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Nick Smith: Kiwi music helps hook US clients

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Music videos helped Resn get noticed, says the company's Rik Campbell. Photo / Supplied
Music videos helped Resn get noticed, says the company's Rik Campbell. Photo / Supplied

Digital production company tackles overseas markets

There is no doubting the excellence of New Zealand popular music. Artists from The Clean to pop hope The Naked and Famous have exported their wares to acclaim.

But even the most ardent fans acknowledge that the industry has failed to make much impact on that vital corporate measure: the bottom line. Music has lagged behind other creative endeavours, such as the film industry, in generating enough export earnings to justify further investment.

How pleasing, then, to report that the music industry can take a small but important credit for the success of a Wellington-based, award-winning international company called Resn.

The digital production company provides services - creative "concepting", designing and building visuals, audio, animation and large-scale interactive projects - to international advertising agencies.

Only seven years old, it has already conquered America - 80 per cent of its earnings are generated there - and revenue grew 75 per cent last financial year.

Next year, Resn managing director Rik Campbell says the company will invade Europe, setting up an office in a yet-to-be-announced location.

Campbell credits the company's success in cracking the US market, which it entered in October 2009, to its collaboration with Kiwi artists such as Fat Freddy's Drop, Shapeshifter, Minuit, Black Seeds and Luke Buda.

On that first trip to the US, Campbell snared Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles (and its lucrative account for the Toyota-Nascar promotion), work for global shoe company Puma and a job promoting Intel's services in India.

"Since moving into the US, we've seen a 280 per cent increase in revenue [from October 2009 to September 2011]."

What got Campbell's foot through the door was Resn's innovative animation for Kiwi music, especially Shapeshifter and Fat Freddy's Drop, which won international digital agency awards in 2009.

Campbell hesitates when asked if the music videos were a labour of love; Resn needed international awards success if it was to realise its global ambitions, and New Zealand music was the ideal vehicle.

Some of the work was loss-making, but the bands gave the company free creative rein, allowing Resn to use its artistic success for commercial gain.

Campbell is one of this country's more recognisable company executives, courtesy of losing an eye in a "sword-fighting" incident some years ago, but is reluctant to furnish more details.

He does say, however, that the eye-patch is a commercial advantage when breaking into new markets. When you're one of 1000 small outfits clamouring for attention at a San Francisco conference, "everyone notices the guy with the eye-patch".

What caught the Herald's eye was Resn's "Purple Pin" at this month's Best Design Awards, organised by the Designers Institute, for its work on the Toyota-Nascar website, Sponsafier. When the Herald enquired about the interactive design winner, it was, predictably, told to ask for the guy with the eye-patch.

Nascar racing is a big deal in the US, where 25 million people watch Chevrolets, Dodges and Toyotas duke it out on the track. Resn's creative conceit was to involve those fans in designing their own vehicle, which they could race online against other followers.

"It's a full 3-D car with Photoshop functionality, there's audio and animation, it's almost game-like; in the middle between websites and games," says Campbell.

The fans loved it, particularly the winner, who got to drive in a real car, kitted out as his online creation, as the pace vehicle in the Daytona 500. When the fans are on board, so is the client: Resn is now handling its fourth year of the Sponsafier website and the concept has taken on a life of its own, with a string of TV commercials devised to drive traffic to the website.

In the words of institute judge Che Tamahori: "This is military-grade marketing that delivers a compelling and engaging experience that is absolutely on-brand - in a strong category, it was the clear winner."

The success of Sponsafier provided Resn with the springboard into the US, a territory it is continuing to develop. The international time difference means the market can be served from here, but Campbell says Europe is more difficult, which is why he wants to open an office there.

"Our work has swung towards international work and we're pushing into Europe at the moment," he says.

- NZ Herald

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