To scale international growth, global independent media agency Crossmedia has hired new business expert Neil Smith to serve as its first chief growth officer.
Smith’s role is two-pronged. He will oversee the agency’s new business development as well as its marketing initiatives. Given new business teams inside agencies vary so significantly in scope, training and purpose, hacking an agency growth strategy can be challenging—especially for independent agencies. Lately, it’s been especially hard for agency new business professionals to succeed, according to new data from RSW/US.
Appointing just one leader to oversee both marketing and new business is a relatively unique strategy that Crossmedia’s U.S. CEO Kamran Asghar hopes will help future and existing clients understand the agency’s purpose.
“We’re not going to be cold calling,” Smith said. “It’s not going to be shiny, used car salesman stuff. It’s going to be thoughtful, and it’s going to be what the clients and the consultants want from us.”
Crossmedia stood out to Smith, who estimates he’s been through as many as 100 pitches. There are relatively few large independent media agencies on the market today, he acknowledged, and even fewer that are prioritizing creative reintegration.
“There really aren’t that many independent media agencies that are good at the whole funnel. I think that’s a big gap that clients are struggling to fill,” Smith said.
That holistic approach extends to the shop’s willingness to explore unique partnership strategies. Earlier this year, Crossmedia formalized a partnership with independent creative agency, Joan Creative. The relationship, branded JoanXMedia, allows both agencies to collaborate and expand client scopes across their respective media and creative expertise, without having to go through an official merger.
Smith helped grow Stagwell media agency Assembly and the legacy creative agency BBH. He launched his career inside creative agencies, eventually pivoting to the media side. He realized that media agencies, traditionally, eschewed strategic thinking to their own detriment.
Given that experience, Crossmedia’s commitment to partnership, and its unique approach to reintegrating media and creative practice areas, resonated with Smith.
“You can’t fake culture, and it’s really clear that this agency has—not only culture—but a pretty unique and special kind of culture … one that’s been kind of nurtured and nourished for 20 years,” Smith said.
For approximately the last two years, Asghar has been on a C-suite hiring spree. He brought in Anne Bologna as chief strategy officer, Kristen Metzger as the agency’s first chief people officer, Dr. Ram Singh as its first chief performance media officer, Thomas Lee as chief financial officer and Christine Merrifield-Wehrle as its first head of investment. It also promoted Ali Plonchak, one of its first employees, to chief operating officer.
“What we’re trying to do, in this mission to be the best fucking media agency in the world is, be more selective and purposed about the kinds of clients that we go after and ultimately win,” Asghar said.
Smith joins Crossmedia’s current head of new business, Ray Valcich, who will expand his focus to marketing and public relations and report to Smith. Jennifer Dela Rosa, a minority owner of the agency who had previously overseen Crossmedia’s marketing on an interim basis, will now work on the agency’s brand experience initiatives—including a reimagining of its physical spaces and virtual meeting experiences.