John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

Ad agencies await Vodafone's call

Air New Zealand had a stable run with Colenso before moving to retail agency .99 and then to Draft FCB. Photo / Supplied
Air New Zealand had a stable run with Colenso before moving to retail agency .99 and then to Draft FCB. Photo / Supplied

The advertising industry is on hold waiting for the outcome of last year's big advertising pitch - Vodafone.

The question is whether Vodafone will go the same way as Air New Zealand and take flight from the incumbent Clemenger Group to land at Draft FCB.

Both agencies were in the Vodafone pitch that started mid-way through last year. Another agency - Ogilvy - is also understood to be in the mix and is aligned through its ownership with the huge WPP Group, which holds Vodafone's UK account.

That has led some advertising sources to suggest head office may get involved and it will get caught in an international alignment for advertising.

Pitches for the two big advertisers may be a bellwether in the advertising world at a time ad agencies are struggling to adjust to the tough new marketing environment.

Vodafone and Air New Zealand have been high-profile accounts built up with award-winning creativity.

The accounts have won plaudits during stable relationships but advertising success has faltered when the firms and their agencies have broken ties.

Vodafone won awards during a long stint at Lowe advertising, but moved amidst upheavals at Lowe and its American owners at the IPG Group.

Vodafone shifted most of its business to the Clemenger Group four years ago, at a time when that agency was on a high.

Since then the group has lost some of its top creatives and suits.

Taking on Vodafone was a big move for the Clemenger Group, at a time when its arch-rival Saatchi & Saatchi had fallen on hard times.

The company was reconfigured for what many thought would be a dominant role.

Clemenger's direct advertising arm Aim Proximity even dropped its valuable and long-standing direct advertising account with Telecom to secure the Vodafone business.

Vodafone moved from Clemenger's top-end branding agency Colenso BBDO to retail agency .99 which was focused on more quick-hit campaigns.

But with the appointment of new marketing boss Greg Campbell at Vodafone, the telco went out to pitch last year.

Two industry sources said that .99 could keep the account but Draft FCB is a front-runner and Ogilvy would succeed if head office had its way.

Draft FCB recently picked up the bulk of Air New Zealand, an account that has had strong association with Colenso BBDO and the Clemenger Group for many years.

Air New Zealand built its growth on marketing and advertising campaigns by Colenso BBDO in the early 2000s which dominated awards.

Air New Zealand moved to a less structured approach employing freelance advertising people, then migrated to Clemenger's retail arm .99.

.99 played a key role in the development of its high-profile marketing ideas for Air New Zealand such as Rico - a foul-mouthed rodent. Some believe the period was brilliant, but others that Air New Zealand lost its firm grip on its branding.

Pressure facing Colenso was underscored recently when its globally top-ranked planning director James Hurman resigned for a senior role at Ogilvy in Shanghai.

The traffic is not just one way.

DDB creative team James Connor and Christie Cooper will join Colenso BBDO.

ADVERTISING FEELS THE HEAT

The Association of New Zealand Advertisers says the industry faces a lot of challenges this year.

ANZA chief executive Lindsay Mouat said with advertising budgets under pressure, advertisers might lower the amount they pay to make the ads so they can spend more on media.

Another challenge was the Government's intention to have an expert panel to review the future of advertising and sponsorship for alcohol brands, threatening industry self-regulation.

"It presents a threat to the alcohol industry's ability to develop brands."

Some pressure groups would prefer to see advertising banned using what he said was flawed research.

Mouat said international advertisers were under intense pressure from economic uncertainty in Europe amid demand for marketing investment in developing markets and there was a risk they would not maintain brands in this country.

- NZ Herald

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