been the line of least resistance, to just take the money and do the earn-out and all that kind of stuff
Yeah. Well, for the best part of, I’d say, 18 months, it was an 18-month process. And I would wake up in the morning and I’d say, okay, I’m selling and I’d go to bed and say I’m not selling. And I was torn every single day because a lot of the people that I had as staff have come from big agencies, and the reason why they came here in the first place is that we are in control.
Let’s be honest.
Correct, because we are in control of our own destiny. And I think that’s really important, having control of your own destiny is what makes an independent really special and probably important. Again, the agency independent versus global means nothing. It’s all about the people that are within the office with the badge at the front.
But being in control, having meaningful conversations and decisions that you are in control of, is really important, particularly if you’ve been in the industry for a long time. So, we are in control of our own destiny and that’s something that I think from staff retention, staff attraction, all of that sort of stuff, people can have a say and can dictate the future of the business, and that’s really important.
But it was a significant sliding door moment. And when I first made the decision to walk away from that, there was probably six months of going … what did I do…
I could have been driving that Porsche by now and I’d own a yacht. Could have brought my radio station!
Yeah. But now, I’ve never been sure and I’ve never been more thankful that I made that decision at the time.
Good on you. Let’s talk a little bit about the independent agency industry for want of a better term, and we’ve talked her out and I do agree with this, that boiling things down to global versus independent is a gross oversimplification. It really is. I mean, there’s pros and there’s cons and there’s pluses and minuses and all that kind of stuff.
But in more recent times, we’ve seen a real gear change from independent agencies in Australia, we’ve seen acquisitions. We’ve just been talking about more sliding doors — we’ve seen acquisitions. We’ve seen the development of, again, we’ve touched on these proprietary assets where it’s becoming more challenging because the need for propriety, particularly in the data and tech space is becoming greater.
We’ve seen a proliferation of broader skillsets, growth in numbers, and to help drive all of the above, the creation of the IMAA, The Independent Media Agency Association — can’t remember what it’s called. But if I look at the membership of the IMAA, I’d say that Hatched represents a fairly noticeable absence, and tell me if I need to be updated on this. But what’s your view of the IMAA, and why have you decided so far against joining?
So, good question. We aren’t a member of the IMAA, but I think they’re doing a great job. We continue to talk to them and what they’re doing in shining a light on … they’ve got a hundred members now or over a hundred members. And there’s probably, I don’t even know how many agencies are there in this country, but let’s say there are hundreds of agencies out there.
And of these agencies, they might be two or four or six or 10 people, and they’re doing a great job for their clients. And that’s the one thing about independents, they give a shit about their clients and their clients’ lifeblood, and they really treat it like that. And often, it’s hard for media vendors to cover the ground and provide them with insights and updates.
And because there’s just not enough people to be able to service that amount of agencies. So, the IMAA gives them that voice and gives that spotlight to actually go, “Okay, well, vendors connect vendors and agencies, so we can all upskill on what the vendors are doing. So, then they can upskill the clients.” And they’re doing a great job.
We’re not a member of like MFA either. So, predominantly, the reasoning why, is it all comes back to how is it going to benefit our staff and how is it going to benefit our clients? So, because of the nature of how we tailor each program for each of our clients or our staff rather, everyone’s got diverse needs, wants, training, whatever it might be.
And a lot of that is we don’t want to put all the eggs in one basket, so we haven’t found a compelling enough reason to join the IMAA or the MFA or any other A’s out there, mainly because we like to tailor what we do. But the IMAA, we back them in completely and we’ll continue talking to them. And that’s pretty much the extent of it.
Sam Buchanan has done a great job, let’s not forget about it — and his team, obviously. I can see the growth and I can see both sides of that argument, I really can. So, it’d be interesting to see what happens with them in the future.
