Harvey|Cameron lures a different kind of builder down south

It’s been a rough few years for Christchurch, but when we spoke with Harvey|Cameron’s managing director Neil Cameron for NZ Marketing magazine a few months back (see interview below), he said the agency had managed to come through relatively unscathed after moving out of the CBD and into its new Merivale offices just before the Earth shook. He also mentioned the fact that a few curious souls were being drawn to the area as a result of the city’s potential and now, with Iain Harvey pulling back from the business slightly, “brand builder” Cam Murchison has added his name to that list of imports to become managing partner.

Murchison has 16 years’ experience in advertising and marketing, including three years managing his own marketing company, and has built his career working with some of New Zealand’s best known brands. As regional group account director for DDB, he had international responsibility for clients ExxonMobil and Volkswagen and managed clients in the local market, including McDonald’s, McCafe, Sky TV, Mobil, Mobil One, Tegel Foods, Clorox, Meridian Energy and Visique Optometrists. Recently, he has been business director at Ogilvy, with responsibility for Briscoes, Rebel Sport, Living & Giving, RaboPlus, Pharmacy Brands, BP, Wild Bean Café, Kimberly Clark and AA Insurance.

“To some people, a move to Christchurch at this time may seem a bit strange,” he says. “But we’re in the camp that says over the next ten years, Christchurch is going to be the most exciting business environment in the whole country. The opportunity to be part of that and join Harvey|Cameron as managing partner and work with Neil was irresistible. Over the years I’ve got to know Harvey|Cameron and, without doubt, they set the standard for advertising and design in the South, and their away game on the national front is as good as any of the best agencies in the country. Moving my young family from Auckland is certainly a big change, but we are looking forward to spending more time with the Canterbury side of the family. And the chance to enjoy southern attractions is a big drawcard too.” 

Cameron says Murchison’s energy and leadership style will add significantly as the business looks to the future. 

“His view of life fits perfectly with our guiding principles—first and foremost, to deliver competitive advantage for every client. We are all about better thinking, and making a positive difference. Harvey|Cameron has continued to evolve and develop since we bought the business from Saatchi & Saatchi 16 years ago. Today we are more focused, more capable and delivering better ideas for our clients than ever before. We are really excited about the rebuild of Christchurch and the active role we are playing in it. In our business, there is nothing better than delivering great work that works. Achieving that requires a lot of things to be right, but it starts with great people and we’re delighted Cam shares our vision and has accepted the challenge of working with as we continue to build our business and deliver even better work for our clients. The ‘creative business’ business is the best business in the world. We love it.”

Harvey|Cameron, which includes web company E2 Digital, is the South Island’s largest integrated advertising, web, design and media operation and employs 51 staff. And while Harvey has pulled back, Cameron says he’s “still there and still doing great things”. 

“I am sure he is enjoying his days more than ever,” he says. 

Gary Lee (MD, E2 Digital), Cam Murchison (Managing Partner, Harvey Cameron), Neil Cameron (MD, Harvey Cameron), Iain Harvey (Director, Harvey Cameron), Neil Clitheroe (Creative Director, Harvey Cameron)

Extra! Extra! 

Harvey|Cameron was spared the worst of the quake due to a fortuitous office move, but, as Neil Cameron said in the July/August edition of NZ Marketing magazine, things are still far from normal.  

On the office: “We had an exceptional year last year. It’ll be interesting to see what happens this year. It still looks pretty good for us. And that’s due to combination of a whole lot of things. The fact that we were in the new building was extraordinary. We had virtually no downtime, and the old place is tarmac. The five other locations we looked at for the new office are either gone or in the process of coming down. It was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever experienced … The office was a sanctuary. It was unique. Every other agency was in the red zone. We moved out of town and everyone thought we were potty, but as it transpires it was the best thing we ever did. A lot of the smaller agencies just got crushed and have taken a bit of a pasting.”

