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Global clout, local mindset. Ogilvy Network NZ appoints Kelly-Ann Maxwell as CEO

Such is this almost-post-Covid world that businesses and people are increasingly reassessing their futures. It’s a kind of state of uncertainty that’s resulting in constant and iterative change – change we are seeing come at pace in New Zealand’s Adland.

The spate of recent high-level moving and shakings at several global (and to a lesser degree) local advertising agencies, as well as the launch of new indie and international offerings speaks volumes to this current mindset. Both in terms of brands reassessing their business relationships and individuals their positions in the current market.

The latest big-name agency to jump on the change train is Ogilvy Network NZ – now headed up by a woman who is a strong believer that all change is good. “It’s about time this industry got a kick up the arse,” says CEO Kelly-Ann Maxwell (KAM for short) as we sit down for a wide-ranging interview on a wet and windy winters day in Auckland (clearly some things don’t change).

To put things in context, back in 2019 you will recall Ogilvy New Zealand rebranded to Stanley St following Greg Partington’s purchase of WPP AUNZ’s shares in the agency. The sale meant that Partington and Co. would take on Ogilvy’s existing local clients, while WPP could launch Ogilvy International to service international clients still linked to that brand.

Maxwell says that since then Ogilvy has been quietly getting on with servicing its global and local clients but that it’s now time to start driving the Network’s new global pillars locally.

The change comes after the recent departure of WPP AUNZ Business Director Mark Jenner, who was heading up Ogilvy International which comes under the umbrella of Ogilvy Australia. Although, the appointment of Maxwell as CEO of WPP NZ, Creative some 18 months ago – an almost non-entity as WPP as its own brand doesn’t have a presence in New Zealand – was a clear indication that the Group had bigger plans for its offerings in the country.

Maxwell joined the WPP stable back in November 2018 as CEO of Designworks following a move to the country from London where she headed up Tribal Worldwide in that city.

“Since taking up the role at WPP I’ve worked at building a more collaborate platform for our creative agencies to thrive. We moved everyone into one campus in Auckland, I’ve focused on ensuring we have strong and interesting talent coming into the group as the model leverages the best talent to meet our clients’ needs.”

It’s within this collaborative spirit that Ogilvy Network NZ will bring together the Ogilvy, Copper and Designworks brands under one leadership, which Maxwell says will drive the new pillars of Advertising, Brand and Content, Experience, PR and Health together into the local market.

“The time is right to connect the Ogilvy brand back into the local market and we have such exciting talent working together that this integrated network will give them a real opportunity to shine. Ogilvy is a phenomenal heritage brand and David Ogilvy believed anyone could dream big, but it takes someone very special to dream giant. Ogilvy Network NZ is ready to dream giant and I for one, am very excited about it,” says Maxwell.

A woman who likes to be taken at face value, Maxwell says that she holds her values strongly, and tries to live her life with honesty, integrity, and courage. And it’s going to take a lot of courage to make a success of her new role in a time when change and uncertainty is rife.

“I try to face every challenge with energy and optimism – and this new challenge will be no different. But I’m also a mum so sometimes my challenges present themselves as a three- or a six-year-old.

“Since arriving, I’ve been taken by how the size of the country means that individuals can actually make a difference here, I’ve never lived somewhere where I wasn’t just a tiny cog in societies’ wheel, here the innovative spirit appeals to me and I want to be someone that makes a difference.”

And while all agencies and networks promise difference and a client-centric approach, Maxwell says that she’s not going to let red-tape often associated with larger networks stand in the way of Ogilvy Network NZ being able to put clients first and being a serious disruptor in the current market.

“Businesses that truly function with clients first are nimbler, more agile in their approach and deliver talent to find the solutions regardless of their own operational complexity,” she adds.

The nature of this operating structure Maxwell likens to those of the new and established indies operating in New Zealand. Her biggest competitors she says: “All those brands who are unencumbered by complexity.

“They are nimble, make decisions on the ground and flex their business to suit the needs of their clients and changes in the market. They ask the client what they want and provide it versus agencies who tend to provide a service and tell the client why they need it. We are operating the network like an established start-up. Be agile, make decisions quickly and in the words of Ross Geller – PIVOT – when needed. There’s a Gen X reference for you,” she laughs.

Ultimately, Maxwell’s vision is to build a Network that enables growth. Growth she says must be driven by diverse and talented people.

“Ogilvy is focused on its people, the brand values, its talent and believes in creativity. I want to be part of an organisation that understands that profit only comes from believing in its talent.

“We’re very connected to the Australian team and with the Australian office winning Employee Choice of the Year, as the best place to work for many years running, we are going to harness and build that magic into our organisation. I’m very excited to be a part of putting the brand back on the map again in the country.”

A big believer in diversity of voice and talent Maxwell says that it’s important the work her Network produces is reflective of the cultures, voices and mindsets of the country.

“I’ve lived and worked in a fair number of countries and the New Zealand creative scene is massively under-estimated globally and when it shows up it’s so well received. So, I hope that I can firstly champion diversity of voice in the creative scene, starting with our own work and then be a part of sharing the unique creative voice that New Zealanders have across the world,” she says.

When asked which local clients the new Network will be looking after, Maxwell, as you’d expect from a well-versed agency CEO sidestepped well, saying: “Like all agencies we work with a huge volume of incredible clients and New Zealand Aotearoa brand icons.”

Without giving any specifics on this, she says Ogilvy Network NZ is actively pitching on local work, but that much of the existing clientele are shared across multiple agency brands. But hey, it’s all one Ogilvy now, right?

“We are continuously winning new clients across the Network and partnering with our current clients to produce beautiful and interesting work. We just need to maybe get better at shouting about it.

“Actions speak louder than words… so I’d rather you were watching our moves than hearing our voices.”

About Author

David Nothling-Demmer is Editorial Director - Business Titles at ICG Media. Titles include: StopPress, NZ Marketing magazine, Idealog and The Register.

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