Media by Mother has hired Wavemaker alum Julie Lee as its new chief operations officer.
Lee fills a role left vacant by Will Heins, a founding member of Media by Mother when it launched in January. Heins left after just five months to join You & Mr Jones’ new media division as partner, media.
While swift, Heins’ departure wasn’t a signal that things were off to a slow start at the fledgling media agency, which has picked up clients including Califia Farms and Everlane since launch and is profitable, said founder and CEO David Gaines.
The new firm is in the process of signing two more contracts and received RFIs in the last two weeks worth more than $60 million in billings. The agency is winning media-only assignments, despite being born out of independent creative shop Mother.
“Given we launched in January, it is positive progress,” Gaines said.
Lee joins to develop Media by Mother’s buying infrastructure and activation platforms. She’s got a pedigree in setting up new media agency offerings, having built Maxus’ Chicago office, run Wavemaker’s Chicago and Costa Mesa offices and overseen teams in New York after Maxus’ merger with fellow WPP shop MEC to create Wavemaker.
“In every position I've been in, it's been about starting small and getting big,” Lee said.
At Media by Mother, which aims to reinvent the media agency model by focusing on smarter inputs and deeper ties to creativity, Lee will have the flexibility to do things “in a more interesting and contemporary way” and “fix all the flaws that drove us crazy before, get to the meat of what media can do and drive business results for clients,” she said.
That involves a focus on media and data hygiene and rethinking inputs to lead to more strategic outputs. “You need better inputs to determine the things you really need, rather than getting a discount on something you don't need,” Gaines explained.
Gaines, who worked with Lee at Wavemaker, added that rather than chasing billings without a strategy, Media by Mother has the flexibility to focus on developing the right products, talent and culture for the organization first, “and the money will follow,” he said.
Most of Media by Mother’s work so far has been project-based, which allows the agency to scope and get compensated for clear deliverables within a certain amount of time and makes the value exchange clearer.
“A healthy mix of AOR and project work will keep the agency sharp, contemporary and [help us] do things differently,” Lee said.
Currently, Media by Mother touches about 60% of the business at Mother in some capacity. The goal is for the group to eventually operate as a “creative solutions company” where media can better inform creative ideas.
Being affiliated with Mother also gives the agency license to show up differently because of the brand’s history, Gaines said.
“There is an expectation that things will be different when you turn up,” he added. “The permission to do that is the entire reason for doing this under Mother.”