Ben Lilley is returning to McCann after two years. He will reacquire the agency that he founded 20 years ago, SMART, which McCann acquired in 2011, as well as McCann Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Gold Coast, and its PR business, The Red Republic.
Lilley stepped down as chairman and CEO of McCann Australia at the end of March 2018, citing the need for a career break. He had also been also creative leadership chair for Asia Pacific since 2016. Lilley was replaced as CEO of McCann Australia by Nicole Taylor in April 2018. Taylor left McCann in June 2019 to become CEO of C14torce in Barcelona.
McCann launched in Australia in 1959 and has built a showcase of famous ads such as Louie the Fly, The Milky Bar Kid, It’s Time for the Australian Labor Party and the giant Coke Sign in Sydney’s Kings Cross.
During Lilley’s time as CEO of McCann Australia, the agency achieved record growth and was named Agency of the Year at D&AD, London International, Spikes Asia, Campaign Brief and AWARD. McCann Australia made history as the world’s most awarded agency in the Gunn Report, Won Report and Adage Awards Report, for campaigns including Dumb Ways to Die (DWTD) for Metro Trains Melbourne. DWTD The campaign reached 2.3m views on YouTube in just 48 hours, making it the most viral Australian brand video of all time at the time. In 2014, it was named the most awarded campaign in history in 2014 and featured in both the AdAge Top 15 Ad Campaigns and Gunn Report 20 Best Commercials of the 21st Century.
McCann Australia will remain part of the IPG McCann Worldgroup network as an affiliate business partner under independent ownership. The agency will retain access to the network’s global tools and expertise and remain involved in global client business.
Lilley stated, “Creativity has been the driving force throughout my career and I believe that is what empowers successful entrepreneurial businesses. Australia is one of the world’s leading creative hubs and I’m very excited to now be able to take over ownership of McCann’s full suite of integrated agency businesses in this key market. I had a great experience working with McCann and I am keen to have all the advantage of being a part of the McCann network with its global resources, working for McCann global clients, but also having the opportunity of being flexible and fast-moving to meet local market demands as an Australian independent.”
Harris Diamond, chairman and chief executive officer of McCann Worldgroup, added, “Ben’s deep knowledge of the Australian market combined with his experience in working closely with the McCann network positions this new partnership very well to succeed in Australia’s evolving market. We look forward to the creative energy and vision that he will be bringing back to the agency and its clients.”
Alex Lubar, president, McCann Woldgroup, APAC, noted, “The change of ownership will help the operation to better tap into local expertise, talent and creativity while still leveraging McCann Worldgroup’s integrated creative and strategic capabilities. We are pleased to be welcoming Ben back to the McCann family and know that he’s absolutely the right person to partner with us in taking forward the business for McCann and our clients in Australia.”