Blessing in disguise
Saying goodbye to Harrison, who left for a role at DDB in Sydney, was also a big blow, because, as Streets says, “senior leadership breeds confidence in the culture”.
“But what was so fantastic about that time was how supportive the clients were,” Bell says. “We’d got to know them just enough and we’d put customised teams together for them and they were very good about it. I personally met with them all and overwhelmingly they said ‘we like what you’re doing so far, so we trust you’ll choose well for us’.”
And in some ways it was for the best, because she believes Navas “is the ECD that Saatchi New Zealand should have” and he has had a huge influence on what’s happening with the agency—and with the bunch of 100 or so “like-minded misfits” working there (“north of ten” will be joining as a result of the ASB win). In her opinion, he has a different outlook, he has very good taste, he gives very clear feedback, he has high integrity, he’s very much about inspiring people and he’s very calm and grown-up. And Streets agrees, saying he brings a maturity and expertise he hasn’t seen before at Saatchis.
“It’s really impressive. His perspective is global so he hopefully brings a bit of the best of the world into New Zealand. But what I love about him is that he’s from an unlikely source. He’s not your classic Brit who’s come out here for the lifestyle. We looked the wrong way and went across the Pacific. So he has a very different set of cultural references. And again, that’s a different type of oxygen for the agency.”
As a kid growing up in Venezuela, Navas says New Zealand was always a mysterious and exotic place that “only existed in maps”. He says he doesn’t believe in coincidences, so he knew taking the job was the right thing to do when Bell, who he worked with at Ogilvy in New York, mentioned the job.
“We found our love for advertising and the creative process was exactly the same: to do great things and have fun in the process,” Navas says. “Nicky is an amazing leader and a great partner. She has a keen sense for business and the clients’ problems but also an amazing sense of humour.”
Bank on it
ASB obviously felt that way when it moved from Droga5 to Saatchi & Saatchi recently and, to the surprise of many, it happened without a pitch.
“I knew a little of Roger [Beaumont] and Barbara [Chapman] beforehand and had met them a couple of times,” Bell says. “We did a small credentials meeting and we talked about the kind of things we wanted to do as an agency and they took a very fast decision to appoint us.”
ASB’s chief executive Barbara Chapman has openly discussed her concern about the gender pay gap and the high level of male-only boards in New Zealand (at 65 percent it’s twice the rate of Australia). And Bell is “being as involved and supportive as possible” to try and change that.
In New York, she worked for Shelly Lazarus at Ogilvy and she was a huge inspiration for her because even though she regularly featured in the ‘most powerful’ lists, she was still very much herself, she had a very lively sense of humour and she was married with three children.
“I’ve had men and women supporting my career, but a lot of the speaking engagements I do are because I think it’s important to support, mentor and set a really good example for women. I was at a speaking event recently and I said ‘there’s a lot of senior women in the room today, so if you’re going home at six to see your children, can you just tell everyone that’s what you’re doing’. Times have changed. And some of the younger women in the industry are still not aware of how we do things. I regularly tell the men to go home and see their kids as well… But I hope in the future there’ll be a time when I don’t get phonecalls from people saying ‘we’ve got this speaking engagement with all these great CEOs and we’ve suddenly realised don’t have any women’.”
As for the future, Bell, who sits on the CAANZ and Kiwi Expats Abroad boards, hopes the agency can once again become internationally regarded and be seen as a flagship office in the network. But the main focus for her is sustainable growth, maintaining the culture and meeting existing and new clients’ needs—without breaking their people in the process.
As for Streets, he’s hoping the agency can earn a reputation for genuine creative thinking among clients, “from the relationship as a marketing advisor through to comms and strategic development and then ultimately the creative product”.
Both Bell and Navas say they’re loving life here in New Zealand—Bell with her twin six-year old girls and Australian husband, and Navas with his wife—and wouldn’t be anywhere else. And the old Saatchi campaigner Streets says it’s a really exciting time for him as well.
“I’m conscious that I’m the guy that’s hung on in there, but I’ve never been happier working here.”