Slingshot was launched 14 years ago off the back of the global financial crisis with just three people and Sony Entertainment as the foundation client.
Since then, the independent media agency has grown leaps and bounds in terms of personnel and clients. It was also recently named one of the Best Places to Work in 2023 by WRK+ for the third year running.
Simon Rutherford, CEO of Slingshot, spoke to Mediaweek about its commitment to propelling brands and people, launching a creative strategy and content division, and why the agency recently joined the IMAA.
Rutherford on leading Slingshot and the businesses growth
Rutherford said that as a specialist agency, 90% of its customers are in the home and lifestyle categories, which is a cluster their focus is on.
“It’s crucial to have a truly deep and intimate knowledge of a category to be able to win within it. Our focus and expertise make us natives, not tourists, which helps our clients win.
“We take a very people-first approach to our business. Proof of that is the fact that we have appeared in the top 20 Best Places to Work three years running. We now have a team of 50 people and some of the most talented individuals available in this market,” he said.
See also: KOJO, The Works, part of Capgemini and Slingshot make the WRK+ list of Best Places to Work in 2023
As CEO, Rutherford oversees several elements of the business, from the vision and plans to trend hunting and ensuring the agency stays relevant and sustainable. He also has a hand in building their team and culture and holding the team accountable for delivering on plans.
“How we integrate AI safely and responsibly into our business is high on my priority list,” he added.
Slingshot on its commitment to its brands and people
Rutherford explained that Slingshot is committed to propelling its clients and staff further faster. He shared that the agency believes it is their role to make their clients successful and, if possible, “even a little bit famous”.
Another element differentiating them is being certified Best Places to Work for the past three years, which Rutherford highlighted: “arguably the worst three years when it comes to retaining, let alone keeping happy, staff.”
“We have moved from 19th position in 2021 to 8th position in 2023, and we are incredibly proud of that.
“Anyone will tell you…happy people do great work,” he said.
Rutherford noted additional key points of difference: the agency’s owners still being actively involved in the business, which he said clients appreciated.
“They are also very committed to passing on their media and creative wisdom to the next generation,” he added.
Rutherford concluded by noting that Slingshot lives out their values in the work they produce. He said: “The values at Slingshot aren’t a generic set of words that are laminated on a wall that no one ever talks about.
“They are front and centre, referenced in every element and level of the business; they are in our blood and DNA, not on walls.”
In terms of specialises, Slingshot excels in various categories, from media and creative strategy to audience intelligence, digital planning, implementation, and investment. The agency also specialises in buying, optimising, and reporting across all media channels, including SEO and SEM services.
Slingshot also launched onesmoothstone, its creative strategy and content division, to which Rutherford quipped that a “Slingshot is more effective with a stone.”
“Clients are benefiting from better performance, greater cost efficiency and faster reaction time between creative and media by closing the loop in one agency,” Rutherford said.
Slingshot’s growing client portfolio and navigating the last few years
In addition to Sony as their foundation client for the last 14 years, Slingshot counts BlueScope Steel as one of its longer-term clients, having been with the agency for over a decade.
Slingshot’s recent wins include Pacific Smiles Group (media and creative), Capilano Manuka (creative, brand and content strategy), and Inspirations Paint (content strategy and digital planning/buying). The agency also won the media strategy, planning, and buying account for Standards Australia.
In reflecting on the agency’s recent performance, Rutherford called 2021 and 2022 the agency’s best two years. However, he described the first half of 2023 as more challenging following client de-merger and another consolidation.
“However, we’re building nicely and have some great momentum and energy in the business,” he optimistically added.
Growth and differentiation in the new financial year
In keeping with the optimistic outlook, Rutherford noted that the new financial year was about growth and differentiating itself.
“Hiring and putting Jane Waterhouse into managing director is a move that we know will allow us to be a strong creative media agency, not a media agency with a creative department.
Rutherford highlighted the launch of onesmoothstone and the addition of the new role of head of product and analytics gives the agency a focus on innovation and breakthrough offerings.
“We have reinvented our very successful ‘Inspiration Series’, which we have kept a secret for our select clients. We know how valuable they are, so that is probably another change; we are going to be a littler less humble this year,” he said.
“We will be raising our voice more. Recently joining the IMAA is the start of that,” Rutherford added.
Raising their voice with the IMAA
Slingshot is a recent addition to the IMAA in July of 2023. While it is very early for the agency, Rutherford noted that they are still getting their head around all the benefits but are looking forward to being part of it.
“We already provide a huge amount of training and initiatives, but becoming a member of the IMAA will help us further supplement this,” he said.
“It will give us the ability to contribute back into the Indie community, build our agency network both in Australia and internationally, and open up opportunities for our people to access dedicated Media Owner events, training and networking opportunities,” Rutherford added.
Top image: Simon Rutherford
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