Horse's Mouth: Josh Moore, Y&R NZ

  • Horse's Mouth
  • June 6, 2017
  • StopPress Team
Horse's Mouth: Josh Moore, Y&R NZ

After a year of collecting awards at every advertising show that mattered, Y&R NZ was this year declared by the Big Won Report as the third most creative agency in the world and its ‘McWhopper’ campaign the most-awarded idea of 2016. Suffice to say, the agency’s chief creative officer and chief executive Josh Moore had plenty to smile about. 

On Y&R’s success in 2016

"Any fool can make an ad. But you need to work damn hard and have an agency model that’s efficient and nimble with exactly the right mix of talent to be successful in this new advertising world. I would argue that Y&R is just that. We have the enormous advantage of being a full service or integrated agency. Our creative teams generate media solutions and
our media teams generate creative solutions. Other agencies don’t work this way. They’re regimented and roles have boundaries, and those boundaries become barriers to creative media solutions. When speed to market and efficiency is king, a client can’t afford to have multiple agencies. It simply no longer makes any sense. But this approach only works when the talent mix is exactly right. So we’ve continued to hire the best people in market for us. Those are the talented folk with mixed media and creative backgrounds, people who listen, people who work together and work beyond their roles. They have perspectives clients care about and knowledge and talent that agencies don’t have. You get enough of these people in a room and clients reap the benefits in bottom line value. Next, we continually foster our relationships with our like-minded clients, we give out clients’ proactive ideas as they come to mind, spotting opportunities and acting on them. And we seek out new equally like-minded clients to work with. You do all of these things and you end up with a culture that embraces bravery and is exciting to be a part of and produces exceptional work for clients. The by-product of that great work is happy clients, happy clients then produce another by-product: the awards."

On the relationship between creativity and business results

"2016 was Y&R NZ’s best year financially since Ross Goldsack retired from the business in 2008. After his departure, the financial crash hit and the business lost its way. Today, Y&R NZ is three times the size it was when the new management team took over in 2011. The margin and revenue growth is strong. We are finding that our approach and style of work really resonates with clients both here and offshore who are looking for great ideas that are genuinely different to those offered by our competition. Clients aren’t in the business of throwing their money away, which is why agencies making generic work are struggling. Great work is work worth paying for and it shows in our bottom line. If all goes to plan, 2017 will be even bigger." 

On whether it’s more difficult to stay on top or rebuild from scratch

"It’s easier to stay on top. When you’re on top you have the right client mix, the best talent and revenue for investment. If that is your starting point then you have options. When you rebuild from scratch you start from zero. It’s just a really hard slog, wearing many hats until you can hire the right people and tools. It takes a team with resilience and lots of self- belief. It’s not for everyone, and we lost plenty of good people along the way. 

On creatives as executives 

"The evidence is everywhere that the future of our industry will be determined by those who create. Clients want to be as close to the problem solvers as possible. Results, not flesh pressing, is what clients are after today. David Droga would be my best example of both an executive and a creative. He has built a highly successful agency with exceptional product for which he commands a premium. He’s done this while traditional agencies with traditional executives have floundered and failed. I’d suggest this is because he’s quick to adapt to the changing needs of his customers and equally quick at creating new product. Two things you can’t do if you’re an accountant." 

On sharing the spoils 

"The best way to keep people motivated in an agency is to make sure the proceeds of success are shared across the agency. If people are making financial progress in their personal, lives it’s easier for them to concentrate on their professional lives. Hard work makes for great work, so if you’re free to work hard because you’re well remunerated, the work stays fresh and your team stays intact." 

On the awards culture in advertising 

"Whether you’re a builder, a peace-maker or a banker, every industry has award shows. Patting yourself on the back is not unique to advertising. When the All Blacks win a World Cup, no one tells them not to attend the Halberg awards as all the accolades are becoming a bit much. So I don’t think award shows are an issue in themselves. But I do believe there are too many international shows. We don’t need 15-20. Five is fine. Then, each county or region should have its own show that reflects the local industry. The problem is that when you’re part of the global networks, they want their great work celebrated all around the world in many regions. So your work ends up being celebrated all over. This can make it look like the local office is chasing awards, when in fact head office simply wants your work celebrated in North America to drive new regional business opportunities." 

On whether clients care about awards

"Of course, they care. Our new business pipe is testament to this. We have developed a unique style of work that we believe is a direct result of our integrated model. This sometimes requires a leap of faith from our clients. Accolades alleviate a little of the fear, giving our current and prospective clients confidence. Besides, it’s no coincidence that the more awarded agencies in New Zealand and abroad are also the largest and most successful. These accolades are well-deserved and hard won."

