Steve Kane farewells Y&R after a successful stint, buys into True

Y&R NZ’s managing director Steve Kane is departing after two and a half years in the role to become managing director and shareholder at fast-growing independent agency True.

Jono Key, who has been at Y&R since 2013 and is currently planning director, will take over from Kane as managing director at the end of the year and will continue his planning leadership role until a replacement is found. And over at True, Matt Dickinson will move up a rung to CEO.

Kane wouldn’t divulge the stake he’s taking in True and it’s not yet on the Companies Office, but he says “they’re proper good buggers and it’s a good agency”.

“I have known Matt and Peth [Craig Pethybridge] for many years and have been long impressed by their understated approach and entrepreneurial spirit. They’ve attracted a fabulous bunch of people around them and the agency has grown steadily whilst delivering first class work for clients both big and small, resulting in an unprecedented loyalty among their client partners and their people. The agency has a fantastic vibe and I’m dead excited about becoming part of the True family.”

He says he wouldn’t be going anywhere if the opportunity to take an equity stake hadn’t presented itself. In the network world, that’s not very common anymore, he says, so he’s looking forward to having some skin in the game. And he intimated he’d be happy to have a bit more freedom from the demands of working for a multinational agency.

When Kane was appointed after the departure of James Hurman there were some doubts expressed about his lack of management experience. He came from TBWA, where he was creative director, but he says it was his first real management role. Y&R has certainly performed well in his time at the helm and he says it has experienced growth in revenue, margin, staff numbers, international business and high-profile awards (it took out the 2015 Campaign Brief Agency of the Year award and won a whole heap of awards at this year’s Cannes Lions, largely for McWhopper).

“A huge part of that [success]was the partnership with Josh … And the management team here is fucking great. I’m hugely proud of what we’ve done. Everyone wants to go out on a high, and I couldn’t be higher. You can quote me on that.”

It has certainly been one of the most consistent, innovative agencies in this market over the past few years, with some very clever campaigns for Land Rover, Jaguar and Breast Cancer Cure/Lewis Road.  And that momentum has led to new business. Key says in a release that the second half of this year saw the agency pick up the local creative accounts for Jockey and Arnott’s Campbell, as well as being appointed to a regional creative roster for Kraft Heinz APAC. 

“These three new global brands were won without a pitch, which has enabled us get down to the business of working with our new partners on what will be some even more memorable work from the agency next year.”

CEO Josh Moore, who was recently given an expanded regional role when he was appointed as chief creative officer for Y&R Australasia, thanked Kane for his  “leadership, passion and often inappropriate contributions” during his time and said Key, who was one of his first hires almost four years ago when he was trying to rebuild the agency, is a natural successor.

Moore will stay in New Zealand, but he will be keeping an eye on the creative output of all the Y&R offices and help out on big pitches and campaigns across the region. 

In other Y&R news, it also recently appointed Tim Huse as creative director in Wellington. He comes from TBWA. 

As for True, it has also been on the rise in recent years, largely due to an increasing workload with Air New Zealand (and work with other big clients like Vodafone and ANZ). The agency has grown to over 40 staff and shifted to a new, bigger office this year.

Co-founder Matt Dickinson says he and fellow co-founder and ECD Craig Pethybridge have worked with Kane in the past, “so we know he’s a good egg”.

“He shares the values that True is built on: putting our people first and partnering with our clients to ensure we’re making the right work for the brand, the brief and the budget. True has undergone steady growth since we opened the doors and the time is right to bring someone else into the business that will help to deliver that personal touch, considered thinking and accountability at a senior level that our clients have come to value and expect.”

Pethybridge says he’s looking forward to Kane’s “many faceted and proven skill set contributing” to the next stage in True’s growth.

“Steve has this unique blend of strategy, creativity and business nous that I find strangely arousing. He gets all sides of an agency in a way few people do. I’m also really looking forward to comparing ‘Dad jokes’.”

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