Top advertising creative Regan Grafton is leaving his role at one of the biggest advertising agencies in the country.
The chief creative officer at New Zealand-owned Stanley St announced this week that he will be taking on a role at small independent agency Culture & Theory, which employs just 13 staff.
Advertising talent most often switches allegiances for better pay or bigger titles but this isn't the case for Grafton.
While he wouldn't reveal the exact details of his pay, he tells the Herald that he will be taking a 30 per cent pay cut as he makes the transition to the smaller agency.
This won't be an insignificant figure if the annual industry pay survey from The Creative Store is anything to go by, with the 2021 data indicating an average salary of $330,000 per annum for an executive creative director (one rung below a chief creative officer).
Grafton has until now had a relatively standard progression up the rungs of the advertising industry, serving as an art director at Y&R between 1999 and 2003, then as creative director at DDB between 2003 and 2012, then as an executive creative director at FCB from 2012 to September 2015, before being headhunted for the top creative role at Ogilvy (which would later become Stanley St).
Over the course of that career, he has been integrally involved in the development of a number of iconic ads, including the Lotto's Lucky Dog and the audacious Driving Dogs
campaign for the SPCA.
Grafton tells the Herald that he was willing to give up the prestigious title – and its associated salary – after five and half years to be "the master of his own destiny".
"I wanted to roll the dice and see what it's like to be a partner and to build something," he says.
"It doesn't feel like a risk. I know there's an element of risk, but I wanted to get that excited feeling again. It's great to have a big challenge as something to look forward to. I want to see if we can grow this. I have a healthy nervousness."
Grafton isn't the only former FCB staffer to take the plunge into a smaller independent business in recent times. Former FCB executive creative director Tony Clewett last year joined Auckland-based Federation, while the agency's former head of media, Rufus Chuter, started the agency Together in 2018.
Grafton will be given an equity share in Culture & Theory, which is currently listed with the Companies Office as fully owned by founder Jonte Goldwater.
The business launched in November 2015 and has been quietly doing some smart strategic work for a number of major clients over the last few years.
This has seen the business grow steadily and attract work for a number of major businesses, including Coca-Cola European Partners (formerly Coca-Cola Amatil), the International Cricket Council, Mercury, Nestle, Tegel and Westpac.
Integral to the recent success of the agency was the 2018 appointment of strategy director Amy Frengley, who brought two decades of international experience during stints in London and Dubai into the fold.
Goldwater says the reworking of the corporate structure will see both Frengley and Grafton given a substantial equity share in the business.
He wouldn't provide details on the extent of that equity share between the three executive leaders, saying that the details would be updated on the Companies Office website once all the paperwork was finalised.
Other key leadership moves to have been made behind the scenes recently included the appointment of Su Chin Chow as the company's design director and Jed Misa as the head of social.
Chow joined the company in September last year after working across global brands including Facebook and Apple, while Misa joined in January this year from local agency Fuse, where he worked on clients such as McDonald's, Sky and Asahi.
Goldwater says the appointment of these senior staff members alongside Grafton and Frengley offer an indication of the growth ambition within the business.
"We're on a mission to build a team that delivers thinking, creativity, and technology that is truly connected up, and, with Regan's experience across multiple disciplines, he's the perfect fit," Goldwater said.
"And on top of that, he's a bloody good bloke."
Grafton will start his new role at the Culture & Theory at the beginning of August.