Matt Batten, ECD at Momentum Worldwide Australia, describes his country as a "small and insular market." When your agency knows that and still manages to secure, create and produce groundbreaking work, you know there must be something really special about them.
Matt has only been in his role for about one year, but he's already seen what the agency's capabilities are. When the market slowed down during Covid, the team used that time to refresh their proposition, credentials, case studies, strategy and industry profile, pivoting to ensure they were still relevant to the new trends – and still relying on consistent, quality work and great relationships to bring in new business.
Matt dreams of a more personalised and local industry, one in which the 'one-size-fits-all' approach of brands is discarded in favour of a more effective focus on individual markets.
The interview below is a priceless collection of inspiring anecdotes, tips for other agencies in the industry and a great display of precious leadership from Matt himself. In this Company Spotlight, we are learning more about Momentum Worldwide Australia with Matt Batten, Executive Creative Director.
How was your company born and where are you based?
The agency was founded 25 years ago in Sydney, and became Momentum Worldwide Australia when it formed a strategic alliance with the Momentum Worldwide network in 2002.
What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?
Australia is a small and insular market, saturated with advertising agencies. A major contributor to growth is the constant and consistent production of exceptional work, but as the market becomes more reserved and frugal, it is harder for agencies to rely on their client work alone for standing out in the crowd.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
I’m only one year into my role with Momentum but the agency has had some great successes over the years. One of the earliest was being the first in the world to place geolocation technology inside a can of Coca-Cola. That set a new direction for the agency in innovation and tech that still holds to this day, most recently shown in the automated robot bar for Heineken 0.0.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
New business. When the market slowed down during Covid, we used that time to refresh our proposition, our credentials, our case studies, our strategy, and our industry profile to ensure we maximise every opportunity that comes along. And it’s already working with recent new clients including 3M, AAP, and several local government contracts.
Can you explain your team’s creative process? What makes it unique?
Many agencies, particularly the larger ones, have legacy processes that still work but are time-consuming. Momentum operates more loosely which creates a nimbleness. Our briefing sessions are an open discussion on what the solutions might look like, with thought-starters coming from anyone. It allows us to quickly debate the merit in different directions to avoid pitfalls later.
Then during the rest of our process – from creative to production – we use our proprietary model called Momo 1-2-3 to assess the merit of each creative idea against a scale of objectives. We also use Momo 1-2-3 to help our clients initially define their objective and set expectations of the potential creativity with us.
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
Firstly, the agency culture is incredibly friendly. If you like the people you work with, you’re off to a good start for motivation.
Secondly, we inspire each other with a sharing of discoveries, anything from stories to memes, and have a regular all-agency showcase of up to 10 inspiring campaigns that have launched recently anywhere in the world. Each one includes a note on what we think is the key lesson or most admirable aspect.
And thirdly, most internal creative presentations include examples of campaigns from similar brands or with a similar objective to set the benchmark of what we need to beat.
Combined with a list of go-to sources, from Directory magazine to ThisisCollosal.com, and a healthy desire to stay away from certain insidious industry blogs, our brains are always overflowing with positive inspiration.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
Globally, Momentum is known for its core offering of experiential and event marketing. When the pandemic impacted human experiences and interactions, Momentum Australia pivoted to capitalise on the other marketing channels and rapidly expanded its remit for TV, outdoor, and content, while helping clients shift from real-world experiences to virtual. Meanwhile, in response to the pandemic and the foreseen ongoing impact on events, the global network has developed Momentum WhiteBox, a bespoke platform built for virtual and blended events. It has already hosted events for American Express, Microsoft, Samsung, and others.
Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
Great work comes from all corners of the globe. But I am most inspired by an agency that is not only producing great work, but has been built around a challenger philosophy that strips away a lot of the bullshit that has overtaken the industry. Founded by Anselmo Ramos and Gastón Bigio in Argentina, GUT Agency lives and breathes the idea that great creative is instinctive and doesn’t need data and testing to prove its worth. Their work is amazing and I once saw Anselmo speaking at Cannes Lions. His revelation of their philosophy and how they put it into practice every day was invigorating.
What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?
New business mostly comes from word-of-mouth. Marketing Directors move around. If they have had a good experience with your agency people, they will recommend it and ideally re-engage it when they move to a new role at a different brand. Be nice to the pitch consultants too. Their reputation is on the line when they recommend you. Same goes with your suppliers and partners. They supply and partner with many other brands too. A good word goes a long way.
Then have some solid work to back it up when they come looking.
How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)
Ah, that would be giving away our secrets.
As explained above, new business comes mostly from word-of-mouth.
Secondly, it comes from networking and building new relationships from scratch. This involved a lot of leg work, and is a slow play, but it is an effective way to keep your agency top of mind when the timing is right for each new contact.
Lastly, it can come in out of the blue. The volume of these opportunities is directly proportionate to the volume of high profile work the agency has developed with consistency. This is why the best agencies have their phones ringing the most.
And all the above needs the profile of the agency maintained with industry press, new campaigns, social media, events, and industry involvement. Make your agency name unignorable.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
We hope to see a dismantling of the global ‘one size fits all’ control for some brands to allow individual markets to respond and act according to the local culture in which they operate. This will make their work more relevant and timely, allowing those markets to better connect with their local consumers. While there are some universal traits and practices, the insights are nuanced to each market. Australians are unlike the consumers of other countries, and all other countries are unlike everyone else. The brands that embrace the uniqueness of each market’s culture will experience the greatest growth.
Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?
My go-to sources are:
AdAge.com and Adweek.com (both paid subscriptions) for quality news about the industry.
Adsoftheworld.com and Adeevee.com (both free) and DirectNewIdeas.com (free and paid premium subscription) for a constant stream of new work from around the world.
ThisisColossal.com for innovative and inspiring creativity in any industry around the world.