It's not generally in the nature of those who work in this industry to stay under the radar. But that's what Post Creative has purposefully done since it opened its doors in 2011. Now, with ex-DraftFCB and Ogilvy bod Matt Simpkins coming on board as a replacement for co-founder Adam Bryce and the ribbon recently cut on a new office in Auckland's Freeman's Bay, the team thought it was about time they stuck their heads above the parapet, showed off some work and explained their model.
Baylis, who was chief executive at M&C Saatchi for three years and a founder of Generator, says the agency marches to the beat of a different, "behaviorially-led" drum. And, when asked how that manifests itself, he says it's probably "one third experiential, one third online and one third other stuff".
It abides by the slogan is 'Stop Shouting' and while Baylis says it still does some paid-for ads, "it's not our default solution".
"Everyone talks about a new model, but I think we're genuinely living that," he says. "And our solutions are quite a bit different ... We've not been everyone's cup of tea. But we're not going to step back and do the same stuff everybody else is doing. The world has changed."
In a mission statement on its website (it also curates a blog on newness called Post New), it says the internet has democratised influence and brands don't need to rely on paid media channels to spread opinions and ideas.
"By connecting brands with individuals, events, or content that has achieved a level of influence, we can change the behaviour of the communities that follow them. The collaborations between these parties and the subsequent ideas we create generate brand awareness and change behaviour through editorial coverage and personal networks, not through paid media ... Influence only works though when content or ideas that are relevant and authentic to the influencers values and ideals, and that sit comfortably with the brand are distributed in the right environment to the right community. Content for content's sake will be a recipe for failure, content that is created collaboratively will change behaviour. That is what we call Engineering Influence."
Co-founder Mike Watkins, who spent time as managing partner at Meares Taine and DDB and, more recently, as group general manager at Film Construction and Designworks, points to a campaign it did for BNZ a few years back as a good example of how it operates (it doesn't work with BNZ anymore). The agency was briefed to create an ad after the Christchurch earthquake. But it decided to spend the money creating a music video featuring a slightly modified, Christchurch-centric version of Scribe's 'Not Many' and a whole heap of BNZ's Christchurch clients instead (they were among the first people allowed in the red zone). It was put on CTV and online and within five days it had 100,000 views. The song could be bought on Amplifier.co.nz and all proceeds were given to Plunket.
"It came from Christchurch for Christchurch," says Watkins.
It's also engineering collaborations, not so much with other, bigger agencies at this stage, but with clients themselves, with Baylis pointing to a joint venture it has with Air New Zealand called I Am Packed, a user-generated website built to engage design-conscious and fashionable consumers around the world by showcasing the contents of passengers' luggage before they head off travelling.
Another example is a high-quality travel guide it created for Air New Zealand called Edition One. Typically, local tourism guides are filled with bungee-jumping and bubbling mud, but this provided tips for premium economy and business class passengers and featured influencers like Karen Walker and Lucy Marr offering up their suggestions on the country's best restaurants, hotels and activities.
It also worked with Telecom to create the now defunct Smart Network, an online hub that showcases the work of a bunch of creative Kiwis, created a clip for Nike's Night Track (see below) and has a number of booze brands from the Treasury Wine Estates stable on its roster.
Baylis says Peroni favours a model based around influencing and spends most of its marketing money on activations rather than above the line activity, so it creates a lot of events for the brand (the billboard campaign currently running in New Zealand is global creative). It also created the Scrumpy Cooltainer as part of the brand's Rhythm & Vines sponsorship, which gave festival attendees a cool place to store their beverages and handed out free Scrumpy t-shirts, with fans offered the chance to tailor a message that was printed while they waited (3,000 branded t-shirts were printed over a three day period, with demand out-stripping supply).
"We have clients who come to us and say 'the problem is ...', not 'we need an ad'," says Baylis. And going back to solving problems is really exciting, says Watkins.
At present the agency has just four staff, but it often works with and is the same building as interior design and architecture firm Material Creative, which also has four staff.
"When we talk to retail clients we don't talk about a press ad," says Baylis. "We talk about the retail environment."
Watkins admits its focus on doing things differently—and on doing a lot of the fun stuff like activations and experiences rather than the grunt work—means it doesn't have "too many boring clients". But Baylis points out that it also works with the FMA and Datacom. And one of the benefits of having a big network of contacts and "a focus on solving business problems" is that it's "not always working with marketers".
"We tend to deal with senior people who understand our approach and know where we're going," says Baylis. "The old networks get you in the door but we've got to show what we can do."
At the recent MPA sales conference, Mike Cunnington, former head of marketing at ANZ, said marketers and agencies often fail to understand the major drivers of the business they're working for and that is one of the reasons there are so few marketers at the top table. But because all three partners run business ventures of their own—Baylis with Simon Gault in Five Percent Limited, Watkins with the organisation of his own long-distance multi-sport event Red Bull Defiance ("it makes the Coast to Coast look like Round the Bays") and Simpkins with his own "top-notch banger" brand Mr Bones—Baylis says this "entrepreneurial structure" gives clients confidence.
"The fact that we are clients as well as an agency means they can see that we know what we're doing and we bring that to the table. I don't think many agencies can do that. We've got some serious battle scars."
Like many indies, the main protagonists all learnt their trade at the bigger agencies but now promote the fact that they're nothing like those big agencies and clients get to work with them directly, not with "some 24-year-old account director" who gets given the job after the business has been won.
That model is difficult to scale, of course, but they don't intend on having an army of creative people and they're definitely not grooming it for sale to a multinational.
"We're in it to build influential brands," Watkins says.