Mediaweek’s Hot List, compiled by contributing editor Greg Graham, celebrates the work of Australia’s best and brightest agencies. November’s list saw Match & Wood make Sparrow’s Hot List.
Lyndelle and Chris O’Keefe, founders of Melbourne-based agency Match & Wood, spoke to Mediaweek about making Sparrow’s Hot List, their belief that better media is possible, and shared their optimistic outlook for 2023.
Sparrow labelled Match & Wood as one of the hot indie agencies making noise back on his November list. Lyndelle and Chris, who led the agency as CEO and COO, respectively, welcomed the recognition from the industry Hall of Famer.
“We are not an agency that chases fame but being mentioned on a list like this is humbling and proof that we are doing something right,” they said.
Sparrow’s Hot List covers four criteria – new business success, current client retention, momentum, industry acclaim and buzz.
The O’Keefes noted that momentum has been high for them, having experienced a good amount of new business success over the last 12 months and 100% client retention over the same period.
The O’Keefes also noted that their growth has been planned and very intentional. They said: “Consistent levels of client retention and new business success can only come with strong foundations.”
“We started the agency with a blank sheet of paper, no foundation clients and no external investment. We did this deliberately so we could build an agency from the ground up that could deliver on the increasingly complex needs of clients. And the key was not cutting corners and building for sustainable growth.
“From the very beginning, we invested in developing tech and processes that would sustain a much larger agency.”
“We also opened two offices on different sides of the country on Day 1, in Melbourne and Perth. We are based in Melbourne and commute to Perth regularly to ensure we could build both offices concurrently and create a truly national and borderless agency.”
The O’Keefes also added that the agency recently celebrated its fifth birthday. “Seeing the scale of the team and the incredible talent coming on the journey with us was a great milestone.
“We both felt extremely proud of how the business has developed and the calibre of people and clients that are part of Match & Wood,” they added.
The O’Keefes noted that Match & Wood was born from the fundamental belief that better media is possible.
“Marketers are expected to deliver more with less, and in an increasingly complex environment, you need better, faster partners, not just another agency to deal with. We’re interested in real business outcomes, and we believe that what was done yesterday can always be bettered tomorrow,” they said.
The duo noted their belief sets them apart and allows them to hire the right people who are as passionate about their agency’s vision and journey to building something better.
“We are now proud to be the media partner for some fabulous brands, including Snooze, Chobani, Speedo and many more.
“There are quite a few other Melbourne indies that are doing great things, too, like Hatched & Half Dome, who are also going through impressive growth phases.
“There is real momentum coming out of the Melbourne indie scene, and there is strong comradery between us all – we’re all trying to change things for the better, and there is mutual respect and admiration that flows both ways,” the O’Keefes added.
Match & Wood has had a string of new business successes, and the O’Keefes shared that the key to this has been putting trust and transparency at the heart of everything they do.
“This is clear in every stage of our pitch process, from including the people in the room who will actually be working on the business right through to our tools, processes and systems.
The O’Keefes added: “Our teams are invested in bringing in the right partners to Match & Wood, and their energy levels and dedication to delivering above and beyond client expectations shines through.
“We also give people at all levels of the agency exposure to new business opportunities, which is fundamental to the growth of our people and the agency.”
For Match & Wood, the O’Keefes shared that navigating the pandemic proved that the agency was on the right track. They noted that their strong commercial governance allowed the agency to fare well.
“Businesses need to be set for success under any conditions, given the world is constantly changing, and you always need reserves and a contingency plan. This meant we weren’t heavily impacted by the pandemic, and we were able to look after our people; there were no reduced salaries or redundancies, and pay rises and promotions continued as normal throughout,” they said.
The O’Keefes noted their teams in Melbourne and Perth could work from home or the office based on their cities’ pandemic responses, but this left the duo unable to travel to the West Australian office.
“As founders who had relied on travelling back and forth from Victoria to Western Australia very regularly, we weren’t able to visit the West Coast for two years, however, given our borderless approach, we were already well set up with video calls and cross-functional teams, and our clients adapted very quickly to the new normal,” they said.
Match & Wood ran over 200 individual campaigns over the last year. While it was difficult for the O’Keefes to pick just one, they highlighted their work with the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA) on a federal government-funded campaign called Go Local First as “some very meaningful work”.
“This campaign supported local businesses right across Australia and encouraged people to spend locally following the pressure of the pandemic. The campaign began during lockdowns and extended into this year due to its success in driving strong outcomes at a local level.”
For the campaign, Match & Wood ran integrated content across all media channels, leveraged high-profile PR opportunities, and an innovative paid search campaign that taught people how to optimise their searches to find & support local suppliers.
It was backed by a consumer-led promotion that allowed popular small businesses to be promoted programmatically on large-format outdoor sites in their local areas. It received direct benefits and footfall from COSBOA’s marketing activities.
The O’Keefes said they don’t look at their business through the lens of a single year as they don’t have other shareholders or reasons to be tied to a fiscal or calendar year budget.
“This gives us huge flexibility vs businesses whose shareholders demand returns in 12-month increments.”
The O’Keefes said that pulling out from annual objectives allows the agency to focus on its purpose of building a trusted media agency in Australia.
“A big part of this is ensuring that we continue to invest in our people, clients and partners. For us, success isn’t a year of double digital growth or receiving the most accolades. It’s about sticking to the formula that we have believed in since day one, that better media is possible.”
Looking at the year ahead, the O’Keefes said they expect a “game-changing year” for the agency as they prepare to launch their internal cloud automation product, Campfire.
For the past 18 months, the Match & Wood team has been building and refining the product. They have even won a government business efficiency grant to partly fund its build.
“It allows our teams and clients to have a single view of every piece of activity, from the media plan down to every impression across every channel and compare what was planned to what was bought in real-time.
“It’s a single source of truth across our business and has allowed us to do away with legacy invoicing systems and allows us to compare success across different channels from the one platform,” the O’Keefes added.
This article was originally featured on MediaWeek.