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Rene LeMerle discusses the agency’s impressive growth during the pandemic

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30th March 2022 in

Our newly elevated General Manager of Growth, Rene LeMerle, spoke with Mediaweek Australia about his new remit and Bonfire’s future expansion plans for 2022. You can read the full article below. 

Bonfire General Manager of Growth Rene LeMerle has seen the Perth-based agency grow and evolve throughout his 17 years with the company. After recently stepping into the role of General Manager of Growth, LeMerle spoke to Mediaweek about the company’s expansion since its early days and what the future holds post-pandemic. 

Bonfire has become Western Australia’s largest and most awarded independent performance media agency, according to LeMerle. It was established back in 1996 – pre-Google – by founder and CEO Clay Cook before the agency was repositioned in 2012 to focus on a broader remit. 

LeMerle noted the agency’s strong pedigree in SEO and Google Ads and identified a need for a more sophisticated offering in the local market. 

“That’s when we decided to double down and launch a new brand (Bonfire), leveraging our talent and putting a methodology in place to deliver what we were hoping would be a new and unique level of transparency in terms of results. 

“Over the years, that’s expanded into other performance media areas and deepened our data sophistication, which is another unique offering we’ve got,” he added. 

Earlier this year, LeMerle was appointed as Bonfire’s general manager of growth, passing over the Head of Marketing position to Hayley Boneham. 

He said of his new position: “My new remit is more about identifying and helping us accelerate into market expansion opportunities, both short term and in terms of product diversification, geography and vertical. And then longer-term, driving the innovation focus within the business.” ­­ 

LeMerle also noted that as the agency has matured, the client base has changed and grown over time. They initially dealt with small to medium-sized businesses, which has evolved to large and enterprise organisations such as Synergy and Water Corporation. 

“We work with a pretty diverse range of businesses, not specialised in any particular verticals, which I think is unique to us,” he added.  

LeMerle noted Bonfire’s current specialisation is search engine marketing, saying: “We were doing SEO before Google launched. I’m pretty biased because I work here, but our team is probably the best Australia wide when it comes to SEO and organic search marketing.” 

LeMerle also spoke about the company’s unique work in the data space. 

“We realised probably eight years ago that data was going to be the key differentiator in the digital marketing landscape, and so we’ve invested heavily in time, money and human capital in building out a unique data offering.  

“We’ve developed a unique data architecture that allows us to gather, store and query campaign, market and client data points. Because it’s bespoke to us as an organisation, it allows us to provide some unique insights that underpin better campaign performance,” he said.  

The last year has been one of growth for Bonfire thanks to a solid West Australian economy largely unaffected by the pandemic. 

The agency welcomed over 75 brands, including Student Edge, Steadyrack, RAC Parks & Resorts, Australian Institute of Management (AIM) WA, and Dirty Clean Foods. 

In addition to client wins, Bonfire expanded its staff, bringing the total team to over 50 people. One of the largest agencies in WA. 

While many businesses felt a negative impact because of the pandemic, Bonfire’s experience was the opposite in Western Australia’s strong economy. 

“I think, as is the case with these sorts of situations where people are locked down, and they’re isolating, and changing their behaviour, that the proliferation of digital in terms of engagement with brands is unparalleled.” 

“Agencies like ours, where we’re well known for being able to help businesses leverage online exposure to grow their customer base, or engage their brands, have done really well,” he said. 

“Given our reputation, in Western Australia in particular, it’s put us in good stead. We had a record 2021 both financially and in terms of client wins. It put us in a sweet spot,” he added.  

He noted that while the Western Australian border re-opening would be a “shock to the system” for the business, “it’s about time we caught up with the rest of the world,” he said.  

Looking to the year ahead, LeMerle noted that new things were happening in the innovation remit for Bonfire, saying: “We are heavily investing in some diversification initiatives at the moment.” 

“I’d say within the next six to nine months, we’ll have two or three new offerings which will reposition us in the market to better address customer needs in the rapidly changing media landscape that we’re in,” he added. 

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