Jake O’Donnell on Adholics’ Unique Revenue Model Behind Rapid Growth


The IMAA, the national non-profit industry association for independent media agencies, was launched last year.

Since then, it has steadily grown its membership and made a series of important announcements, including its trade credit agreement and a number of new media partners.

Media week profiled the members of the IMAA – previous features can be found here. This week we spoke to the founder of Adholics, Jake O’Donnell.

At 22, O’Donnell is the youngest member of the IMAA and one of the youngest agency owners in Australia. He said his journey started when he was 15 years old working in the fast food industry.

“I was working as a manager at McDonald’s, and one of the regular customers was the owner of a publishing house and we had a chat. When I was 15 he recommended that I try sales and he made me sell advertising. I went up through the ranks and I finally went to News Corp, and I was selling advertising for the director of the Qantas Magazine company and various different publishing titles, and digital stuff. Then I went over there and went overseas, and traveled the world for 12 months.

O’Donnell said the decision to launch Adholics was made in March of last year, just as the Covid-19 pandemic was starting to take full effect.

“I thought it was a great idea to create a media buying agency that only focused on saving clients money. I created a pretty cool model that we use where we take a commission of 50% of the money we save the customer. We do not charge any agency commission or agency fees. If we can’t save the customer’s money, we don’t. We have very large companies listed on ASX and we also have smaller brands. And we are growing and now have a team of five.

Launching the agencies was about as easy as a bear as they only accounted for $ 50,000 in billing in its first three months, but it has grown significantly since then, now reaching $ 700,000 per month.

“We launched without a client. We had just had a name, website, agency platform and offering. I went to contact all of my previous contacts that I had sold advertising to and told them that I know you pay x amount and we can get it for x and it won’t cost you anything. You will save money and we will manage it and save you time.

“One of these companies is a big insurance brand in Australia listed on ASX and they spend millions. We developed from there. We have political clients. We have made great IT brands. We also did some smaller things along the way like house builders and pieces. “

O’Donnell said one of the keys to Adholic’s success is the need to be flexible with suppliers as well as with customers.

“I have this philosophy that you treat media owners with as much respect as you do your customers. Because at the end of the day, we were only able to achieve such good growth thanks to the recommendations of the media owners. We now have a portfolio of 12 active clients, spending on a monthly basis. We launched exclusively as a media buy, but this particular model gets us one foot in the door. And from there we expand our offering to media planning, then digital and programming and so on. So we really put the emphasis on our digital offering.

Another key part of the Adholics model is the focus on making it easy to do business with less paperwork than the average agency.

“Our biggest motto is that we just make doing business with us easier. There are no contracts, there are no agency contracts, there is nothing. Our customers are not obligated to spend with us, nor are they obligated not to spend with us.

“It’s just a very simple offer. We spent a lot of money to create a custom media management software tool. We offer our customers a customer portal. Even Tier 1 agencies are doing everything from Google Spreadsheets. But what we’ve done is turn that Google Spreadsheet into an interactive customer portal where customers log in and can track their spending and track performance, they can track everything in a convenient pool and it doesn’t cost them anything. .

Adholiques: member of the IMAA

O’Donnell said the main draw for joining the IMAA was initially the organization’s trade credit insurance scheme, but since joining he has enjoyed the group’s other benefits.

“It’s good to see this peer-to-peer advice. Of course, there is a certain commercial competitiveness there. But I’m also convinced that if I had a unique issue, whether it’s a legal issue or something with all that I could contact some of these members and ask them, what would you do? We have been in a few instances where we have almost been swindled of money with financial fraud and other members have warned us about this so we can be careful.


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