Agency Innovators: Leigh Terry Profile

leighLeigh Terry is constantly looking to re-define his agency’s role in a changing world.

Recently, in an effort to reduce the churn rate of junior staff—young professionals in their early 20s with less than 2 years in the industry—he invited their parents to the office for a meet and greet. He saw it as “influencing the influencers” by helping parents understand the business, culture and career prospects for their children. When kids asked them for advice, their parents could share an actual point of view.

As CEO of Omnicom Media Group in Australia and New Zealand, Leigh Terry is passionate about technology and its impact on consumers and the advertising industry. Yet he believes it needs to be grounded in bringing out the best and the most from employees—hence, meet the parents—through a combination of training and enjoyment. He says, “Happy, well-trained people quite simply do better work.”

He also points out that he’s “one of those rarer people who started as a suit in a full-service agency and moved to media, rather than the other way around as seemed popular in the mid-90s.” He adds, “I started broad, then specialized into digital and direct, and broadened out again– so I describe my career journey as an egg-timer shape. It is something I recommend to anyone starting out. I do a lot of presenting to university graduates.”

At Omnicom, he has been changing a number of existing services, while ideating and delivering new ones. Leigh believes that “Innovation is wider than just marketing—though that is indeed an end benefit. But, as a staff motivator and cultural galvanizer behind a company belief, innovation is hugely important. It is an overused, almost stereotyped, phrase now that ‘ideas can come from anywhere and anyone’—and that is something I look to nurture and embrace at all levels. You learn by example, and I was given that freedom to input without fear—hence, I grant our people a right to fail as one of the defining values.”

He adds that partnerships are critical in delivering innovation, whether internal or external. Leigh cites three areas where he’s been placing his innovative efforts:

EXISTING TRAINING: To nurture talent at all levels, we are getting employees to appreciate that learning is not about teaching or multiple two-hour modules of classroom-style learning. Self-development more akin to continual daily training, such as that performed by elite athlete, is how people can truly excel, even in media and advertising. External learning resources like Coursera, the online education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, or other non-vocational classes, can provide self-development discipline. Even learning the trumpet requires dedication that improves core skills—and makes people more interesting!

NEW PRODUCT FRONT: Over the last 12 months, I successfully drove the evolution of the Omnicom Media Group product and services offering, acquiring Bruce Clay Australasia and merging with our existing search operations to create a new powerhouse in this space, Resolution. I also launched OMG Diverse, a specialist division that targets the multi-cultural community in Australia– where nearly 20% speak a language other than English at home.

NEW PARTNERSHIPS: Over the last year, I have championed the strategic alliances within two different spheres of commerce: first working with Growth Mantra, a management and marketing consultancy (a “Mad Men mixed with McKinsey”); and secondly, working with Polleniser, a start-up incubator that creates businesses and products that can challenge convention and work with our clients in very different ways.

Leigh Terry has been listed in the 2014 Agency Innovators:

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