After an eight-year partnership, Spark has parted ways with its direct marketing agency Rapp and appointed Clemenger-owned Proximity to the account "following a review of agency requirements".
"It’s tough, but that’s business," said Rapp managing director Robert Limb in a release.
"Spark is at the beginning of a journey to improve its technology and data capability, so now’s a good time for us to take a break in our relationship, while they get on with that work."
But it isn't all bad news for Rapp, with Limb pointing out that agency aims to use the skills developed while working with Spark on new pieces of business.
"Rapp is focussed on the future with some significant wins, including taking on new projects for Air New Zealand and Westpac in the past two months. Our team is pleased to be able to draw on the tremendous learning and insight gained through the Spark rebrand project, to really rip into these exciting new projects.”
The Air New Zealand Airpoints business was recently reviewed and it seems likely that the Rapp team is referring to this account. However, StopPress is still waiting for confirmation as to whether Rapp has won the account.
(Update: Air New Zealand Airpoints has appointed Rapp as its new account holder following a competitive pitch, and the agency has been working with the loyalty organisation since 1 April).
In taking over the Spark direct account, Proximity will now work alongside Spark's digital agency Touchcast (also owned by Clemenger) to bring fruition to a new strategy, which the telco's general manager of customer and capability Summer Ormond says will re-imagine the customer experience by bringing digital and data closer together.
"We have for some time been shifting our focus to digital channels, but with the brand change embedded it’s time to take the next step," says Ormond. "This means using digital technology to totally re-imagine the customer experience we offer – an experience that should be both effortless and inspiring. This new focus will require a more joined up digital and data solution to work with internal technology teams, and so has led us to review our supplier mix. The combined capabilities of Proximity and Touchcast will allow Spark to harness the power of data and digital in truly innovative and agile ways.”
Over the past three years, Proximity has invested significantly in new talent, hiring Wayne Pick as executive creative director from Rapp New York, Gavin Becker as the head of digital innovation and technology from Twitter, and most recently Amy Phillips from CHE Proximity. And Amy Phillips, the head of direct and CRM at Proximity, believes that this strong digital focus is well suited to taking on the challenge of the Spark account at a time when the communications sector has been disrupted significantly by digital technology.
“Spark is on an incredibly exciting customer inspired journey," says Phillips. "It’s innovative and bold and so are we. We’ve been working hard to build the best digital direct and CRM agency in New Zealand so we’re thrilled to be able to continue this momentum with Spark.”
In other Spark news, StopPress recently reported that ASB general manager of marketing Ana Curzon would be joining Spark, and the telco has now appointment as general manager of digital first, a position that will see her "leading a new strategic programme announced by Spark New Zealand in January 2015 to centrally architect and accelerate the ongoing delivery of the digital transformation of their business through an 'outside-in' customer focus adopting disruptive digital mind-sets and action".
StopPress earlier ran this role description through a jargon-enigma processor, but we are still waiting for confirmation of what this actually means. Fortunately, a statement from Rod Snodgrass, the chief executive of Spark Ventures, clarifies things to some degree.
"The aim of [the] digital first [role] is to continue Spark New Zealand’s transformation journey and accelerate that by driving customer obsessed digital thinking to re-imagine the business model and deliver amazing customer experiences," says Snodgrass. "Ultimately, we have to remove friction, shift to digital and drive digital adoption to radically improve customer experiences, rapidly improve business outcomes and importantly be the place digital talent wants to work in New Zealand. If we can do this, then we will deliver on our vision of being New Zealand's leading digital services platform delivering rich, relevant and required digital services to New Zealand consumer and businesses."
And Snodgrass goes on to say that Curzon wasn't only selected because of her track record.
"Having someone like Anna with digital, customer and operational experience is critical. Beyond that we wanted someone from outside our industry as we knew we needed someone who will question the way we do things and indeed challenge everything as we know we need to change the game."
Curzon will start her new position on 18 May.