We broke the story about Andrew Stone leaving Droga5 on Friday to spend more time with his family and do some consultancy work. And that high-profile departure, combined with the recent loss of its foundation client ASB to Saatchi & Saatchi, led to a fair bit of speculation that Droga5 was in a bit of trouble. But Mike O'Sullivan, who has stepped up to fill the leadership role, says the doors are still well and truly open and, with a few new clients and a new management team, the agency is poised for growth.
“To date we’ve been deliberately quiet about who we partner with. However, we’re now working with AA Travel Australasia, Phoenix Organics, Qantas [which is aligned to Droga5 after it won a recent pitch], Lion Nathan, Fiveight, Random House, and domestic abuse charity Shine. And shortly we will be in a position to announce another significant name.”
Staff wise, O'Sullivan says the agency is now 12-strong (plus contractors), which is down from around 19 (plus contractors) when it was working on the big ASB relaunch. He says "it's fair to say we've shrunk a bit, but that happens", especially when you lose a client the size of ASB.
On the plus side, adding to its already strong digital offering, as seen with the impressive Experience ASB work, Nathan Cooper recently joined from Anomaly London as digital creative director and will partner with Chris Long who joined the agency in April.
Cooper has also been added to the New Zealand management team alongside James Polhill, Jose Alomajan and O’Sullivan, who, like David Droga in New York and David Nobay in Sydney, is also a creative director leading his office.
"Philosophically it’s the right thing to do.”
He says Stone tended to "work all the hours God sent", often starting as early as 4am, so, with teenage children, it was time for a change.
"Between working with current clients, we’re pitching more than ever so we’re really busy,” he says. “The landscape is changing rapidly in New Zealand and there are more opportunities than ever. But clearly, Andrew will be doing more fishing than me.”
As a creatively-focused start-up, O'Sullivan says "winning a bank as your first client certainly isn't normal" and he admits it sent the agency down a slightly different path than it had intended to go down. But he's confident that now, almost two years after launching the New Zealand arm, the newly restructured Droga5 will be able to replicate some of the success the other two offices have experienced.
UPDATE: The shifts have gone through at the companies office.
Stone has been removed from OSS Equity and D5 General Partner companies and Mike O'Sullivan's new company has been set up for his section of the shareholding: Droga5 NZ Trustee Company Limited.
Therefore Droga5 (US) owns 60 percent of the local operation, while OSS Equity owns 40 percent, but of that, O'Sullivan and his partner Stacey own it all after buying Stone out. Alomajan doesn't have any shareholding.