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Clemenger Group / Clemenger BBDO (Australia)

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Clemenger Group is one of Australia's foremost marketing communications groups, and celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2016. Its biggest and best-known subsidiary is Clemenger BBDO, the local outpost of BBDO Worldwide, and one of the country's top agencies. Other units include CHE and New Zealand's Colenso BBDO as well as local outposts of Omnicom's OMD, PHD, Porter Novelli and Proximity networks. For many years, the BBDO Worldwide network held only a minority stake in the group, with the remaining shares jointly owned by managers and staff in Australia and New Zealand. In 2011, Omnicom increased its stake to majority control of the business.


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See ranking of Australia's Leading Advertising Agencies

Brand & Activities

Clemenger's position as Australia's biggest marketing services group came under pressure towards the end of the 2000s from rivals Photon and WPP-affiliated STW. The partial implosion of Photon allowed Clems to regain the #2 spot in 2011, but it still trails what is now WPP AUNZ. Nevertheless Clemenger arguably retains the edge as far as creativity is concerned.

Although it is best-known as the local outpost of Omnicom's BBDO network, Clemenger is really a marketing services conglomerate in its own right, serving as the umbrella for more than 30 diversified agencies spread across Australia and New Zealand. For many years, the business was effectively a joint venture between Omnicom and local management, with the US-based group holding only a 46% stake in the business. In 2010, Omnicom increased that holding to just under 74%, but vowed to leave the remainder in local hands. Around 350 staff jointly own the shares not owned by BBDO.

Despite its size and the broad collection of marketing services agencies it controls, Clemenger has traditionally left its subsidiaries to operate more or less independently of each other. Although this approach is popular with managers, it has weakened the group's hold over large local clients, many of whom have been tempted away to other groups offering a more integrated solution. After a series of significant losses during 2005, Clemenger began to strengthen the links between its subsidiaries in 2006 in a bid to win back bank, airline, telecoms and insurance clients.

In summer 2011, a PR campaign by Clemenger BBDO for National Australia Bank took the Grand Prix in the press category at the prestigious Cannes Lions Festival. One of the group's two main offices, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, has been named Australian Agency of the Year six times times in seven years between 2009 and 2015 by local trade organisation Campaign Brief. In 2016, it was the world's #8 most awarded individual agency in the Big Won annual round-up, helped the clever "Hungerithm" digital campaign for Snickers and the widely popular "The Boys" campaign for Bonds' underwear.

The group is structured as five divisions. The main advertising agency group comprises mainstream agencies Clemenger BBDO with five offices in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. (An outpost in Adelaide was sold to local rival KWP in 2015). There is also a second separate New Zealand agency Colenso BBDO, in Auckland. In 2012, the latter was the single most awarded agency in the world according to Big Won creativity rankings, becoming the first Australasian shop ever to win that honour. It took that honour again in 2016 as a result of the widely admired "Brewtoleum" campaign for local brewer DB Export. Other units include Perth-based Marketforce, New Zealand digital agency Touchcast, and retail unit 99. Team Spark is a dedeicated unit in New Zealand to manage all marketing for local telcoms company Spark, the former Telecom New Zealand.

Clemenger Media Group's lead brand is OMD, with six offices spread across Australia and New Zealand (all joint ventures with Omnicom. Total advertising & Communications in Sydney relaunched in 2008 as PHD Australia, partnered by New Zealand's Spark PHD.

The CRM group houses the local operations of Proximity Worldwide. Victoria-based integrated creative agency Clemenger Harvie Edge (itself formed from the merger of Clemenger Harvie and The PR Edge in 2000), was absorbed into this network in 2012, becoming CHE Proximity. It is partnered by Aim Proximity in New Zealand. Clemenger Consulting Network is the umbrella for local Porter Novelli outposts (split between wholly-owned offices and affiliates in which the group holds a minority stake) as well as public affairs specialist GRACosway and Cultural Perspectives. Specialized Services Group comprises, among others, branding agency EmeryStudio, shopper marketing agency Channel5, communications research consultancy Hall & Partners/OpenMind, field marketer Traffik Marketing (also the local partner for Omnicom's Radiate network) and Quantum Market Research.


Group revenues topped A$400m for the first time in 2015, rising by a further 5% in 2016 to A$432m, including associates. Statutory proportionate revenues were A$297m, with gross profit up 7% to A$236m. Net profits rose 6% to A$43m. Approximately 75% of billings and income were generated in Australia, and the rest in New Zealand.


Former tennis star Jack Clemenger formed the business in 1946, working out of the basement of a hat shop in Melbourne. He had previously spent some time working at PR agency Leyshon, and took with him several of their clients, as well as his son Peter, an up-and-coming executive. A Sydney office was established a year later. The company started by producing sponsored radio shows in the mould of US radio soap operas. As television took hold in the country, Clemenger expanded his expertise into that medium also, supported by Peter and younger son John, who joined the company in 1953.

The group expanded rapidly during the 1960s, establishing outposts throughout Australia. Jack Clemenger died in 1965, and control passed to his sons. In 1969, the brothers sold a stake in the business to two of their senior managers, and so began a process of passing ownership to the company's employees. In 1972, US agency BBDO acquired a 35% stake, providing not only the funding for further expansion but also a key international network. The first step in Clemenger's move overseas was the acquisition of a majority stake in Colenso of New Zealand a year later.

Over the following years, Clemenger continued to expand, selling a further stake to BBDO to funds its growth. In 1988, Peter Clemenger stepped down from an executive role, and retired altogether in 1999 following the unexpected death of his younger brother. However he was persuaded to retain a seat on the board. In 2000 the group overtook arch-rival George Patterson Bates after bolstering the strength of its ailing Sydney office, which was restructured by incoming MD Jim Moser.

The group consolidated some of its subsidiaries in 2001, merging smaller businesses to gain strength. It also acquired several new businesses including public relations company Michels Warren, New Zealand design company Dashwoods and a stake in Sydney-based Cultural Perspectives. New Zealand agency Alphabet Soup joined the group in 2002.

For many years, Clemenger was engaged in a long-running, but largely amicable rivalry with another local group, TCG, formerly parent to the George Patterson Bates agency. Although Clemenger was always the bigger group overall (as a result of its holdings in New Zealand), the two companies competed fiercely for the top position in Australia by revenues. For many years the #2 in the market, Clemenger overtook TCG for the first time in 2000. After five years of leapfrogging each other each year, TCG was acquired by WPP in 2005, and merged with the British-owned group's other local interests, leaving Clemenger as Australia's last remaining national champion. In 2007, another homegrown rival, STW pushed Clemenger into the #2 spot.

Last full revision 5th July 2017

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