You may have seen superstar chat show host Graham Norton doing his bit for NZ Inc recently, crushing a barrel of grapes with his bare feet to help Kiwi firm Invivo Wines make a special sauvignon blanc bearing his name.

Norton has long been a fan of the winery's sauvignon (and he has a very minor shareholding in the company) and the Auckland-based advertising and social media practice The Goat Farm had the idea of getting the chat show star really mucking in for the Invivo brand.

"We just wanted to do something interesting, which was to make a wine squashed by Graham Norton's very own feet," says The Goat Farm's owner and creative director, Vaughn Davis. "We thought we'd get some video content around that and some editorial content on New Zealand television and in the press, as well as in the UK. At the very end, it seemed obvious to make a TV ad about it as the last step."

Davis had worked in big ad agencies for 11 years - latterly as creative director at Y&R - before setting up The Goat Farm in 2010.


He's a pioneer of our local social media scene (he wrote New Zealand's first book on the topic, called Tweet this Book) and the move, he says, was prompted largely by his desire to explore the opportunities the growing social media scene was opening up for brands.

Davis says the Invivo Wines project illustrates just how much the advertising world has changed in the past decade. Developing a small, nimble practice has given him the freedom to explore turning some conventional ways of doing things on their head.

"Ten years ago, making that TV ad would have been the first step and then all the other stuff would have been bolted on. Now we do it the other way around."

He says his ambitions when he first set up The Goat Farm were simple: to work with people he liked and enjoyed the company of - and to find interesting and effective ways to solve others' business problems.

"We tend not to have more than three or four clients at a time, which is nice, so everyone gets decent personal attention. They range from large corporates, who I guess are looking for a different approach to their marketing and customer connection, to small start-ups and everything in between."

Instead of employees, the company draws on the services of a "loose whanau" of around 10 senior industry practitioners who contract to the firm, explains Davis.

"They come together to do cool stuff as projects dictate," he says.

"A typical Goat Farm project involves three or four people, and takes around three or four months.


"It's like a farm, it's not a factory where everyone comes in at 8am when the whistle blows.

"Some days we'll just watch the grass grow and other days we'll work around the clock."

But the reality is there's more of the latter than the former; Davis says his biggest issue is not taking advantage of the business owners' "absolute freedom to work every hour of every day".

"The main challenge is to find time in the day every day to give every client the attention and the quality they deserve. Because that's what they're buying into, they're buying into a relationship, not a commodity. I think the biggest fear clients have is that, as your business grows, they'll lose touch with the principals."

However, Davis says the scale and power of the personal networks being created by people through social media are a big help. Bonds that used to be formed with colleagues and clients over long advertising lunches can now be forged and maintained online, he says.

Davis is clearly not a fan of the long lunch. A former air force pilot, he says he'd prefer to fly clients in his plane to Great Barrier for a coffee (among the many other hats he wears, Davis also runs an aeroplane rental business).

Getting up in the air is also a great way to focus and clear the mind when you're a business owner, he says.

Almost five years down the track, Davis says the original ambitions he had in the firm - to work with people he liked and solve others' business problems - haven't changed and achieving those aims is how he ultimately measures his success.

"For an ex-military guy this is going to sound really soft but, for me, success is really going to sleep happy every night," he says. "That comes from working all day with people I like and doing work that does the business for them."