Back in the day, as those with a bit of length to the tooth might tell you, gold dust could be found in advertising in general as it was something of a mystery to those paying the bills. Then marketers went to school and eventually figured it out, which seemed to spell the end of going to lunch at 12 and not coming back. Digital and data are where much of the gold dust seems to be these days, as evidenced by the types of acquisitions international holding companies are making and the types of agencies that are growing rapidly. And in New Zealand, where there's a bit of a digital skill shortage, expertise in this field is especially sought after, so indie agency Affinity ID is understandably stoked to have secured the services of Greg Doone, a Kiwi who has worked in the digital industry for over 15 years and has returned home from the UK to take up the role of general manager - discovery and development.
Doone has spent the past six years at Collective London, the UK’s highest rated digital agency (as voted by marketing directors, 2011 YouGov) as strategy director and most recently as managing director, where he successfully delivered digital strategies for many multinationals including Honda, ESPN, JCB, Virgin and Callaway Golf, grew the business from seven to 40 employees, and brought onboard high calibre brands such as Electronic Arts, BBC, Mars and Pepsico. Before that, he worked in management consultancy with Accenture in London.
He says he met with five of the big multinationals in this market and had a number of job offers, but decided to go with Affinity ID because he felt as though digital and data were in its DNA rather than being tacked on, and he felt it had the best understanding of how modern tools can be harnessed effectively to benefit of both consumers' and brands', something already evidenced through its impressive work with Progressive's OneCard.
While he says there is a lot of talent in New Zealand and says he was very impressed with the people he met, he felt everyone he spoke to saw digital "in a sense of need"; more like "I've got to be able to deliver this channel", as opposed to Affinity’s offering, which "is genuinely shaped for the future".
"It still seems like a lot of the big agencies are trying to play catch-up," he says, and, at best, are maybe doing one or two campaigns a year that are "properly integrated digital campaigns".
Affinity's core belief is about giving communications "relevancy through data". After all, he says being relevant in some way is what makes any above the line campaign successful, but the tools (like, for example, message stacking, which lets brands choose between a number of different messages and push out the most relevant one, or using customer history and buying behaviour to create functional shopper marketing campaigns) allow that to happen at a much more granular level.
"We want to take that, grow that, and make Big Data sexy. That's the next step."
Another reason he chose Affinity ID, which was bought out from multinational ownership by co-founders Angela Day and Geoff Cooper in 2009 and now has around 90 staff across the group, is that it "plays with winners" and has a client list (Progressive, Vodafone, Resene and Microsoft among others) that already understands the power of data to increase engagement levels and create a "genuine one-to-one dialogue".
Growing that client list is part of his role, as is tapping into the "significant growth opportunities in the Australian market" (Affinity ID set up an office in Australia in 2011 and it's grown rapidly since then). And another goal is to try to bring Affinity ID out from the shadows slightly and get people—both here and overseas—paying attention to what's being done in this space in New Zealand.
"I think we're willing to be brave and innovative and I think that's the big advantage New Zealand has," he says. "Part of the problem is that we're humble to a fault. We're always looking for international comparisons, and that's what you do when you're a small, young country. But I think we should be confident enough for the world to look at us."