Through the Looking Glass

Wally-Muhieddine-&-Luke-Dean,-Managing-Partners-

When Wally Muhieddine and Luke Dean joined forces in 2003 to found Advertising Advantage, it was with one goal in mind: to take a back to basics approach to advertising, and put results above self-serving adland rhetoric. The two advertising veterans spoke with Jonathan Jackson about direct response advertising, and how their business has led them away from agency-focused advertising models.

A common line of thinking in today’s changing media landscape is that due to the nature of media consumption, audience numbers across traditional streams such as television and print have declined, affecting networks, advertisers and their bottom lines.

The reality, particularly for television, is much different and in fact far more positive. Statistics show that on average, every Australian spends around three hours a day watching TV on a TV set, which still accounts for over 84% of our screen time.

On the other side of the viewing equation, audiences haven’t so much dissipated as they have evolved, watching video content on additional screens; presenting fresh opportunities for brands to expand their reach, through channels such as YouTube, Facebook and catch-up TV.

For agencies such as Advertising Advantage (ADAD), the expansion of broadcast opportunities plays nicely into its direct response business model.

“Right this minute traditional TV audience numbers haven’t dropped materially, although we fully expect them to do so,” Wally says. “We mustn’t forget that traditional TV still has gargantuan reach. In addition, other doors have opened and we can now also engage more people through channels such as YouTube and Facebook.”

Luke says, “Different channels have only served to expand the definition of television, and the opportunities that represents.

“TV is no longer confined to the big screen in your living room – we now all have a TV in our pocket. Screens are everywhere, and Australians are watching TV in different ways on different devices. Today, messages can be tailored and targeted, providing more opportunities than ever.”

ADAD has done well to stay ahead of the trend, and on the back of this has been able to cement its position as one of the most accountable agencies in the country.

From the outset, ADAD’s purview was to deliver full value advantage to its clients by going back to basics, by taking risks and delivering a return on investment for the client that wasn’t just steeped in ad agency self-obsession.

Both men were disenchanted with the almost narcissistic attitude of ad agencies that put themselves before their clients.

“We saw ourselves as outsiders in an industry that was all about preening, rather than working for the client,” Luke says.

So the pair began an agency that was client-centric: that wasn’t just about ‘selling stuff’, but could deliver results based on real data and analytics.

“The reality for many agencies is they are sales organisations who do little for the client. We wanted to turn that around and focus on the client, not the sale,” Wally states.

This commitment to client led to the company’s rapid growth as they began to turn the fortunes of small companies around.
Then word spread of their commitment and the client base began to grow.

Luke Dean, Managing Partner

Luke Dean, Managing Partner

Both men are on the same page when they say their success is directly attributable to their clients, who are looking for a hands-on accountable approach from their account managers.
ADAD’s accountability is backed by its ability to deliver measurable results, just a day after a campaign has launched.

“We are focused on return on ad spend, and strategy based on analytics. This takes into account many inputs including audience segmentation, media efficiency and halo uplift, as well as response and conversion rates. We then optimise and scale,” Luke says.

ADAD has years of data from which to draw upon detailing consumer behaviour. The company has used this data diligently to deliver successful campaigns for the likes of Citibank, Suncorp, TripAdvisor, Vistaprint, Boohoo, Kogan and a long list of other clients, many of which have stayed the journey.

Such was their success early on, that in 2008 as a sign of confidence in their business model and to build further trust with their clients, the pair instigated Pay For Results TV Advertising.
Pay For Results TV Advertising (also known as Pay Per Lead TV) is 100% performance based TV advertising, meaning clients only pay for the specific advertising outcome they value.
That is the essence of ADAD’s accountability.

ADAD works with clients to determine an equitable fee for each desired ‘action’. They then invest their own capital into creative, TV production and TV media.
“Our focus on performance is more than mere talk. ADAD puts hundreds of thousands of dollars of its own capital on the line every week, through our Pay For Results TV campaigns. Money we only see again if these campaigns perform,” Wally says.

ADAD thus has its own stake in its clients’ successes; they are not just an agency partner, but a financial partner as well.
According to the company, this all feeds into “our guiding ethos – that all our advertising must drive a real and measurable business benefit for our clients, and that as an agency we take ownership of outcomes.”

It is an ethos that has been built over 15 years in the industry. In that time Wally and Luke have developed an instinctive sense of what measures work for particular clients, and how to back those measures with data.

“We look at our target segment, measure it against audiences in terms of where a campaign would best fit, consider the proposition and look at what the competitors are doing. We then build the creative, applying a proven format that we’ve honed over many years,” Luke says.

With 40 passionate Performance TV experts under one roof including Creatives, Copywriters, Strategists, Data Analysts, TV Media Buyers, TV Editors, CGI Animators, Producers, Call Centre Managers, Ecommerce Experts and Client Service Managers, delivering full-service creative has become second nature.

ADAD’s team of 40 has been built from the ground up, with many starting as juniors before moving into more senior positions.
This has been done because, “Our people require a totally unique skillset. It’s not an ‘off the shelf’ recruitable commodity, so we create it. To maintain a full-service culture built on performance requires people that are commercial with a 360 view of marketing, media and consumer behavior. This is critical to our success,” Wally says.

The culture has, in fact, been built on one question: How do we get the best results for our clients today?

It is a question that must evolve with the times. It is also one that many of ADAD’s peers have asked themselves, (but with little success).
If there is one thing about first-mover companies, it’s that they always retain the first-mover advantage, and competitors are merely emulators stranded on a back marker.

Certainly what sets ADAD apart from its competitors is its willingness to back itself.

“Several companies, big and small have tried to replicate what we do, but have either ended up out of business or abandoning the attempt,” Wally says.

By meeting its deliverables in a manner that benefits the client in more ways than one, ADAD has built long-term, meaningful partnerships.
“We see ourselves as invested partners, not just an agency supplier,” Luke says.

It is certainly a refreshing attitude in what can sometimes be described as a highly cynical industry, but it is what has driven Advertising Advantage to place more direct response TV spots than any other agency in Australia.

Now that kind of success is measurable. BFM

Wally Muhieddine, Managing Partner

Wally Muhieddine, Managing Partner



Jonathan Jackson is an experienced editor and writer who has worked in print and digital media for almost 20 years.