White hot

Even when the dust was still settling on the tech wreck, Craig Galvin and Elizabeth Joyce saw the potential of online marketing. They recently sold 49% of the white agency to STW. By AMANDA GOME.

In 2003, Craig Galvin, then 34, and Elizabeth Joyce, 30, got together to launch the online marketing company, the white agency. It was just after the dotcom collapse, when internet was still a dirty word, but the pair who had worked at Yahoo could see the potential of online marketing and felt it was not being done properly. Revenue is now $9 million and they recently sold 49% of the company to STW.

Amanda Gome: How has your strategy changed since the start-up phase?

Craig Galvin: When my business partner and I initially started the white agency the primary goal was to remain in business. We naturally wanted to grow and build a highly successful company but the initial strategies centered on ensuring that at the end of each week we could pay our bills, and ideally we were profitable. This was achieved through a systematic business development drive – getting clients on board! We have now achieved a level of success where the focus has shifted slightly away from attaining new clients to building and improving our existing client relationships as we have a great blue-chip client list including Telstra, Commonwealth Bank, Coca-Cola and Jaguar Australia. This has meant a greater internal focus on improving internal processes and how we engage our clients to build an even stronger foundation for the next stages of growth.

What was your biggest mistake and how did you rectify it?

There has not been one big mistake but a whole heap of learnings and improvements. All new businesses face the same challenges of establishing procedures, protocols and fulfilling the legislative requirements of state and federal governments. Throughout the early stages there will always be improvements to be had; you must remain flexible enough to ensure that these improvements are incorporated so that it can allow you to focus on growing the business, not pushing paper around the business. Definitely one of our biggest challenges has been predicting our future need for office space, knowing how much empty space to move into for the growing team.

How did you market the business when you started and how has the marketing changed?

We worked very hard to establish our brand and credentials by creating a clear point of difference and a real buzz about the agency. This was achieved through using PR, our network of industry contacts and sheer hard work on a new business drive. Now that we have in part been successful (you could always have more people, know you) in establishing awareness and a strong reputation, we have shifted away from just getting our name out there to reinforcing our company values, services and the key benefits of why companies should choose to partner with the white agency.

Do you use a lot of search engine marketing and optimisation?

We absolutely use SEM and SEO for our clients. We see it is a powerful tool in their overall marketing mix to meet their business marketing return on investment; however, it is less important for us promoting ourselves as our target audience is so small and defined. Phone calls and meetings are the way we develop our own business.

There is a lot of consolidation going on in online advertising. What type of change is occurring in your industry?

There is some consolidation occurring in the advertising industry as larger marketing networks look to add to their portfolio of companies. These networks are looking towards new companies that have complementary skills and expertise, extending their networks’ capabilities and allowing them to stay ahead of changes and innovation in marketing bought about through new technology and the significant uptake of high-speed broadband.

What sort of companies are larger companies looking for and what type of price are they paying?

Well managed! This includes all aspects of management in particular a key understanding of the levers of success. Other areas that potential purchasers look for are good fiscal disciplines, a solid company structure, sound processes, a strong team of people and a diverse client mix.

What are the three biggest mistakes made by advertisers when they advertise online?

Online is a very fluid medium. Clients should always be prepared to test, learn and optimise, allowing a campaign to ‘breath’, giving it enough time for the improvement to succeed.

Online is a powerful direct response and branding medium, measure for both and ensure that you are comparing apples with apples, that is if your creative messaging is a brand message then do not measure success with direct response metrics.

Online is by its very nature interactive, which provides an unique and powerful opportunity to reach and engage users. Advertisers need to develop specific creative with this attribute in mind from the outset of the idea generation, not as a direct translation of a print campaign.

Are advertisers getting the results they expect online? Are they getting a return on investment?

Advertisers that are committed to online marketing and have chosen expert partners to assist them in their strategies and campaign management are getting the results they expect and are achieving great returns. This has resulted in them diverting investment away from other more established channels into online marketing.

How do you persuade a client that they should do online advertising? Are advertisers ahead or behind the rest of the market?

The penetration of the internet and, increasingly, broadband in Australia is now impossible to ignore especially as it becomes a favourite medium for many audiences. This means advertisers need to take online advertising seriously – to invest in learning how to use it as a powerful marketing tool.

How is broadband changing your industry? What will happen when broadband gets faster?

Broadband changes everything; the improved speed allows richer more dynamic content to be consumed, taking the internet from a utility device to an entertainment channel. Research proves that once a consumer upgrades to broadband their internet uses and behaviour increase exponentially.

What are the major trends?

  • Rich media (YouTube)
  • Community (Facebook)
  • Self Expression (MySpace)
  • Mashing (multi open source applications combined together to build a new product), like many online companies have done using Google Maps.

You have sold 49% of the business to STW. What was STW looking for and how did you prepare the company for sale?

We had not prepared white for sale; we had always wanted to build a highly successful company focused on working with the best brands in helping them develop successful interactive marketing. Because we succeeded in achieving our goal white became a valuable position for a number of larger agency networks.


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