Growing up on a farm in country NSW, Greg ‘Sparrow’ Graham dreamed of moving to the big smoke and getting a job in television. When he was old enough to follow his dreams, he landed at the dispatch department of iconic advertising agency McCann.
Over the next 40-plus years, Sparrow’s career encompassed many highlights: from launching Mindshare in Australia in 1990, an exciting seven years working in New York as marketing and new business director of Mindshare, to senior roles at GroupM and WPP back in Australia.
Sparrow’s passion and love for the media agency industry is well known. It would be impossible to find anyone else who has been more involved across every facet of our industry community. While he helped win new business and lead significant growth for the agencies he has led, Sparrow’s influence in developing talent both at an individual level and an industry level is unparalleled. He has generously trained and nurtured the next generation of industry leaders for at least two decades, and continues to do so today in the newest chapter of his career as a trainer, advisor and coach.
Through GroupM’s M Grad program, he identified and recruited some of the best leaders of our industry, and continues to impart his wisdom to the next generation as a coach for The Marketing Academy program.
He was also a long-term member of the MFA Awards Committee, including serving as Chair for three years, playing an instrumental role in elevating the importance of our work and hi lighting the value media agencies contribute to our clients’ business.
Former GroupM Chairman & CEO John “Steady” Steedman describes Sparrow as the industry’s biggest champion: “Sparrow has contributed across many aspects of the industry, with a standout being his unselfishness in the giving up of his time and knowledge to help shape the career paths of many up-and-coming rising stars in the business. His mentoring has helped many successful individuals in the business, including myself.”
The Hummingbirds Executive Director Linda Robson sums it up best: “The definition of an influencer is ‘someone in your niche or industry with sway over your target audience’. Long before it became a social media buzz word, Sparrow was (and is) the ultimate influencer in our industry. I truly do not know anyone who has more sway than the Birdman himself. The loveable larrikin from “Wauchoppy” is the most connected person in the business.
“Like Madonna, he is simply known by one name, Sparrow. He has had too many achievements to mention but to me, his strength is nurturing, mentoring and supporting some of this industry’s finest talent. Their success is his greatest achievement. Congratulations my friend on this well deserved recognition. Giddy up!”
For WPP ANZ Chief Strategy Officer Katie Rigg-Smith, Sparrow’s energy and positivity are what set him apart. “Sparrow looks for the good in every situation,” she says, “and how to make it better.
“He is the king of the positive reframe, so I’ve always turned to him when something is on my mind because he can help you see something in a completely new light.
Rigg-Smith describes Sparrow as “the ultimate energiser bunny” and says that shouldn’t be mistaken as something flippant. “He knows that positive energy can bring great things out in people and he has a talent for nurturing that. He is also a passionate believer in what our industry can contribute, and he’s the best cheerleader we’ve ever had. It doesn’t matter what brand you are, he does that for everyone.”
Finally, Rigg-Smith believes Sparrow’s positivity stems from his motivation to help create an enduring industry. “He’s in it for the long game,” she says. “He wants to see the success of the industry for the long term, so everything he works on is with an eye to now as well as the future.”
As Kevin Rooney, APAC CEO of m/SIX, says: “Sparrow’s enthusiasm is contagious and he makes you believe that you can do anything.”
Sparrow says he is honoured and humbled by the recognition: “I know everybody says that, but I genuinely mean it. It’s such a surprise!”
He plans to focus on three key areas over the coming year. “Our industry is ageist – only 5% of people are aged over 50. I would like to work with the MFA DE&I Advisory Council to address this.”
His second priority is to help reduce churn in the industry and finding ways for “people to have long careers like me”. And finally, he wants to help industry professionals to tap into the power of resilience, a trait he believes to be important in an ever-changing industry.
“This is an exciting, dynamic industry with the capacity to influence positive change. ‘We Are The Changers’, our industry purpose, is the perfect articulation of this and I’m proud to be part of such an impactful legacy.”