Two more high profile advertising executives are leaving Assignment, New Zealand's largest independent ad agency.

Assignment's clients include Kiwibank, Z Energy, Tux and Ernest Adams, among others.

This week, Assignment's Auckland based creative director, Jamie Hitchcock, and its head of strategy, Martin Yeoman, announced they were leaving after seven years to form their own agency, called The Enthusiasts.

And last week the head of the Auckland operation, managing partner Toby Talbot, announced he would be leaving after just 10 months to move to Saatchi & Saatchi in a new role as "chief creative officer".


It appears to be a significant change for the agency, which operates out of Auckland and Wellington.

Wellington based Assignment chief executive Peter Biggs is famously upbeat and accentuates the company's positive future. Hitchcock and Yeoman would continue to work with some Assignment clients, said Biggs, and the new arrangements were a sign of Assignment's maturity.

"Other agencies would have nothing to do with them [after leaving]. But that is not the way we work. We have the highest respect for them," said Biggs, who works the Wellington office with creative director Philip Andrew - known in the ad industry as "Duster".

Biggs said Hitchcock and Yeoman's move was unconnected to Talbot leaving.

"Toby is a fantastic fellow and wanted to keep leading a creative department. I can't stress how talented and terrific he is.

"Assignment in Wellington is very strong; in fact it's strong in both offices," said Biggs.

"Duster and I are having an enormous amount of fun. It's a wonderful agency."

Mr Renaissance

Assignment started out in 2004 with four former Saatchi & Saatchi ad executives, after that agency waned as a dominant force in New Zealand advertising.


It was established by Peter Cullinane, Howard Grieve, James Hall and Kim Thorp, who remains a partner according to the Assignment website.

Cullinane was a key player at the agency. In September 2015 he stepped back to focus on his investment in the high-end dairy company Lewis Road, alongside company directorships including NZME, publisher of the Herald.

Assignment hired Biggs (aka "Biggsy") and Philip Andrew. For many years, "Biggsy" and "Duster" had worked closely together at Clemenger BBDO in Wellington, where Biggs also played a high profile role - in the agency and in the promotion of Wellington.

In 2006 Biggs moved to take over Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, which he was credited for reviving.

Biggs has always adopted a high profile. The partner profiles for the agency describe him as "without doubt the quintessential renaissance man. Like Assignment itself, he is a one off."

Talbot has also been one of New Zealand's most successful admen. He was a surprising applicant, given that he is best known as a creative talent, and the new job is more about running the Auckland operation.

Lesser gods

Once upon a time, 6pm news anchors were like gods. It would have been sacrilege to allow them to work with another media firm.

While current affairs hosts played mix and match, the 6pm anchors represented the broadcaster's "brand" - though they were often allowed to moonlight and emcee events to supplement their incomes.

But here in 2017, nobody batted an eyelid when it was announced that One News anchor Simon Dallow would be used on NBR View, the fledgling TV arm of the National Business Review.

The deal can't be cheap for NBR - which is expanding the number of platforms on which it offers content.

NBR says it has hired Dallow for his skills as a broadcaster and his background as lawyer.

He will work on field reports more than studio work, and his expertise as a broadcaster will make it easier to attract news guests. Elsewhere, NBR has hired Susan Wood, a former TVNZ star interviewer, to conduct long-form interviews on NBR Radio.

Dallow's new role appears to be the first case of TVNZ allowing a 6pm news anchor to front for another media organisation.

Of course, TVNZ has been at the forefront of sharing its stars about. For years, Paul Holmes completed breakfast radio at Newstalk ZB, then later in the day fronted the Holmes show - by today's standards a serious and hard hitting current affairs show.

Mike Hosking does Newstalk ZB in the morning. But he has an easier run than Holmes with Seven Sharp, where TVNZ milks his brand of conservative opinion. His co-host, Toni Street, recently went national with her gig on The Hits radio show, part of NZME's radio operation.

TVNZ's head of news and current affairs, John Gillespie, said a number of TVNZ's news and current affairs team had roles with other media organisations. "We look at these professional opportunities and assess whether they complement the individual's role here at TVNZ. We're aware that in a changing media environment, these opportunities allow our people to widen their skillset and hone their talents."

Former MediaWorks director of news and current affairs, Mark Jennings, agreed that news presenters were no longer chained to media groups in the way they once were.

This is partly because the 6pm news bulletin is no longer as influential as it once was, because of changes in the way people consume media.

Jennings said that in the past, 6pm news presenters had a bigger influence on who the public turned to for their news. Nowadays, there were many more influences.

John Campbell became a key asset in the branding of MediaWorks. Nowadays, Campbell has become a key figure in the branding of Radio New Zealand - arguably moreso than Guyon Espiner or Susie Ferguson on Morning Report.

Once, RNZ staunchly insisted on exclusivity. Nowadays, Jesse Mulligan finishes his gig on RNZ before running up to The Project, which runs on TV3, then completing his other commitments such as food writing.