Holt swaps Wellington for Sydney, Esterhazy takes the Clemenger BBDO reins—UPDATED

After almost four years as managing director of Clemenger BBDO in Wellington, Andrew Holt has accepted the equivalent role at Clemenger BBDO Sydney, with Livia Esterhazy shifting from her role as managing partner at Assignment Group to replace him. 

Holt spent almost six years in Sydney with Saatchi & Saatchi and Lowe Hunt before moving to Colenso BBDO in 2009, where he spent around two years. He shifted to Wellington in late 2010 and, since then, the agency’s been in fine fettle.

In a profile in the March/April edition of NZ Marketing magazine, Holt said the agency’s financial performance had never been better, with ten percent year-on-year revenue growth across its top ten clients and 22 percent revenue growth in the past three years (he wouldn’t discuss specifics, but sources familiar with the agency’s finances said its revenue was between $10-15 million). Added to that, the headcount had increased by 17 percent on the past year. Not bad for an agency based in a ‘dying city’. 

Creatively, the work has been world class and it’s earned some big trophies from D&AD, Cannes, Spikes and many others during his tenure, with NZTA the jewel in the crown. It has also won a range of new business, like Education NZ, Wellington Phoneix, Cricket World Cup, Worksafe and ex M&C Saatchi clients Rabobank and NZ Police, as well as retaining some existing clients, such as Wellington Tourism. 

While the creative awards are obviously nice to win, he says the personal highlight of his tenure was winning the award for Wellington’s most creative business in the 2013 Gold Awards. Previous winners include Icebreaker and Kiwibank, and he says it was a great endorsement from the wider business community. 

“Wellington is a terrific place but it needs its champions and I’m proud we’ve always been one and will continue to be. That was a broad business category, not just advertising, and to be seen by our city in that light is something that I’m very proud of.” 

He’s looking forward to the shift across the Tasman to a bigger market and while there are a lot of challenges, he says Australia is doing some great work at the moment and Clemenger BBDO Sydney is renowned as one of the country’s best agencies. Plus, there are also some fairly obvious climatic benefits. 

“I think I’ll be blowing the cobwebs off my four-year old bottle of bronzing lotion,” he says. 

The management changes will be effective from the start of next year and he says it’s been a well-thought through transition process.  

Clemenger BBDO Sydney chief executive Andy Pontin says Holt’s “leadership and commitment to the creative product of Clemenger BBDO Wellington has been fantastic and we look forward to this same passion around the work in Sydney”. 

Jim Moser, chief executive of Clemenger Group in New Zealand and recently appointed chair of Clemenger BBDO Melbourne (he will divide his time between Auckland and Melbourne), says Holt has done a fantastic job and Esterhazy is a great replacement (Assignment Group’s Martin Yeoman says there’s nothing to announce yet on a replacement, but “plans are taking shape” and recent appointment Aimee McCammon, ex general manager of Trade Me, will assume Esterhazy’s responsibilities while it plans for the longer term). 

“Livia has been a formidable competitor in Wellington, so it’s brilliant that she is joining our agency in Wellington,” says Moser.  

In another shift, Sean Keaney, currently Clemenger BBDO’s client services director, will become general manager.  

These changes add to some other big ones from Clemenger BBDO’s Melbourne office that saw the long-serving Peter Biggs step down recently and head back to New Zealand after 15 years with the Clemenger Group. 

“Peter was managing director of our Wellington agency for seven years and did an outstanding job, helping to make us number one in the tough Wellington market,” said executive chairman Robert Morgan in a release. “Then in 2006 he agreed to come to Clemenger BBDO Melbourne as managing director. For the last eight years we have gone from strength to strength in Melbourne. With his creative partner, James McGrath, and an outstanding management team, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne has built a global reputation as one of the best agencies in the world. Peter has played a central role in this success and we are extremely grateful for his contribution to the agency. Peter is a big personality and will be greatly missed, but we understand his desire to ‘go home’ to pursue the next stage of his life and his many other interests. He will consult to the agency until the end of the year.” 

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