CMO profile: How Seek's media lead is planning for growth in 2021

Christophe Eymery shares the program of work in play this year as the careers site works to build a new growth pipeline in 2021

Christophe Eymery
Christophe Eymery

A new connected customer journey-led approach, rethink of local and regional team collaboration and repositioning of brand are three strategic changes giving Seek fresh opportunities for growth in 2021.

There’s no doubt the jobs portal and career services provider has been one of the organisations at the coalface of rapidly changing conditions as Australia rode the wave of the COVID-19 crisis over the past year. Yet like so many marketers who’ve had to navigate their way through, Seek’s head of media, Christophe Eymery, tells CMO it’s been a time of learning, accelerating change and providing the right foundations for the future.

Within the first few months of the pandemic, conditions were clearly very tough for Seek, and the company reported double-digital revenue contraction through March to June. But by the second half, things were getting better and the end of 2020, things were decidedly on the up.

“Overall, if you look at the latest financial report released to financial markets, we are -1%, which is amazing, because it means the last two months of the first half almost compensated for the whole first half of the calendar year,” Eymery says.

Alongside the external changes and accelerations brought about by the COVID crisis, change is afoot internally at Seek after its co-founder, Andrew Bassat, announced plans to step down as CEO and into an executive chairman position. It’s a role that also sees him heading up the group’s investments business, which controls Seek’s 61 per cent stake in China-based jobs ad platform, Zhaopin.

In his stead, former Commonwealth Bank senior leader and Seek COO, Ian Narev, has taken up the CEO role. On top of this, Seek will move its 900-strong workforce into a new office in July situated in Melbourne’s hot Cremorne precinct, an area dubbed the new ‘Silicon Valley’ beside the Yarra River. Also onsite are Carsales, REA Group, MYOB.

Foundations for growth

But for Eymery, who joined Seek two-and-a-half years ago to lead its media and customer engagement function, change was the mantra well before either of these forces came to fruition. One of his key priorities upon joining the organisation was helping to transform the brand perception of Seek.

“We are today seen as a jobs portal, but we want people to see Seek as more than a job portal and have been highlighting Seek as a destination for career advice. We have invested a lot in that space, particularly around content production, to make that a reality,” he says. “We have more than 600 pieces of content providing tips and advice on how to manage your career. It’s about showing we’re not just a destination to find your next job but are also a source of career advice that can help you through all different life cycles you go through during your career.”

Content ranges from advice on how to go for interviews and get your next job, through to how to manage people, your end-of-year peer review and more while in the job. For Eymery, it’s about giving Seek the ability to engage in a much broader conversation with customers and prospects.

In the thick of COVID, this brand shift led Seek to ramp up news media as a key media mechanism in order to amplify this expertise externally. As he points out, during the pandemic, news media saw a surge in engagement as consumers rushed to news channels every day to check on the changes and rules around COVID.

“Part of the concerns news readers had in general was related to employment and the state of the jobs market. What we tried to do is externalise our expertise and bring that into an environment where we generally needed to play a role providing answers and mitigate concerns for consumers in general,” Eymery explains.  

Using its sponsorship of lifestyle section, Seek provided content from its own platform, tweaked to suit the day-to-day contextual environment and situation presented by COVID. Users could then come through to the Seek portal to go into more depth exploring career advice.

“That externalised our content and expertise in destinations where consumers were visiting every day and where they were in the mindset to think about employment,” Eymery says.  

“It’s been a win-win partnership, whereby we gained more visibility of our expertise, and also gained good results from a consumer perspective on brand. We ran brand studies on back of partnership, and with nine months of history we have enough data to draw conclusions. Both from a media and creative perspective, it has been well received - consumers are seeing the value of the content and they’re asking for more of it.”

Off the back of this, Eymery spies an opportunity to collaborate not just with, but with editorial teams across all News Corp mastheads to engage other audiences.

“It also complements what we’re doing with other existing partners like Google, Facebook, Nine and Seven partnerships. It was a contextual play, where you had such a high amount of search in the news environment, but also allowed us to reach significant audiences,” Eymery says.  