And a big part of that is helping the people within that group of members, which is great. We’ve talked a lot about people already within Hatched. And it’s a kind of sideways segue into the next thing I wanted to ask you about, which is diversity, ethics, and inclusivity. I noticed the recent article published by … now, I’m going to get the name wrong here……
By Rey. Yeah, that’s an easier way to do it — by Reychelle; the leader of what you’ve called your Belongings and Connection team at Hatched and DEI is obviously an area of focus for you as a business. But I think it’s really difficult to get things like this right. You know, to make them genuine and not force it, or make it tick box in nature and this whole area is difficult to discuss without platitudes, I know that.
But I’m interested in how people have responded to the Belongings and Connections Initiative at Hatched, what’s working for them, and is there anything that they suggested that’s not really meaningful at all?
So, it is a really interesting space and it’s a really important space as well. And probably, it’s worth noting, it hacks back to what we were talking about before, is about being in control of your own destiny, that ultimately, the Belongings and Connection team was born from Rey’s development program.
Her own specialised, tailored performance program. She showed an interest, identified the strength and motivators and passion for it, and she started it. So, that’s the key. She wanted it, we backed her. We know it’s a thing, but we wanted to be meaningful in everything that we do. And it needs to start with champions and Rey’s our champion and the team’s grown from one person which was Rey to kick it off. And now, it’s got 10 people. And that has all happened in 12 months.
And now, they’re building it. As opposed to us doing a top-down approach where it’s not meaningful, just following the legal framework, that’s easy. It’s all laid out and to be compliant in that space. So, you’ve got the legal frameworks, we’ve got all that, but it’s not meaningful. So, really, we want to empower everyone because the “I” stands for inclusion. So, that’s something that we are building inclusive of everyone in the business.
So, a big part of what we are doing particularly for the first 12 months is understanding and listing. And that’s through surveys and events where we actually really try and work on what is meaningful to our staff and what is inclusion, and what are we missing.
We don’t know what we’re missing until we know what we are missing. We know what we’ve got, but inclusiveness is actually knowing what you don’t have. And that’s what we spent most of the last 12 months doing. And that’s through as I said, mainly virtual events at this stage, and surveys and a whole bunch of other ways that we can listen, but that’s what we’ve done first.
But then the output of that is the data policy in terms of that’s the actual Hatched policy that takes all that into consideration. So, we are probably a couple of months away from actually designing that and framing that, and that sets a fluid document that we live and breathe by.
And there are other things like I mentioned before, we’re moving offices. So, we’re going up the road and we’re moving into a big new office space. But we need to be inclusive of other people’s needs and wants and all of that sort of stuff. And we want to design that into how we actually work on a day-to-day.
So, some people are introverts, some people are extroverts, some people come from various backgrounds that have various needs and whatnot. So, we need to make sure that all of that is considered to be truly inclusive rather than here’s a policy, here’s a ticking box exercise. We need to know, and that’s the process we’re on at the moment.
Yeah, fantastic. Well, look, I think it’s something that I think everyone’s identified that our industry has not been the best always in this space. So, it’s great to see more and more agencies like yourselves taking this kind of initiative, and obviously, going beyond the talk and actually making it mean something … cancel pretty much everything, right?
Let’s talk about the future not just for Hatched, but for the industry in general. We’re operating in watershed times really, working practices, cultural norms across the board being reshaped in part by the pandemic, but for other reasons too, and we just touched on them. What are you looking at longer-term? Where do you think the challenges and opportunities are for media agencies and advertising and marketing more broadly?
Yeah, sure. Well, in the future, it’s very hard to know the future because tomorrow is hard. But look, it provides both opportunities and challenges.
Challenge, I think keeping up with the speed of technology, data, all the things that we mentioned before; MarTech — all the things that have made media and marketing harder than it has ever been. Trying to keep up with that as an agency, as an expert, is really difficult and that hacks back to the talent as well, going, okay, what is the talent that is needed to deliver that cutting edge thought leadership that clients need to drive their business and deliver growth for their organisation.
So, that’s the challenge. The opportunity is we can get closer than ever before to our client’s world. So, when we’re talking about executioners, which is a great term………
Executioners, it’s like literally chopping people’s heads off. But yes, anyway……
I think the media agency has probably had a history of just getting out the door. So, executing a plan, but just spending money basically. I’ve got a budget, how do you spend that budget? Which is the right way to go about it.
