New Zealand Marketing
Owner of WAITAPU GROUP Greg Partington and the senior leadership team at STANLEY ST reflect on what distinguishes this fiercely independent agency from the rest.
“Our independence means we’re accountable only to each other and our clients.”
In 2019, when I made the decision to buy Ogilvy NZ back from WPP and rebrand it Stanley St, it was fundamentally driven by a determination to unlock the value we’d created back when we opened for business in December 1991. We realised that if we were to hold up against larger and better-funded competitors, we’d need to gain total control over every aspect of our delivery. We’d long determined that to be competitive, we needed to be both big and integrated, and only by controlling every aspect of our offer could we deliver against those two pillars.
Some say one of the benefits of ownership is the ability to make faster decisions. The key to being in a position to make such decisions is based on a detailed understanding of every aspect of the financials of the company, from P&L to balance sheets and cash flow. Having a strong finance platform is crucial, but by far the most important element of rapid decision-making is having a clearly defined vision — knowing what you want to achieve and how to go about achieving it.
Take, for example, our renewed focus on Stanley St’s creative product. It’s so tempting these days to react to all the barking dogs, and there are plenty, but it’s our view that clients come to us because of our creative product first and foremost. We made a number of decisions necessary to significantly improve our ability to produce strong work across our diverse client base, starting with the appointment of Brad Collett as Executive Creative Director. Brad says, “At Stanley St, creativity isn’t relegated to one area of the business. Ideas truly come from everywhere.”
Within a few short months of the decision to recommit to our creative product, we’d completely reshaped our creative department, as evidenced by the quality of the work coming out of Stanley St already in 2022. It was a fast decision, yes, but definitely an on-strategy one.
Andrew Reinholds, Head of Media, recalls being new to his role when I asked, “What do you need to really add value to our clients?”
“Six more people bringing deeper specialism and actionability,” he said.
“Okay, do it,” was my response.
“Just like that. No formal business case, no sign-off from head office — nothing but trust in my judgement and experience, and this is what brought me here,” says Andrew. “Like most of our senior team who have navigated the bureaucracy of holding companies, I joined Stanley St because the freedom and accountability to make decisions quickly for our team and our clients’ benefit is irresistible.”
When we spend, we expect revenue in return. That’s just how it is, and our leaders know that. But the buyback wasn’t just about making Stanley St stronger, nor was it our specific intention to bring a New Zealand-centric lens to our work. The buyout unlocked an enormous range of business opportunities in the form of a number of start-ups that would eventually become Waitapu Group.
“Through the buyback, we had the freedom to create the collective of the Waitapu Group — Stanley St, Culture, Rutherford, Tātou, School Road Publishing, Hyper and, more recently, Wisely, with two more to come in the first quarter of 2022,” says CEO Siobhan Burke. “We set out to establish a modern marketing engine for our clients, and in doing so, we’ve been able to add world-class specialist skills to our capabilities. We’ve always tried to look ahead as we face ongoing competitive pressures. For example, we recognised our clients would be grappling with unique challenges as our country began to ask some deep questions of itself. We created Tātou because tikanga or Māori culture is now New Zealand culture, and suddenly your brand’s past is just as important as its future, not only to your customers but your staff too.”
Stanley St is an extraordinary mix of talent — 120 people who come together every day focused on good people, a good vibe and wanting to do good things together. Our independence means we’re accountable only to each other and our clients. That’s what truly sets us apart.
For more information, visit stanleyst.nz.