Bcom3 Bulks Up Down Under

CHICAGO-Bcom3 Group is merging its Australian media operations under the Starcom banner as it seeks a stronger foothold in a media market where it has struggled.

Starcom in Australia has been combined with Dentsu properties AIS Media and Total Media and Fusion Strategy. The new unit will have billings of more than $450 million, with offices in six cities.

Bringing the units together is seen as an important step in expanding Starcom’s global presence, said Kevin Malloy, SMG’s CEO of international operations.

“Starcom had a good reputation in strategic planning, but it didn’t have the clout,” he said. “It’s an exciting thing for us because, frankly, it’s been a market in which we’ve struggled.”

For AIS, the merger means getting a chance to land more consolidated Australian national accounts, he said.

“They were getting shut out of national [media] consolidations,” Malloy said. “They were as big as they could get as a local agency.”

Even combined, the media operation will be dominated by government accounts. First on the agenda will be to attract some of the consumer brands handled by Bcom3 sister companies Leo Burnett and D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, Malloy said.

“Those are exactly the sort of clients that we want to get on the roster here,” he said. “We have to pull in as much aligned international business, and make sure Starcom has the same respect it gets in other markets.”

AIS Media chief executive Paul Leeds will head the merged operation as its Melbourne-based chief executive. Starcom’s managing director John Sintras will be the unit’s Sydney-based chief operating officer. Both men will report directly to Malloy.