You need to get to the bottom of the problem and work out how much budget you need to actually solve that problem. So, it’s getting closer — the opportunity is that with empathy and understanding if you can break that cycle of response to execution and kind of take that step back and understand the client’s world, that’s the opportunity to really understand their world and really get to the heart of the problem.
So, I think never has there been a greater opportunity because doing that, makes the marketers’ life easier and means that all of what we do as a media agency, is just a lot smarter about how we go about it. So, I think that’s the opportunity.
We also spoke about people and having our own control. We put a lot in the hands of our future being we’ve got a shadow board, and that shadow board is made up of seven young stars. So, these guys have shown initiative, shown grit, shown smarts, all the things that make them, what we call future legends.
So, these future legends run a board, it is a board structure. It is chaired and all of that sort of stuff. But these future legends are in control of building policy. So, our flex work policy, the future of work and ways of working, our office, how it works and onboarding staff and how we actually carry ourselves and some of the causes and purposes that we get behind, it’s actually built by the shadow board.
So, rather than these 20-year industry orphans, as I referred to, coming up with the ideas that these are the policies and everything like that — and remember these guys that are the 20-year plus industry orphans, they would’ve started in 2002, but it’s 2022 and there’s a generational gap.
So, we need to empower the future leaders and the future legends of Hatched to actually build that. And I think that gives us an advantage by the fact that we’re actually setting up for tomorrow today, and the policies and how we’re built and how we act and what we talk about and all those things have the future in mind because the next generation already controls it.
And that’s been really powerful for us and handing the keys to them to drive the future, I feel a lot more comfortable in doing that, in shaping what the future of the organisation looks like — than it would be, if the execs were to do it, then really, we’ve got a lot of experience to look back on, but it’s hard to look forward without that view.
So, again, one of the benefits of me not being in a media agency before I’ve owned one is that I don’t have all of that. But now, a decade later I do, and I kind of need to have a fresh start and that’s where the shadow board come and go.
Now, really this is what the future is. And they’ve got the keys and so far, they’re driving it like a stolen car, so it’s great.
Look, that’s a great answer. I’ve enjoyed this conversation genuinely.
Because I think sometimes, generally speaking, when we do these podcasts, we’re talking about pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes it feels scattered. Other times like this, it feels like there are so many interlocking pieces that have just threaded through this conversation.
And I can see what you’re doing. I can see how you’re piecing stuff together and it’s really good to understand that from your perspective.
One final cheeky question from me, I guess, which is a little bit of a tradition on this podcast; what could I ask you? So, I think you’re obviously a young go-getter still.
Let’s go with that anyway.
How many years until you get your 150 million to buy that radio station? And when you do, can I borrow your yacht? That’s probably the question I have to ask.
I’m breaking that down rather than the figures. It’s when would I sell? Is that what you’re getting at?
Yeah. Fair enough. Yeah, when would you sell?
I don’t know, I’ve got no aspiration to sell. It doesn’t come as part of the planet. I always believe if you run a great business, you’ll have suitors all your life and that’s proven to be the point.
So, there’s always people that are kind of knocking at the door, but I say I’ve got two kids and this role and this job, I’m not doing 80/100 hours a week. I get to do part-time when I want to — I don’t necessarily always want to, but I’ve got the option to.
I’ve got two young kids as well.
But that’s the most important thing to me and having control of my destiny is probably more important than any monetary value and yachts and Porsches and radio stations and whatnot.
So, if this vessel can give me what I want out of life and help me do other opportunities … I’m looking at investing in an acquisition at the moment and whether it’s through other vessels other than Hatched, Hatched allows me to do that.
So, yeah, at the moment, it’s play-on, run a great business, be part of a great culture and don’t stuff it up in the meantime, that’s kind of the mantra.
That’s a good place to live. It’s been really good talking to you, and thanks again.
No, I appreciate it, Dave, cheers.
Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media, and commercial communications professionals, Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by Darren Woolley and special guests. Find all the episodes here