PHD is a leading communications planning and media buying agency. Founded in London, UK in 1990 as the first planning-led media agency, PHD was established in Australia in 2009 and has quickly grown to now over 250 staff across offices in Sydney and Melbourne. PHD’s role is to advise and guide clients to the best strategy to invest their marketing budget across media channels (television, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards, online platforms, etc.). PHD is the media partner for high-profile clients including Google, Volkswagen Group, Virgin Australia, Unilever and many more. PHD works closely with advertising, public relations agencies and media vendors to promote clients’ products and services to their target audience in the most impactful and cost-efficient manner. PHD’s point of difference is a clear focus on driving innovation for clients. Innovation in media may include creating new opportunities for clients to engage consumers (for example, developing a new platform for customers to interact with a product) or new ways to use customers’ data to drive business outcomes.
As a services business, managing talent and nurturing a positive organisational culture are key tenants of business success. As such, PHD continually develops and builds on a wide range of programs and initiatives that retain, grow and engage employees. PHD’s business vision is “to be recognised as one of Australia’s most innovative companies”. This focus on innovation stems from PHD’s ethos as a strategically led agency and is built around the belief that creative media solutions have a significantly bigger impact on clients’ businesses than mere optimisation. PHD’s moto is constantly re-enforced internally at all-staff ‘Big Meetings’ which are run concurrently in offices nationally. This ensures all staff, including newcomers, are clear on where PHD is headed and regularly see tangible examples of how they can contribute to the vision.
In addition to having a clear vision and initiatives to support its implementation, PHD also has a culture whereby feedback is regularly solicited. PHD’s executive team of 8 is further supported by a ‘Shadow Board’ of 8 emerging leaders across all teams. Identified as high potential individuals and cultural advocates, they attend quarterly executive meetings to provide the perspective from junior staff on key business decisions. This initiative allows the agency’s leadership to keep close contact with junior staff’s concerns.
PHD’s learning & development program is designed around three axes to enable people to succeed and grow while supporting the achievement of the business’ vision. To ensure a high benchmark of knowledge across teams and levels, media-specific skills are trained year-round using a mix of internal and external trainers. This includes technical aspects like media buying, planning, strategy and digital media, as well as soft skills including productivity, management, leadership, communication, resilience, emotional intelligence and more. Typically, PHD staff have access to 3-5 hours of training weekly.
In addition to the learning and development program, to further support employees to develop to their full potential in alignment with PHD’s business strategy, the people team crafts a bespoke training program each year. In 2019 and with the help of external consultant Rob Pyne PHD created and delivered a bespoke training program named “Smart Solutions with Data & Tech”. This program focused on embedding data and technology capabilities within the fabric of PHD by upskilling staff in having conversations about these topics with their clients.
PHD’s recognition strategy is set on rewarding high-performance and creativity. Twice a year all PHD staff complete a performance review and a career development plan. This allows PHD to offer employees an integrated solution to give feedback, complete self-assessments and for managers to keep records on their team’s performance. As a result of this thorough and consistent process, PHD can proactively manage talent mobility internally.
PHD’s focus on health and satisfaction is multifaceted and includes initiatives to support work-life balance as well as a strong focus on mental health and diversity. All of these contribute to high staff engagement which in turn positively impacts client’s satisfaction. PHD supports a healthy work-life integration with flexible working available to all employees. The CARE program gives staff & their close family members access to holistic external support, including psychological, financial & nutritional advice and overall wellbeing counselling. Beyond internal initiatives, PHD’s culture of wellbeing and support can best be seen in the stance the agency has taken on mental health in 2019. To educate staff & the wider industry, PHD trained one of their employees as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor. In turn, they trained 20 Mental Health First Aiders internally, and offered 100 free training seats across the industry. The course raised awareness of the severity of mental health issues, the treatments available and gave participants the confidence to apply appropriate mental health first aid strategies to those who may require it.
As PHD is a services business, the impact of their people & development initiatives on clients’ businesses is the ultimate proof of the company’s effectiveness.