Since it was formed in 2003 and was quickly noticed for its stellar work on 42 Below, Consortium has been an ad agency happy to fly under the radar and steer clear of the media. But after finding some renewed vigour for the ad business and deciding to refocus his energies on the agency he founded, Paul Shale has decided to pin his more strategic colours to the mast by announcing a few changes, including the addition of former director of home at Telecom and director of Yahoo!Xtra Ralph Brayham as a 50 percent shareholder and director.
In a fairly similar fashion to Assignment Group, which has found plenty of success with the strategic consultancy/creative model, dabbled in creating new products and made an explicit decision to keep out of the at-times show-offy advertising echo chamber, Shale, who was previously the sole shareholder, says he believes there is a gap in the market for an agency that sits at the higher end of the client value chain.
"Consortium has been designing expert marketing campaigns since 2003 and I have drawn on the expertise of many creative and talented people in that time," Shale says. "However, the addition of someone with Ralph's business acumen is unmatched in the marketing communications industry and gives Consortium an additional and unique set of skills that we can focus on client needs."
He says Brayham's reputation and network of potential clients will certainly help grease the wheels, but it's more than that, because he believes blending his almost "McKinsey-esque approach" to business with the creative skills of a traditional ad agency gives Consortium a real point of difference.
Brayham, whose senior executive experience spans 20 years across energy, IT, telecommunications, transportation, finance and entertainment, he believes "the combination of Consortium's proven creative ability with business consulting experience will mean top commercial results for our clients".
Shale, who has a range of other commercial interests, including hospitality (Murder Burger in Ponsonby Road is for sale if anyone's keen), importation and software, says he's always loved starting things. But he says he's getting out of them all now in an effort to "charge back into Consortium".
He says life was pretty tough during the recession, as it was for most agencies, but, with the help of US creative director Brett Landry, it's still doing great work for AUT, Auckland Airport, Treasury Wine Estates and Pacific Brands (despite the fact it moved the marketing HQ to Australia).
He says there's also some new client and staff news to be announced soon and it's recently moved to a new building, so 2012 is, as the website says, "the year of the Re - Restructure, refocus and reinvigoration".
"Better this time, like Steve Austin."
Vivien Bridgewater, general manager, University Relations for AUT University has been a client of Consortium’s for nine years and says the agency has been central to its sustained success as New Zealand’s fastest growing University.
"They have continually delivered more than just ads and I think this evolution represents further evidence of the business beliefs that lie at the core of their brand," she says. "We wish them all the best and look forward to working with Consortium 2.0.”
Simon Moutter, chief executive of Auckland International Airport, says businesses have become increasingly focused on the efficacy of their marketing investment over the past ten years and while it used to be enough to interpret a brief in terms of high quality creative and good ideas, today creative agencies need to be much more than that.
"They need to approach clients with a keen understanding of business drivers, strategy and the impact that creative execution will have on business performance,” he says.
And Shale thinks the addition of Brayham and the remodelling of the agency will help better meet those needs.