More than a few commentators have predicted closures or mergers in the indie sector this year following the trials and tribulations of the recession. And while Seven's managing partner and creative director Gideon Keith says the difficulties the industry faced last year certainly opened the door slightly to the possibility of a merger, the decision to join Strategy was based more on his desire to focus on his core creative skills, rather than the quintessential small business activities of crisis management, hunting for new business and making tea.
"I've personally been running [Seven] for 15 years and doing a bit of everything. So this gave me the opportunity to have the best of both worlds and focus on the studio," Keith says. "... It's a really comfortable fit and, as we've both got a design-led approach, there are cultural similarities."
Keith has been working with Strategy, which has offices in Christchurch, Sydney and Auckland and now has over 40 staff, under the new arrangement for around four months and so far he's enjoyed taking his hands off the business wheel a bit to concentrate on being the creative director again.
"The merger represents bigger opportunities for our clients," he says. "We now have access to a larger pool of creative and strategic talent, including Strategy's founder and international award-winning creative director, Guy Pask; one of New Zealand's leading strategists, Michael Prentice; and the day-to-day management experience of Martin O’Sullivan."
The Auckland team that was formerly Seven will remain in place, with O'Sullivan taking the role of managing partner. And Strategy's group managing partner Geoff Cranko says there won't be any job losses. In fact, things are going so well, he says they will be adding more staff to the Auckland branch soon.
He says Seven, which has done multi-disciplinary work for the likes of Ford, Yellow and Nescafe in the past, adds huge value to the Auckland office and to the Strategy network. And the merger has already proven to be a success with the new incarnation recently winning the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) graphic design account (M&C Saatchi won the advertising business).
Aside from the Christchurch earthquake, which took its toll on the Strategy offices, Cranko says Strategy has had a very good year, both creatively and financially, with the big brand campaign for Apex rentals finding favour with the fans and 11 awards, including five golds, picked up at the 2010 Best Awards. And, best of all, Cranko says those awards were won with work done for fee-paying clients.