Meet the Bohemians set to shake up agency land

A few weeks ago I was reading through the daily marketing industry updates, and I nearly fell off my chair when I read that Brett Dawson, Chris Christofi and Peter Leaver had left Ikon and Commonwealth Bank respectively, to form a new agency named Bohemia.

Having personally done a bunch of award-winning work with Chris and Peter in my time at Commonwealth Bank, I just had to meet up with the Bohemians to see what they were up to.

And they certainly didn’t disappoint. Here they share the Bohemia story in another Innovate or Die exclusive.

What is Bohemia?

Bohemia is a new agency operating system that brings together a collective of experienced and networked individuals, unencumbered by traditional agency buying models, licensed to go deeper into a client’s business than ever before to put media and data led strategy at the centre

The Bohemians - Chris Christofi, Brett Dawson and Peter Leaver

The Bohemians – Chris Christofi, Brett Dawson and Peter Leaver

Where did the brand name “Bohemia” come from?

We first saw the name Bohemia and its definition on the wall of a pub in Caxton St, Brisbane.

Bohemia: A community of persons who adopt manners and mores conspicuously different from those expected or approved of by majority of society.

It went into the mix of over 50 potentials and surfaced top as it pointed to a community of people (as opposed to agency naming conventions around principal names), being different and the link to our positioning of marrying the art of strategy with the science of media and direct response.

Why did you start Bohemia?

We saw an opportunity for a new way of thinking about solving business problems.

When client budgets come under pressure then they look for their agencies to deliver more and more pressure is applied on the outcome, our agency is based on the premise of both, so we expect to be an attractive proposition to clients looking to get more out of their relationship.

We feel the time is right for our new model as it is designed around the time. The huge growth of social and smart phones and the importance of a customer’s own digital assets mean clients have more opportunity to influence existing and potential customers via the non-traditional media channels.

We want to provide them with a partnership which will help them make the most of their own, social and the external media options all in the one place.

Bohemia Logo

How is Bohemia different and innovative compared to traditional media and advertising agencies?

What makes us different is where we start i.e. our starting point is what our clients own (their customer data, their brand, their web assets, their sponsorships etc). Our objective is to leverage and/or create owned assets before we even consider advertising.

Media agencies have traditionally been custodians of the largest portion of a client’s budgets and use an abundance of data and research combined with strategic planning and robust management tools to make decisions around media placements.

We plan to take the core elements of this discipline further into a client’s business and merge this with the clients internal data sources to put a new level of strategic thinking around a client’s own assets and communications to their existing customers.

What are influence maps and how are you using them?

We believe that in every category there’s an influence network that we need to understand if we are to effectively drive customers attitudes to brands. These influencers can be media personalities, celebrities or experts.

Our approach is, with the aid of proprietary research, to build an Influence Map that identifies the key sources of influence. This allows us to explore how to leverage these sources within a communication strategy i.e. build an “influence the influencer” strategy.

Brett and Chris, you spent many years in senior roles at Ikon, one of Australia’s leading media agencies. Why go out on your own?

The need to feed our entrepreneurial was growing and after many years driving the success of other people’s business we saw an opportunity to put our experience and philosophies to work for ourselves and our families.

Peter, after a successful career at Commonwealth Bank, why the move agency side?

I wanted to challenge myself to apply all the skills and experience I have gained on one of Australia’s great brands, to help other companies build their businesses.

It is really exciting working with really talented people like Brett and Chris, and our combination of skills provide a unique positioning for us in the market.

We talk to clients about optimising their owned assets first, making sure they have the right foundations in place to maximise lead conversion or drive positive brand experiences, and my time at Commonwealth Bank taught me a lot about how to do this effectively.    

What has been the best part of starting Bohemia?

The first pitch we did together as Bohemia reinforced the excitement of the journey we’ve undertaken. It was with enormous pride that we stood up and presented the child that we had created for the first time.

What has been the hardest part?

The hardest part so far is to resist taking on business because its available rather than because we want to work with the particular client. So far we’ve been able to resist and work with like-minded people.

What is the best piece of business advice you have received? 

Costs should follow revenue.

Where do you see Bohemia in 5 years time?

At the forefront of the reborn full service agency model where creative and media happily co-exist to drive communication solutions that are truly interactive.

Also working with a few clients who have become our friends and for whom we’ve done the best work of our lives.

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Categories: Advertising


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3 Comments on “Meet the Bohemians set to shake up agency land”

  1. Brian
    April 2, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    “These influencers can be media personalities, experts, celebrities or experts.” – This seems to be a little redundant.

    I had the displeasure of working with Peter for a year after he left the Commonwealth Bank, and I strongly advise against working with this man. He talks big and uses a lot of buzzwords, but the man doesn’t deliver. I believe this is mostly due to lack of knowledge, but partially due to arrogance and laziness.

    • April 2, 2012 at 11:54 pm #

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for your comment, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

      In relation to the influencers map, I had a chance to see the proprietary model the Bohemians have developed and it is pretty advanced, and likely a reason they have won so much business over the last few months.

      Sorry you feel that way about Peter, when I worked with him at Commonwealth Bank we were able to achieve some great things together, but I cant speak for his work after leaving the bank.

  2. Peter
    August 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    “These influencers can be media personalities, experts, celebrities or experts” – wow, what a range! :\

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