The secondment of DDB's New Zealand creative boss Toby Talbot to work on DDB's global campaigns illustrates how creativity has led the growth of the company challenging Colenso BBDO as the country's leading agency.
For years DDB struggled as the number three agency behind Colenso and Saatchi & Saatchi. But since Saatchi imploded under restructuring last decade, DDB has taken over the number two slot.
It has done so partly by developing a quirky style of advertising, led by former creative director Paul Catmur and continued by Talbot. It's a style that touches a deep vein in New Zealand humour.
The adman who oversaw New Zealanders' favourite TV commercial (for Lotto) will leave for 12 months to work on global campaigns for the new Volkswagen Golf - to launch in 2012 - and McDonalds.
Talbot - who was last year named head of DDB's Asia Pacific Regional Council of executive directors - is not the first New Zealand-based adman to rise to the top in ad-land. But his rise illustrates the growth of an agency.
A series of likeable ads has catapulted the agency to the top creative rung in New Zealand - a country that has traditionally punched above its weight in advertising creativity.
The Steinlager white can campaign for the Rugby World Cup is being applauded at DDB head office in New York. DDB work for Sky TV and Lotto featured in the Fair Go Ad Awards last week and the "Wilson the dog" ad for Lotto was named the big winner.
Originally from Britain, Talbot came to New Zealand 15 years ago. He rose to be joint executive creative director at Colenso BBDO.
He followed former Colenso BBDO boss Mike O'Sullivan to Saatchi & Saatchi where he spent two years before replacing Paul Catmur at DDB.
Talbot insists he will return to New Zealand and his role as executive creative director at the end of his 12 months.
"I enjoy working for an agency that is not built on the premise of arrogance.
"Historically Saatchi represented that idea that 'nothing is impossible' but that suggests to me that there is some blindness - that sometimes blindly chasing something that is impossible is wasting everybody's time including your clients'. DDB is altogether more grounded." he said.
Talbot came to advertising with a degree in design from the Chelsea School of Art in London. His fellow students wanted to design books.
"I left for advertising clear that I was not going to make a great designer and that I wanted a much bigger canvas. So I went to advertising where you can reach millions."
Talbot says New Zealand punches above its weight when it comes to creativity partly because decisions are not overly based on research.
"Clients trust instinct rather than endless rounds of testing - there are just fewer levels of bureaucracy."
But Talbot says advertising in this country is a fragile ecosystem. He sees the need for more players alongside Colenso, Saatchi & Saatchi and TBWA, for the industry to grow and creativity to flourish.
"The real danger with New Zealand is not the lack of creativity, it is the lack of competition."