Pierson swaps OMD for Open

​OMD's strategy director Jacquie Pierson has signed up as partner and shareholder in new media start-up Open alongside founder and ex Naked Communications partner Matt O'Sullivan. And she's certainly not mincing her words about the state of the local industry and the big media agencies that inhabit it.

"For me the biggest opportunity in this market is comms strategy. No-one's doing it properly in terms of looking at every element of a brand. Creative agencies come up a 30 second spot in this market, and media agencies come up with media plans. But the thing that got me with Matt is that he said 'everything communicates'. No-one's thinking about the bigger picture." 

And coming from the "much more advanced markets" of the UK and Australia where she says there are more smaller, dynamic media agencies, that's been her biggest challenge. 

"I think the big agencies in this market become a bit lazy and employ the traditional cookie cutter approach, which is so wrong," she says. 

She's spent the past seven years as a comms planner and while working in London at Mindshare, before moving to OMD Australia, she says the comms planner set the agenda, "even though we were sitting in media agencies". 

"The creative agencies work with you to bring that to life," she says. "But in this market the creative agency doesn't work with you. They expect you to be a media buyer." 

There has long been tension between creative and media agencies—and, in some cases, that seems to be creeping inside media agencies. So do they serve a purely administrative business function and should they stick to their trade-based knitting? Or, with the rise of social and digital, can media agencies steal some of the creative agencies' thunder? 

While Pierson obviously has fairly strong views about the role of media agencies, she says she was unable to implement any of her thinking at OMD, because while "the big agencies can shift their pieces around, they can't bulldoze their whole business and that has to happen". 

"Open is about developing comms strategy, which will inform creative, media, product and distribution and solve business problems. ​And what's really exciting about it is that we get to shape it. The thing with New Zealand and agencies is that they are big global machines and have certain ways of doing things. But Open can be anything depending on the market. We can mould our agency to suit and adapt to the fact that the way people are interacting with brands is changing all the time … What clients want from agencies is not what they're delivering." 

Being small, she says the agency can also bring people in if and when required. And, hence the name, it will also be open to working with other media and creative agencies. As evidenced by Naked/Open and Special Group's recent win at the Media Awards for Unitec's 'We Make the People who Make it' (and also DraftFCB's 'Easy As' for Mitre 10), having everyone in the room at the outset is often when the best work is created. But given her comments about the big, lumbering local media agencies, does she envisage any tension if they are required to work together? 

"Matt and I are open to working with anyone, so the [tension] definitely won't be coming from us. From a big agency perspective, will they want to work with us? To be honest, they'll have to collaborate, whether they like it or not."

She's confident about this assertion because Open is already working with most of Naked's old clients, like Ecostore, Gravity Coffee, Unitec, Jagermeister, The Owen Glenn foundation and new automotive and telco clients that are soon to be announced (it doesn't work with Coca-Cola because it's globally aligned to Naked and it has also finished working with Fonterra).

O'Sullivan says the agency's strength is around creative communications and comms strategy, rather than trading, so there shouldn't be any conflict and Pierson says it is keen to work with more local clients and brands that can implement and appreciate the work it does.  

She expects to start her new role on 1 July.  


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