The rumour was that [former TBWA\ staffer turned ASB marketer] Deborah Simpson played a part.
I think that probably Deborah had an influence, but at the end of the day, the bank went through a process and decided they wanted to go somewhere else.
And when you look at what they’ve done, do you think it’s an improvement?
I think that it’s really hard when you have the campaign that all others are measured against, and the one that has been seen by people as breaking a whole lot of boundaries in that area, to come up with a follow-up. It’s a really tough ask, so…
Yeah, it’s a no.
What would you do with Goldstein? I mean we were kind of sick of him.
Goldstein was on his way out, and we had a plan to move him on in a different way.
Can you tell us about that?
No, I don’t want to talk about that, I’d rather talk about what we want to do with ANZ.
Aww, c’mon …
Look, I think there are chapters. Some things are cyclical, like with awards. We had a great run with ASB and they’re still terrific. But you can’t fart against thunder. Sometimes things happen.
What was the mood in the office when you lost ASB?
Oh, it was like a death in the family. It was just appalling. People sometimes talk about times that test you in your career, and having to take the agency in a room and say, ‘hey, our biggest client has decided to move on’ is tough.
Did you have to lose people as a result? Did the business shrink?
Luckily we had won 2degrees and some other business so we were able to redeploy some. But yeah, we had to lose people, and it hurts. This business has only two real levers: premises and people. Which is why the business pays pretty well—because there are some risks associated with it. It’s not a job for life.
Has 2degrees replaced ASB for you?
In terms of profile it’s been good for us. But also, remember, ANZ’s terrific—and big. It’s a great bank, with good people there. So life moves on. When you’ve been around as long as I have, you know at times what goes around comes around.
Nissan is your orginal client, right?
Nissan was a global client and it had been a big client in Australia. It was a relationship which we formed with a guy called John Manley, who’s still the managing director today and still a great client and friend. When we started I was working out of a bedroom at home. So I needed to get some premises that would allow me to present the agency. I knew a film company that had gone into receivership and their premises were vacant. I did some dodgy signs, asked all of my friends and my wife to come and sit at desks and look as if they were staff. I even got people to walk up and down outside, so there were people moving around. He felt we were much more substantial than we really were. But you know, you’ve got to do that, this is a confidence business. The reason that I took the Public Trust building was that I wanted to imbue the fledgling agency with a veneer of stability and solidity. You know, if you look like a bank, people might think you’re there to stay.
How long have you been there?
Since 1998. We started off with one floor, then we took half of another floor. Then we took the fourth floor, then we took the ground floor, and now we’ve taken the basement, and we’re just refurbishing the roof, so we’ve got the lot now. You’ve got to keep working at it every day. And you have to just keep going.
Okay, meals are coming. Oh look, here’s my humble pie. It’s time for highlights and low lights.
Highlights, that’s easy. Winning new business. ASB, Sovereign, 2degrees, ANZ, Tourism New Zealand. It’s always great to win; winning two Grand Prix at Cannes a couple of years ago for ASB/Pago and Adidas; winning the Best Place to Work for companies with less than 100 people a few years ago; winning Agency of the year very early on.; being ‘People’s Choice’ in AdMedia for something like 34 months out of 36 for Goldstein; buying Shift and seeing the agency get a huge injection of digital thinking and expertise; assembling a pretty impressive management team like Andy Blood, Jean Arlove—the best bean counter in the business and now head of operations—Ross Howard and Geoff Devereux, creative director and managing director of our digital agency Tequila, Che Tamahori and Mark Zeman at Shift, and Kelly Bennett, managing partner of our PR arm Eleven. When you accumulate that talent under one roof, my job becomes even more enjoyable.
Ahem, the low lights?
Losing ASB. It was a real kick in the guts. And I guess the other would be the death of Squeeze (Paul Jeffreys), who we had enticed back into the business after his absence following his exit from M&C Saatchi. Squeeze was a great mate and his loss was deeply felt by everyone. Interestingly, I think it reinforced the ‘family’ feel our place has in a very real manner, so I guess some good comes out of every unfortunate situation. But shit, this isn’t an exit interview is it? Let’s eat. I’ve still got work to do today.