SMART (advertising agency)

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IndustryAdvertising agency
FoundedSydney, Australia (2000)
FounderBen Lilley and Paul Findlay
HeadquartersMelbourne, Australia
Number of locations
Key people
Ben Lilley, CEO of McCann Worldgroup
Benjamin Davis Executive Creative Director
ServicesBrand Advertising, Communication Strategy, Social Media and Digital Services

SMART is a full-service Australian advertising agency with offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Brisbane. SMART is an independently managed business within McCann WorldGroup, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

Launched in 2000 as a boutique creative agency, SMART was established by a group of ex-multinational agency professionals seeking to create "a strategic and creative alternative to traditional agency thinking".[1] The company's business model has been described as a "borderless" approach,[2] bringing together specialists from various locations and disciplines to service its clients' needs.

The firm was originally positioned as a specialist in youth advertising, partly due to the age of its founding partners who were each under thirty when they set up the agency.[3] Marketing magazine B&T named SMART "the New Age ad agency" in its Agency of the Year awards in 2003.[4] It has since been more broadly noted as part of a new breed of agencies who are "breaking away from traditional advertising models".[5]

The media interest in SMART's "non-traditional" model is typical of a broader industry trend being observed in most developed advertising markets,[6] with independent agencies like TAXI and StrawberryFrog experiencing similar recognition for their unconventional business models.

In 2011, McCann Worldgroup, the world’s largest marketing services company and advertising agency group, acquired SMART and replaced the management of McCann Worldgroup Australia with the management team from SMART.[7] SMART has since continued as an independent advertising agency with an integrated creative and media offering under a dedicated management team.[8]

Clients and awards[edit]

SMART's creative work has been recognized at advertising award shows including the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, One Show, Clio Awards, New York Festivals and local Australian advertising shows. The business was named B&T Agency of the Year in 2003[4] and was subsequently recognised in the AdNews Agency of the Year Awards in 2004 and 2005, and both the AdNews and B&T Agency of the Year Awards in 2006. SMART has also featured in the Business Review Weekly Fast100 list of Australia's fastest growing businesses.[9]

The agency is known for taking a selective approach to its clients, focusing on "blue-chip" creative advertisers [1] such as adidas, Coca-Cola, Ferrero, Levi's, McDonald's, Gloria Jean's Coffees, Australand, Grocon and Unilever.

SMART has been recognised for several Australian agency firsts, such as its appointment by iconic Australian brand Mambo,[10] a client who had previously refused to work with advertising agencies. It has also gained infamy for several unconventional stunts, including sending dwarves to the headquarters of Peugeot in an effort to secure a spot on the car maker's agency pitch list.[11] A stunt that involved agency staff disguising themselves as takeaway delivery drivers to post recruitment advertisements inside competing agencies attracted considerable criticism.[12]

Agency principals[edit]

The agency's founding partners were CEO Ben Lilley and Creative Director Paul Findlay. Lilley is a regular media commentator, particularly in the area of youth marketing,[13] and was named one of AdNews's forty top industry professionals under forty.[3]

The agency's leadership team includes Chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup Ben Lilley, named one of AdNews' top Forty Under Forty industry professionals, ex-Young & Rubicam strategy planner Ashley Farr and highly awarded ex-JWT creative director John Mescall, writer of the global phenomenon Dumb Ways To Die. Mescall writes a regular AdNews column, SmartArse,[14] and is an annual on-the-spot reporter from the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.[15]

The Executive Creative Director of SMART is Ben Davis who began his career with Ogilvy and Mather in 1989.

Companies within the McCann WorldGroup network[edit]