The Star launches internal creative agency

Debut of in-house creative team, along with new marketing management technology, is part of the group CMO's plans to prepare for rapid growth

The Star has created its own in-house creative agency and invested in new marketing management platforms to help cope with proposed exponential growth across its entertainment and hotel portfolio.

The Star’s group chief marketing officer, George Hughes, told CMO the 32-strong internal agency, dubbed ‘House’, is a freshly minted creative team now working across all three of the group’s entertainment properties: The Star Sydney, The Star Gold Coast and Treasury Brisbane.

The team is headed up by Marnie Darren, who joined The Star in the newly created role of managing partner, creative agency, in September. Darren was formerly with TBWA in Australia and New York, working across brands such as H&M Global, Michelin and Pernod Ricard.

Hughes also made a number of external appointments to build out the agency, including a head of client services, Emma Boyle to scope out work, liaise with internal clients and coordinate resources to complete jobs. Boyle previously worked for DDB, McCann, George Patterson and Young & Rubicam.

Di Walker has also joined as creative director and also boasts of an agency background with DDB New York and MC Saatchi. Most recently, she was creative director at Merivale.

House officially launched in December, and is providing a full suite of creative services across all properties, including onsite hotel and restaurant partners. Among its first tasks was the design and roll out of Flying Fish at The Star Sydney.

It’s the latest step in Hughes’ plans to build out a unified marketing team for The Star Group focused on driving brand growth nationally.

“The in-house model offers value to our business. At House, there is greater transparency, more meaningful input and greater control of budgets,” Hughes said. “House is nimble and responsive to the business, because they sit in partnership with marketing. Importantly, our agency has a strong partnership with our brand team.

Hughes hoped the dynamic between the standalone creative and brand teams will spark “creative tension”.

“We have deliberately designed the operating model to create a healthy and respectful tension between the two teams, to facilitate exceptional creative output. The internal creative team is deeply connected to the company, its mission, values and culture. Because they are immersed in the company all day, every day, they know the business better than any outside agency ever could,” he continued. “Due to the breadth of The Star offering, the creative opportunity remains fresh and inspiring.”

Hughes was appointed The Star Group’s first group-level CMO in March. In September, he revealed a number of high-profile recruits to join his senior marketing leadership team as part of this new-look function. Hughes was among the 'ones to watch' in the 2018 CMO50 of Australia's most innovative and effective marketers.

These included former 12WBT marketing director, Melanie Luque, as GM of digital marketing; former Qantas brand and marketing program director, Anthony Cohen, as GM of brand, sponsorship and PR; and former News Corp GM of consumer marketing and sales, Nick Turner, as GM of commercial marketing.

To support the creative agency as well as its internal marketing team’s day-to-day efforts, The Star has recently signed up to Wellcom Worldwide’s Marketing Resource Management (MRM) platform.

“The MRM provides us with an analytical review of marketing plans from inception to execution,” Hughes said, adding the platform is due to be fully rolled out by end of January. In addition, The Star Group has invested in a digital asset management platform.

Hughes said the internal agency and capabilities will provide the scale and speed of response necessary as The Star Group sets its sights on rapidly expanding its footprint nationally. The group’s vision to become Australia’s leading integrated resort company is being supported by a multi-billion dollar commitment which, over the next four years, could see it grow from 60 restaurants and bars to 130, and from seven hotels to 12.  

“Over the next several years, we could be investing more than $5 billion to further develop our world-class tourism and entertainment destinations in South East Queensland and Sydney,” Hughes said in September.

“Those plans have precipitated the need for a new marketing structure, one that is agile and has the ability to respond to the ever-changing media landscape.”

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