The Auckland-based regional head of DDB, Marty O'Halloran, has been appointed global chief of the advertising firm and has some good news for Kiwi creatives.
O'Halloran was the sole candidate for the New York-based role which oversees operations across 90 countries and a staff of 10,000. The 34-year ad industry veteran says he never imagined he'd lead one of the ad world's most famous firms and says his appointment reflects well on the talent in this country.
New Zealand was one of the group's standout operations, he says.
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''We are inundated with requests from our network right now to come and spend time with us to understand what we do so they can apply that to their markets,'' said the 57-year-old, a business rarity who chose to run the Australasian region from Auckland rather than from his native Australia.
O'Halloran will take up the New York job ''when it is safe to do so'' but has pencilled in an October start date at the firm, founded in 1949 by Bill Bernbach.
He's going into the spiritual home of modern advertising and hard-nosed business, but many other countries, including the United States, looked enviously at the Kiwi entrepreneurial spirit, he told the Herald.
''We already do an extraordinary amount, helping other countries around the world. But one of my stated objectives to the board is how we're going to unleash that even more.''
In his new role he would champion the talent he'd seen develop in this country.
''As the world starts to open up again I will be handpicking a lot of the talent out of New Zealand and giving them amazing opportunities around the world which we know that young Kiwis love,'' said O'Halloran, who first moved to this country in 1988.
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''I see this as a great export opportunity, and for New Zealand creativity and I will certainly be unleashing that.''
He said he had never chased the big roles overseas.
''It was always my belief that we could build the best agency in the world here in New Zealand and Australia – you didn't have to be in New York or London to be the best.''
While he's been part of the global leadership team for 15 years, his appointment came after interviews and presentations to the DDB board and discussions with leaders in Omnicon, its holding company which last year had revenue of $22 billion.
Chuck Brymer, chairman of DDB Worldwide, said O'Halloran had a ''remarkable'' track record and a relentless focus on adding value.
''With his guidance and leadership, DDB has become a creative force across Australia and New Zealand."
O'Halloran comes in with a mandate to shake up DDB, exporting its digital focus to drive growth and emphasis on a healthy business culture.
''If you create an amazing culture, and really look after your people and create a chemistry within those people, that magic happens in terms of our product, and then that drives our profit,'' he said.
O'Halloran rowed to World Championship level for Australia, is very competitive, loves winning and says he is going to make ''some big changes''.
Any leader who thought things will go back to where they were was in big trouble.
''Change for the right reasons - it's going to be exciting.''
Covid-19 put the brakes on four-times-a-year trips to New York for O'Halloran and meant much of the final presentation was done by Zoom. Now mature video conferencing and this country's time zone provided even more global opportunities for the New Zealand-based firm.
''In our business you need the human connections and the team environment to be truly creative. Having people together is something that I'm starting to really champion but we will see a future where there'll be a lot more flexibility in terms of where we work,'' he said.
''I think there's going to open massive opportunities in terms of working across borders.''
O'Halloran was born in Melbourne and while for him it's still Wallabies ahead of All Blacks, he has made Auckland his home. He intends spending Christmas here.
The firm is moving from its Madison Avenue base to the financial district of Manhattan, where he'll have an apartment. Without releasing details, he says he's in line for ''very good'' remuneration.
''The good thing about the way that you are remunerated in the US is [that it is] based on results. So, if I can drive success for the shareholders I reap those rewards.''
During the pandemic he reckons he's wheeled out more rowing analogies than usual for the staff of 600 in Australasia.
''We've got headwinds against us in terms of what's happening with the economy and Covid but a great-performing rowing team will just push through those headwinds.''
The future of advertising
O'Halloran says the work DDB has done for McDonald's here has been picked up around the world and its Lotto commercials are known globally also.
It's not a shock but he advises businesses to keep themselves in front of their customers through the pandemic.
"The research we've done through Covid has clearly indicated that brands have to keep communicating to their customers to tell them what the journey is."
It was also important for businesses to communicate what they were doing to help people.
''We all must remember that basically consumers own the brands not the companies. More and more consumers are also saying to brands 'make sure you're doing the right thing. You're going to be held accountable for that.''
The Gunn Report has listed DDB as one of the Top 3 Global Networks for 12 of the last 15 years. The agency's clients include Volkswagen, McDonald's, Unilever, Mars, Johnson & Johnson, and the US Army, among others.
He said the brands that went into the Covid crisis the strongest would come out in good shape. Volkswagen had to negotiate an emissions rigging scandal but sales had bounced back.
''I always talk about building a 'trust bank'. So the more you invest in doing the right thing, creating emotional connection, you create a 'trust bank' which then enables you to weather downturns or other things that may be affecting your reputation.''
• Age: 57
• Current role: Chairman/CEO DDB Group Australia & New Zealand
• New role: CEO DDB Worldwide
• Board director: Omnicom Media Group Aust/NZ
• Chairman Interbrand Australia
• Started at DDB Melbourne 1986
• First CEO role was DDB NZ, eventually leading to the regional group role which he continued to lead based primarily out of Auckland
• Bachelor of Business (Economics/Marketing) Swinburne University Melbourne
• Represented Australia in rowing
• Married to Kiwi wife Deborah, three children Maggie 22, Mathew 24, Emily 25.