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Chris Colter

The Chris Colter Story

2023 was a year to remember for Initiative AUNZ and perhaps even more so for its Chief Strategy & Product Officer, Chris Colter. Chris has spearheaded a record run of new business wins, dominant work recognition, unheard-of employee NPS, launching a retail media division and even expanding the agency’s footprint into New Zealand.

Prior to joining Initiative, “Colts,” as he’s affectionately known, says Initiative was an agency lost. No product. No purpose. No POV. In close partnership with CEO Melissa Fein and National Managing Director Sam Geer, in under five years, Chris helped an agency ranked #27 in local news business leagues get recognised, above 45,000 other media agencies, as the #1 agency globally by CampaignUK.

And if you look at the numbers, it’s easy to see why. According to the independent body RECMA, the Initiative has had a monumental run.

  • $131M in successful pitches in the last year ($83M won, $48M retained).
  • DOMINANT agency ranking (2nd year running).
  • #1 Vitality (ranking a business’s total health and momentum).
  • #1 AU Pitch win ratio for the last three years. 53% higher than second place and 136% greater than the average of the top 18 agencies in the country.
  • #1 in New Zealand new business in their inaugural year of operation.
  • #1 Most Awarded for work for the past three years, +65% higher than second place.
    …not bad for an agency that couldn’t crack the top 20 five years ago.

But it’s the work the Colts care about most. In 2023, Initiative dominated local and international awards with work that set new benchmarks in media planning. Highlights include brokering a partnership between LEGO and Nitro Circus, bringing big brand thinking to B2B marketing for insurance broker CGU, and even brokering a national naming rights sponsorship for Cricket Australia (unheard of from a media agency) spearheaded by the invention of a new media channel.

Alongside this, Colts has been a force for industry progression. Championing and educating the industry on adopting purpose in their practice – launching Forgotten Upfronts (an open industry forum to spotlight publishers catering to niche and neglected communities), building the Diversity Directory (an opensource database featuring diverse media providers), crafting the strategy behind NITV’s Beyond3% and personally helping NRMA Insurance sign on as the first major advertiser to commit and more. You can also frequently find him on stage pushing for progressive planning, whether that’s conducting a live experiment to test the unconscious bias of over 5,000 media and marketing professionals or advocating for +55 audiences to get the attention they deserve, Colts is never shy to hold a mirror to the industry and chart a way forward.

Importantly Colts ensures he walks the walk on all this provocation. Sitting on Initiative’s global product council, he has created purpose embedded product that has been scaled across 95 markets and is often cited as a point-of-difference powering Initiative’s success. In 2023 he also assumed the role of Co-Chair of the Media Federation of Australia’s Awards and Conference Committee, responsible for setting the industry benchmark in what modern media planning looks like. Both from an output (work) and input (change) point of view. In this role Colts created new awards to celebrate inclusive and effective media planning, democratise pride in media planning and created new industry-wide frameworks to elevate the entire industry, not just his agency.

When it comes to CSOs redefining success, you couldn’t have a better example than Chris Colter.

About the Author

Chris Colter is the Chief Strategy & Product officer of Initiative Australia & New Zealand, the market’s leading media agency. With over 13+ years of media experience across Australia and APAC, Chris has architected some of the most iconic and effective media campaigns in recent years, including LEGO City Goes Nitro, CGU Tall Poppy, NRMA Cricket Covers and Tourism Australia’s Dundee Super Bowl takeover. He is also the co-chair of the Media Federation of Australia Awards & Conference committee and the founder of the industry planning body ‘StratClub.’

His approach to collaborative communications planning has been extensively recognised both locally in Australia and internationally, with individual accolades of note being the Global Cannes Young Lions champion, B&T 30under30 and ‘Best of the Best,’ Campaign Asia’s Young Achiever, Strategic Brand Planner of the Year and 40under40, and being the first and only strategist to feature on Media Week’s coveted Power List.