On staff:“Iain [Harvey’s] still there. He still loves what he’s doing and he’s in really good form. And he’ll stay on as long as that’s the case. He’s just done a full rebrand of Gough Group and launched Cat trucks … I’ve worked with Neil Clitheroe from day one and he’s the unsung hero. He’s so humble, you never hear his name, but his wife and writing partner Karine are unbelievable. They’re the engine … The success of Gary Lee and E2 digital and merging that business with Harvey|Cameron is what we’ve always dreamed of and there’s been a lot of cross pollination … My plan this year is that the staff are recognised for the beautiful work they do. We’ve always been very low key and up until now we’ve been too busy with the earthquake. The pure logistics of keeping things happening means we haven’t been able to look at our own work. But this is one year where the staff deserve a bit more recognition.” 

On recruiting: “Finding people is challenging. In the past when we’ve advertised for jobs in Auckland, you’d often get three or four wanting to come down for the lifestyle. But that’s not the case any more.”

On clients: “There are one or two clients that will move to Auckland, which is a bummer for us, but that’s life. I think the bulk of their business is in that area so it’s trying to get the numbers of staff they need and they’re struggling. But Enable Networks, the high-speed broadband network, appointed us on the day before Christmas. We’ve got SpanBuild group, Versatile, Interflora, Hanmer Springs, Meridian, Skellerup, Tait, AMI, Canterbury Rugby and Hertz, which we’ve had for over 20 years. The place has got a really good spread. And that was always the plan: to build it up to a point where we weren’t reliant on one company.”

On normal: “Everybody in our office, if you ask them if things are getting back to normal, they’d say no, because there could be a big shake tomorrow. So it’s a very unusual existence. Nothing is surprising. Nothing’s normal. If you said ‘tomorrow I’m going to dye my hair purple and grow a big handlebar moustache’ I’d go ‘excellent’, because there are no rules and the earthquake has made people evaluate everything; life in total. It’s been pretty intense … But I reckon we’re in terrific spirits. I walked in the other day and it was the best it’s ever felt. I think we’ve created a really nice environment, got some really nice, capable people and we’re getting the results and that’s a real lift for them.”

On uncertainty: “No-one knows what’s going to happen in the city and that’s the biggest challenge for us. Businesses don’t like uncertainty so we’ve tried to create certainty and just keep delivering. Clients love coming in to the office, there’s a restaurant downstairs, you can get a nice coffee upstairs—and coffee in this town is a real treat— and we’ve got parking, which again, it’s crazy, but in Merivale you can’t get a park now. We’ve worked really hard to make it a part of their lives that’s as normal as possible. So life goes on.” 

On engineers: “I was up in Auckland recently and it was the first time I’d been to a real restaurant for a long time. I was sitting in an old building, which you wouldn’t do here. Christchurch people, they’re all engineers now. They always do quick check of the construction.”

On support: “I sit on the CAANZ board as the South Island representative. And the day after the earthquake, pretty much everyone on the board sent me a note saying ‘anything you need, give me a call’. But we haven’t required it. It’s very nice to have the offers … We did the original Dan Carter campaign for Jockey and in October, Tim Wheeler, Jockey’s international president, rung me and said what Harvey|Cameron and Dan Carter had done for the company was really important to him, so he made a substantial donation to Canterbury junior rugby. It was a nice celebration of a great idea that started in 2004 and is still going strong. So that was stunning.”

On exporting: “RPB is a company based in Michigan that makes sand blasting helmets. We thought we’d be doing a brochure. But we just did a huge launch for them at the Indy cars in the US. They think the sun shines out of us. And we’ve got three referrals for similar businesses from that. It’s not L&P, but we’re very good at doing very good work and driving businesses. We still do Zinpro corporation in Minneapolis, which we won in 1997. They do animal vitamins and we do the work for 26 countries. And it’s all driven from here with a Skype call once a week.”

On luck: “I make no bones about it, I know how blessed we’ve been. So far we’ve gotten away not Scott-free, but close to it. And while we’re very thankful for the luck we’ve had, it’s not all luck. These guys have worked their guts out and that’s why the place has done so well. It never was easy. But easy is long gone now. There’s no easy.”

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