New Zealand Marketing
FRESH FACES & FRESH MOMENTUM
DDB GROUP AOTEAROA boasts an impressive market reputation and a blockbuster list of clients, so it’s not surprising it attracts top talent from all over the world.
In mid-2021, having served as Managing Director at DDB Group Australia for three years, Priya Patel joined DDB Group Aotearoa as its first female Group CEO. Shortly afterwards, she developed a new role for Matty Burton, at the top of the ranks as Group Chief Creative Officer. Both Priya and Matty started their roles from the uniquely 2021 experience of their MIQ hotel rooms, eager to do whatever it took to sink their teeth into the Kiwi creative scene.
“I’d spent the bulk of my career in London, and always looked towards the southern hemisphere for work that felt a little edgier, and more experimental and imaginative,” says Priya. “Conversely, working in the UK, I’d seen some of the advantages of scale and tech advancement. My role here enables me to blend those two outlooks.”
For Priya, creating a position for Matty within the team was a no-brainer. “I wanted to have a partner to help me future-proof the business. I knew I was walking into a group of best-in-class companies who were the leaders in their respective fields of advertising, CRM, digital and PR, but that the real opportunity was bringing those disciplines together with even greater cohesion. Matty’s unique background and experience blending technology and creativity across agencies big and small felt perfect for our ambition to create total brand experiences for our clients.”
Despite being in a high-level role at Google Asia-pacific, Matty jumped at the chance to move to DDB Group. “The DDB Group proposition excited me,” he says. “When you have the opportunity to work in a building filled with some of the most creative people in the country, you don’t let it pass you by.”
Matty also speaks of the overall high standards of creativity in Aotearoa and his desire to celebrate the successes of the creative and media industries as a whole. “I love it when other agencies are doing really well, because it creates the playing field we all step out onto and challenges us to lift our game. We want to consistently be the best and most creative agency, not only in New Zealand, but also in the world.”
For both professionals, creativity has one primary focus: driving growth for their clients. “We’re lucky enough to work with some of New Zealand’s biggest and best brands, and they come to us with big and tough problems,” says Matty. “Our job is to unlock those challenges with creative and lateral solutions.”
“Ultimately, in today’s fragmented world, brands need consistency and cohesion to be impactful and competitive,” adds Priya. “Customers expect a joined-up experience that makes sense and is useful to them — and that brand guardianship, across every touchpoint, is what we’re looking to build. If we can deliver that cohesion and fame, we can deliver growth for our partners.”
As well as looking at their external partnerships, the pair were keen to get under the skin of the DDB Group business and identify how the 270 staff were feeling during the peaks and troughs of Covid. Priya says their internal survey, The Voice, was a great indicator of where there needed to be modernisation and change.
“Although our retention was the highest it’s been in five years, there were also clear signals that new approaches to flexibility and remuneration were needed, so we acted quickly to implement new groupwide initiatives.”
Beyond policy shifts, Matty also cites their desire to focus on the culture of the business and ensure true inclusivity. “We want a culture where everyone’s opinion is valid,” he says. “It’s open, it’s not hierarchical. Even though it’s a big agency, you’re valuable and you’re seen.”
“We’ve always had that DNA of being ‘talented and nice’, and we’re doubling down on that now,” says Priya. “We’re starting with some of the simplest things, like having a coffee with everyone in the group and just understanding a bit more about them as humans, their ambitions and what they might change in the business if they could.”
As well as bringing Matty into the fold, Priya has sought to recognise and reward existing talent within the business. This has included promoting former Managing Partner Nikki Mckelvie to Managing Director of DDB, elevating Gary Steele to Chief Creative Officer of DDB, and making James Blair and Haydn Kerr Managing Director and ECD respectively of Tribal.
“There are so many talented people in the business, so it’s been great to recognise and reward their loyalty and hard work over the past few years,” she says. “It’s not been easy, yet they’ve helped deliver incredible success.”
Despite the uncertain times, there was plenty to celebrate last year. DDB Group secured 11 new client wins and a number of industry awards, including being named Spikes Asia Agency of the Year and Campaign Brief Agency of the Year. Tribal were named Campaign Brief’s Digital Agency of the Year and Mango led the charge at the New Zealand PRINZ awards, including gaining a gold for the Emerson’s Tiny Pub campaign.
This year is also off to an impressive start, with DDB Group being awarded Spikes Asia
“When you have the opportunity to work in a building filled with some of the most creative people in the country, you don’t let it pass you by.” Matty Burton
Agency of the Year NZ and taking home two Grand Prix for their work on Samsung and Steinlager. Awards aren’t everything, but Priya says they are a big booster of internal morale and a useful barometer of performance for clients.
“We’re proud when our work gets recognised,” she says. “We’re particularly happy with creative recognition, because it correlates back with effectiveness and commercial impact. We also work hard to make sure that all our clients get recognised — not just one or two of the same campaigns.”
With heavy-hitting brands such as Westpac, New World, Vodafone, Lion, AAI, Lotto and Mcdonald’s in their stable, DDB Group Aotearoa certainly needs a focus on performance. Priya cites the longevity of those relationships as indicators of strong partnerships, making special note of DDB’S 40 years with Mcdonald’s.
“When you’ve partnered with a client as long as DDB has with Mcdonald’s, you worry the work might start to feel a bit stale. But every year, the team is so ambitious and focused on growth. We feel like we can learn a lot from them. When you’re the leader in a market, it’s easy to rest on your laurels, but they’re always thinking about how they’ll innovate in the next five years, and we love that.”
Last year, Tribal created itest, a web application that mimics the operating system of an android device to lure Apple loyalists towards Samsung products. This work is now being rolled out globally and is indicative of the momentum the team is looking to build.
“We have a lot of global brands that we’ve partnered with locally for a long time, but what we’re starting to see is our work scaling beyond New Zealand,” says Matty.
Most recently, DDB won Tourism New Zealand’s global campaign pitch, an experience Matty says gave him real insight into the business. “One of the most exciting times to be in an agency is around a pitch. It’s raw and people are trying to firm up how we can best answer something we’ve never answered before. What I saw was an amazing and diverse team come together and deliver.”
“It was a really great first win for us as a team,” says Priya “We also got a chance to partner with RUN, which was a wonderful experience and really opened our eyes to new aspects of te ao Ma¯ori.”
Despite their group being integrated to meet their clients’ bespoke needs, Priya says they recognise when they need external support. “We’re not afraid to partner when we don’t have a specific capability, like our recent work with RUN. We certainly don’t need to be experts at everything — the key for us is collaborating with like-minded people with an ambition to create worldclass work.”
As agencies grow, there’s always a chance their foundational ethos might fall by the wayside in pursuit of commercial success, but Priya says there’s no chance of that happening at DDB Group Aotearoa.
“We believe in people, product and profit — in that order. Our first focus is always the amazing humans that make up DDB Group — when they’re energised and inspired, they create exceptional work. We also continue to believe that creativity is our superpower, unlocking opportunities for brands in every aspect of the experience. This is fuelled by our people and their insight.”
For more information, visit ddb.co.nz.