(L-R: Matt Pearce, Katie Firth, Psembi Kinstan)
2021 was a memorable year for DDB Melbourne, not least because the agency expanded its leadership team. At the helm of this are Psembi Kinstan as executive creative director, Matt Pearce as head of planning and Katie Firth as managing partner. The trio joined the agency at various stages throughout the year and have all brought with them a wealth of experience.
While 2021 may have been tricky in terms of navigating plenty of uncertainty, the first three months of 2022 have brought in plenty of business, to keep the three busier than ever as they navigate an office move and hire 20 more employees. To hear more about this and just where they hope DDB Melbourne will go in 2022, LBB’s Natasha Patel caught up with Psembi, Matt and Katie.
LBB> Last year was certainly a challenging one for the advertising industry in Melbourne, how did you overcome these challenges?
Matt> Getting close to the people you work with and with the businesses you partner with is so important, and it's always more challenging when you're locked in your bedroom with a cat on your keyboard and a baby in the next room.
I’m sure many can relate to the difficulty on being fully inducted or building connections and chemistry virtually. You can’t walk the halls, have informal interactions, probe ‘what's keeping you up at night?’ and ‘what are the big things we haven’t solved yet?’ Those are the bits what we love about partnering with our clients – being immersed in their world, stumbling over opportunities, and helping them solve the unvoiced problems.
And of course, we’ve had several other new people starting at around the same time. Psembi and I started on the same day with a few other members of our teams – so building that open culture of collaboration is tough on a Teams call. But when Melbourne opened up towards the end of last year, we got back into the office, we celebrated the year together, we’ve got great momentum and we’re in great spirits.
Katie> I agree with Matt. We shouldn’t underestimate the impact of people not being able to come together physically. Whilst we proved we could still problem solve and ideate for clients, nothing beats being the same room together, having our strategy or work up on the walls, debating and shaping the work to get the best creative outcome. The challenge was ensuring we were deepening relationships with clients and our team - really getting to know each other beyond the transaction of the day to day.
LBB> The year must have also brought some high points for the DDB Melbourne team too. Tell us more about these.
Psembi> We’ve put on 20-25 people since Pearcey and I started, and we really do have an unfair share of amazing people from across Melbourne, Sydney and the globe. With that, we’ve built the foundation to get the creative right and continue the momentum. Every single person in the building now is here for the collective creative vision.
Katie> Yeah, that momentum and energy is unmatched. People are actively choosing to come to DDB Group Melbourne to make great work and have a great time.
Everyone is charging at the same thing, which is pretty unbelievable to be part of. And you can feel the support of the whole agency wanting to help and extending themselves across departments to get involved in making the work the best it can be.
Matt> In terms of momentum, part of our energy is knowing there’s tons still to come. At the moment, we’re all working towards an impending big office move. DDB Group Melbourne is finally moving from Electric Street, where it's been for 24 years, so that's really significant. There’s so much to look forward to and we’re really just getting started.
LBB> How has 2022 started off? I've heard from a lot of people that they're busier than ever - was this the same for you?
Psembi> There’s incredible energy across the market. Across all of our clients and potential new clients, there's a huge amount of ambition to make more emotionally engaging, and creatively ambitious work. So it's certainly the busiest it's ever been at the moment.
Katie> Luckily, we are an energetic and eager bunch. We have experienced a huge amount of growth over the past 12 months, welcoming in new clients and team members, and have been invited to pitch on some brilliant opportunities.
After the past two years of Covid, it’s wonderful to feel the Melbourne advertising industry alive again.
LBB> Looking at 2022 and beyond, what are DDB Melbourne’s goals?
Psembi> We're working towards big goals in 2022, moving the needle creatively and culturally. The key to both of those is changing the shape of ideas so they use all our amazing specialisations to the fullest. We want to make our brands more distinctive and populist, with work that builds fame and uses our experts in PR, data, digital and the CRM funnel. We see ourselves as a ‘creative collective’ for that reason.
Katie> That integration is key. When I started, I loved that everyone was sitting around the same table to solve a problem for clients – you couldn’t tell who was from TRACK or Tribal or Mango or DDB. With our new move, we’re thinking hard about how we’re physically turning up in a space together that reflects how we want to work.
Matt> I also think that really plays into our ambition for DDB Group Melbourne to be a place where people make the best work of our careers and have the best time doing it too. It’s not about the work at all costs, it’s about a spirit of collaboration, not collision, and ensuring we have a lot of fun and support along the way too. You only get to the best work that way.
LBB> How has COVID and lockdowns changed Melbourne's creative scene - will this have a long term impact?
Psembi> During COVID, every brand started reacting to the same events, so their tone and messages felt even more indistinguishable than usual. Brands lost their distinctive voice. Now we’re coming out the other side, there’s an opportunity to help brands reclaim their distinctiveness.
For many reasons, so many Australian brands play in the same lazy vernacular of Aussie advertising, with the same visual world, voice and generic craft.
Creating truly unique brands that don’t look and talk like every other brand out there is what Melbourne needs a lot more of right now. That’s the energy I want to come across in the work we do this year and beyond.