On the awards that actually matter

"The bigger the show, the more entries there are, the more competitors in the competition, and the more significant the win. The Mitre 10 Cup is a great competition, but the World Cup is still the one to win. Winning most-awarded idea in the world in 2016 reflects a wealth of IP, talent and skill within our company that others do not have. In no particular order, the Effies, Cannes Lions and D&AD are the most important advertising awards shows in the world. They are representative of all advertising disciplines and are judged with integrity by a very diverse group of advertising professionals."

On local industry bodies

"I think the ASA and IAB do a good job. But CAANZ is a different beast. Not only does it fail to support the industry but it fundamentally fails to represent it. Here’s just one example of why it grinds my gears. Last year, I made the mistake of attending the ‘pre-Axis meet the judges’ talk at the Spark Labs venue. The point of the event was to introduce our industry’s younger generation to one of its fine global leaders. The intro to the male guest judge involved a couple of lines about how he lives in Asia because he likes young Asian women. The speaker wasn’t censured at all; in fact, the all-male New Zealand judges guffawed like it was hilarious. This was in front of the very people we were trying to inspire into our industry, a multi-cultural room of young men and women. To top it off, we were then subjected to some god-awful ideas from the same foreign juror as examples of his cleverness. When Q&A started, the first question from the young audience made the sentiment in the room obvious. Question: ‘When will there be females on the executive jury?’ Answer: ‘Errr it’s something we are working on.’ This is just one incident that highlights how backwards this organisation is, and don’t even get me started on the petty politics. My view is membership makes you complicit in the behaviour of an organisation whose values are inconsistent with the direction of our industry both here and abroad. So for the foreseeable future Y&R will not renew it’s CAANZ membership."

On pitching

"I think you have to be really careful with which accounts you pitch for and why. Last year, we were appointed to three new accounts without a pitch. We were then invited to pitch on three other accounts. We turned down two and we pitched on the third. That one pitch took up a huge amount of time, was very expensive to participate in, and was ultimately decided by procurement advisors rather than marketers, and we lost. So what can you do? Well here’s how we approach it today. We ask some very simple questions: do we need the revenue? Do we have capacity? Will our staff be passionate about this client’s business? Will the new client complement our existing clients? Are there obvious client partnership opportunities? And has the client clearly articulated why they want to work with us? If any of the answers are ‘no’, or if there are simply too many agencies involved, we politely decline. It’s the only way to balance risk with reward." 

On the pressure of working for a holding company

"Pressure makes for an exciting environment and ultimately great work. But from a financial point of view, owning your own agency is much the same as working in a holding company, because you still have constant demands for revenue growth and margin. I know this from my prior role as a partner at a Sydney indie. So, I know that the issue is not pressure; the issue is skin in the game. Building a business without significant long-term upside creates instability, and senior staff become more and more susceptible to poaching if they don’t have long-term incentives to stay. The bulk of agencies all lose great talent regularly. This is definitely an issue that shows more signs of changing. Loss of senior talent and the IP that goes with it is simply bad business."

On the accountability and transparency issues in advertising

"The accountability issues you refer to aren’t a creative or integrated agency issue. They are very much the burden of the media-only agencies. The truth is they know they need to change and they’re changing. My biggest concern is that the practices that have been exposed of late do nothing but demotivate the smart and hard working staff that populate those companies. You’ve got to feel sorry for anyone who’s lead down the wrong path through poor practices. Stronger leadership with genuinely innovative ideas, not smoke and kickbacks, are what’s needed." 

On the impact of scandals on client trust

"Does anyone trust a guy who shakes your hand and steals your watch? Obviously, the relationship damage is deep and detrimental. For an integrated agency, however, I don’t feel that we have an issue. Our processes are highly transparent, there’s nothing to hide and nowhere to hide it. We have a straightforward transaction with clients, results for dollars, and dismissal for failure." 

On what agencies got wrong in 2016

"I think a preoccupation with magic beans is causing a lack of truly great advertising. Agencies without great ideas spend their time peddling widgets, specialisms, media tech, digital tech, retail tech, blah blah blah. It’s all bollocks, fairy dust and a distraction from the truth. The truth is nothing beats a good idea. And if you spend your time trying to sell something else, you’ll end up with an industry with nothing to sell. We build agencies which create concepts. We shouldn’t try to make factories that create products. Other industries can make those things and probably better than we can. We make the intangible and it’s enormously valuable. Sure, we can make things that bring concepts to life and that’s awesome, but let’s simply remember that the most powerful product we make is the idea. You don’t need to hold it or touch it and it doesn’t need to be physical, if doesn’t need to be a product. It’s bigger than that and no other industry creates it quite like we do. If you look at the smart global clients, they are moving their businesses to smart, focused teams. They are looking for single agency solutions – that’s this week’s new term for integrated agency." 

On what we can expect of Y&R in the future

"The opposite of what everyone else is doing."

This interview originally appeared in the Agency Perceptions issue of NZ Marketing. 

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