Tech and operations transformation

Another longer-term project that is coming to fruition in 2021 – and driving collaboration in the process – is Seek’s hefty investment into technology. As Eymery notes, when he came on-board, the media teams were operating in silos.

“We had a digital marketing team, and within that we had a dedicated team looking after Google and Facebook. Then there was another team looking after CRM, which was primarily defined as an email function,” he says.  

As conversations arose about empowering the sales department with a better CRM system to connect with commercial customers, a decision to rethink marketing’s foundational platforms as well was also approved. Very quickly, this extended to include services.

Two years later, following an RFP process involving different partners, selecting technology and implementation partners, and working with Accenture on an implementation phase, Seek is now live with Salesforce across the whole business. Salesforce Sales, Marketing and Service Clouds went live as of March. Previously, Seek’s marketing team was using the Cheetah Digital platform.

“It’s been a massive achievement because it’s been a whole-of-company transformation to embrace the Salesforce Cloud across all aspects of the business,” Eymery says. “Seek is a digital organisation in its DNA. The concept of data and ownership of data is something the business is committed to, and the necessity to invest in an advanced platform is well understood.

“Within Marketing Cloud, we can access all the different products and services that helps to connect CRM to all forms of media channels. In the background, we have access to Salesforce DMP, Advertising Studio and full integration with Google 360 Analytics, which gives us a lot of synergies across programs of work.”

Eymery cites 20 customer journeys already created in the platform’s customer journey tool. “These are the beginning of automating those more personalised customer engagements,” he says.

“Seek has an immense amount of data and are very strict in keeping data in-house, but at the same time we want to leverage it in a proper way to make communications with our own users meaningful. That is what we feel this technology investment will do.”

Again Eymery highlights how collaborative the exercise has been across teams to connect the dots on those journeys. Seek’s marketing division has four core functions: Brand and marcomms; segment and product; media and customer engagement; consumer insight and strategy.

“Each of these has an input in that process of customer journeys and you need to have an ongoing forum to ensure input from all stakeholders to the process and in defining potential new journeys and what are the most important touchpoints,” Eymery says. “Once you agree on the journeys and go live, it’s then about how you optimise, make certain journeys redundant and decide to create new ones.

“It’s beginning of a new chapter. We have all the customer journeys used for testing of platform already live, but there is a huge amount of opportunity to create new ones.”

While macro-level metrics for Eymery and the team haven’t changed, new metrics looking at engagement are becoming more granular thanks to the new tools and comms platforms. There are also clear goals to deliver ROI on the platform and improve the way Seek engages particularly with SMEs, who convert directly on the website.

“Given the process is fully online, from discovering Seek to converting and coming back, we can have a very complex communication approach and multiple customer journeys for different types of SMEs, which is different to categories where we’d have physical interactions or the transactions might be through different systems,” Eymery says. “That’s where we collaborate as a media team very closely with the segment and product team to make that happen in the most meaningful way.

“Then the role of segment and product team is to collaborate with commercial dept to understand objectives and find the right prioritisation of marketing budgets and activities to go for one segment versus another. That’s the magic of the marketing planning.”  

Collaboration without physical connection

Internal collaboration as an outcome of the past 12 months is something also directly influencing the media approach taken in 2021.

“Within Seek and across teams where we didn’t have the luxury of seeing each other physically but retained our momentum. Instead of thinking it’s too hard, it’s been an opportunity to collaborate differently and in a better way,” Eymery continues.  

“Today, there is a strong team culture that has evolved and it’s even better than it was before as we have embraced different ways of communicating and understood each other in different ways. Where it has really helped is to remove some of the mental barriers.”

For instance, as a company operating in 18 markets and with a strong presence in South East Asia, teams have collaborated but retained distinct approaches across the region. In the last 12 months that collaboration has intensified.

“We are seeing concrete outcomes today in terms of accelerating the globalisation of Seek business and from a media perspective, and we are now looking at buying together campaigns across several countries,” Eymery says. “Alongside our media agency for offline, Starcom – we do all the digital side in-house – we’re working on the next campaign for South East Asia and we’re collaborating where we have the highest level of expertise, internally or externally.”

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