Industry Profile: James Lawrence at Rocket Agency – AdNews

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Our Industry Profile takes a look at some of the professionals working across the advertising, adtech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles and companies across the buzzing industry.
James Lawrence: Co founder of Rocket Agency.
Time in current role/time at the company:
Five years
How would you describe what the company does?
A digital marketing agency that runs Google (SEO & Google Ads) + Paid Media (Display, Facebook, LinkedIn) for mid-market to enterprise Australian clients.
What do you do day-to-day?
My days are highly varied. A core part of my role is maintaining relationships with key clients. Not on the day-to-day, but ensuring things are good between them and Rocket. I manage our Growth Team which means working with that team to onboard the right clients into Rocket to get the results they need – and Rocket can do so on budget. Despite my pretty average face, I am the face of Rocket. So this means I get kept pretty busy with public speaking, webinars as well as the Smarter Marketer podcast. Then outside of this I sit on our five person leadership team which means driving the strategic direction of the agency.
Define your job in one word:
Fun.
I got into advertising/ad tech/marketing etc because:
I love the culture of the industry and of Rocket. As an agency owner I am fortunate in that I get to heavily contribute to the culture of the organisation I work in. We are highly selective in terms of the new staff we bring into the agency. If a candidate is technically excellent but a cultural question mark, they won’t get the job. This means we all work in an organisation with lovely people that are inclusive, expert and friendly. I find more broadly that the industry itself is filled with good people. I am friends with lots of agency owners that should count as competitors but in digital it just doesn’t seem to work that way. Then more broadly I just love the dynamism of digital marketing. It is constantly changing. I couldn’t be in an industry where things stayed the same year after year.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Saying no to new work. As a business owner I love bringing on board new clients and increasing agency revenue. But over the years we have learnt that the key to building an agency that does great work and is profitable, is picking the right client. We get loads of requests to work with a really wide range of businesses on a wide range of scopes and as a business owner it is so tempting to just say yes. So the biggest challenge is onboarding the right client, with the right scope, the right team and the right budget.
What’s the biggest industry-wide challenge you’d like to see tackled?
The misconception that just because it’s data it has to be right. Marketing data is often inaccurate or misleading and even more often misinterpreted by decision makers. Accurate data is incredibly valuable when used correctly and I’d love to see marketers as a whole get better at knowing what they are looking at before they make big and often expensive decisions.
Notable ads/campaigns you have worked on:
For larger clients it has been super satisfying over the past two years with Amazon and Mirvac. For Amazon we have been running digital media and SEO for Sell with Amazon. Between our two organisations we’ve done an incredible job in increasing store launches since 2020. With Mirvac we have run all performance digital for the LIV project. This has been a wild success. Then in terms of less well-known brands we have done awesome work with Rezdy for many years. They provide tour and travel software so COVID has been a difficult time. But with the client we have smashed it out of the park both before COVID but during as well. Then on the e-commerce side I’ve loved the success we have had with 4Cabling. They are a leading Australian seller of ethernet cables, server racks and electrical accessories and over the past three years our team have killed it in terms of ROAS in Google Ads and then revenue from SEO.
Who is/has been a great mentor to you and why?
I’ll give a shout-out to my much, much, much older brother David on this one. He is my business partner and keeps me on track. The running joke in the office is that he is the far younger looking of the two of us. And when I was nominated for Australian Marketer of the Year a few years ago there were equally as many remarks that I wasn’t even the best marketer in the family. He steers the ship well, is calm, smart and keeps us moving in the right direction.
Words of advice for someone wanting a job like yours:
There’s no perfect time to start an agency. Do the hard work and learn your craft, then take the plunge. Be warned though, that owning an agency is not for everyone and you should think carefully about your strengths and weaknesses. I’ve employed a lot of people over the years who have happily walked away from their own agency to get back into full-time employment.
If I wasn’t doing this for a living, I’d be:
A professional golfer on the USPGA.
My mantra / philosophy is:
Happiness is now.
My favourite advert is:
As a parent and massive NFL fan I can’t go past the Volkswagen “The Force” Super Bowl ad.
Music and TV streaming habits include:
Basically all of them.
Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?
After finishing university I worked in international criminal courts in the Hague. I once had a pretty intense staring contest with Slobodan Milošević!
In five years’ time I’ll be:
Doing the same thing.

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