Back in July 2010, we wrote a story about a merger between Advocate Advertising, Wag the Dog and MediaR. At the time, Andy Taylor, co-founder and director of the three-pronged entity that called itself Wag the Dog Agency, waxed lyrical about the new set-up, but according to a story in the NBR yesterday, it has a date in the Auckland High Court on Friday after the IRD applied to have the company liquidated. And New Zealand's biggest indie Affinity ID has swooped in to snaffle the existing business.
Affinity ID's spokesperson Claire McKay confirmed the purchase of the business and the taking on of its clients, but said it has nothing to do with Wag the Dog Agency itself, which is "an important distinction to make".
She wouldn't comment on how much the deal was worth but said Wag’s full-time team were taken on.
Wag the Dog Agency changed its name to AWTD a couple of weeks ago and one of the two directors Greg Symons told the NBR "all staff and contracts have been taken care of". The other director is Andy Taylor, who's been based in Australia for the past year and is heading up Affinity's Sydney operation, although McKay says this is separate to anything happening with Wag in this market.
Companies Office records show Symons has a total of seven companies in liquidation, including Vooop, which also involved co-directors Taylor and Tom Osbourne, who's now working at Telecom's Skinny Mobile.
According to the liquidator's report, Vooop, which "conducted the business of software and digital media development and provided consultancy and management services to an associated company in which it was a shareholder, Wag the Dog Agency" but is separate from AWTD, was a victim of the recession and owes $139,990 to preferential creditor Inland Revenue. In total, all creditors are owed $162,260 (download the report here), but, according to the liquidator, are unlikely to get anything back.
Back in 2010, it called itself a full service, cross-platform agency that was channel-neutral but with a core competency in digital and, with a number of big clients including Mercury Energy, Les Mills International, ASB, Westfield, Unicef, Vero, Lumino and Charlies, said it had billings of $20 million and 23 staff.
Helma Mitchell, director of MediaR, said in a press release announcing the new entity back then: "Most digital agencies end up operating at the fringe of client strategy and end up with a ‘bolt-on’ digital strategy. Our advantage is that we start with a fresh outlook from the beginning of the client’s marketing strategy process.”
But today there's been a bit of back-pedalling, with MediaR sending out a release distancing itself from Wag the Dog and requesting a clarification on the NBR story.
“It was at one point our intention to join Wag The Dog Agency, but we changed our minds," says Mitchell. "At no stage were we part of AWTD, which maintained an entirely separate business operation to our own. MediaR was a shareholder in AWTD, and subleased some space from the agency. There was no other involvement."
Mitchell is the director of both MediaR and Hat 2007, which both continue to operate separately but have a combined 13.6 percent of the shares in AWTD.