DDB and SparkPHD sworn in as Auckland Council’s lead agencies

After a five month pitch process, DDB and Spark PHD have been named as lead creative and media agencies for Auckland Council, beating out .99 and the incumbent Ogilvy & Mather. But Council has yet to decide which agencies will be handling its digital and arts and culture accounts. 

Head of brand and channel at Auckland Council Sophie Bostwick didn’t want to comment on the decision, but a Council spokesperson sent through a statement confirming the appointment. 

“Following an open market procurement process, Auckland Council has appointed DDB New Zealand Limited as its new lead creative and media agency, effective 1 October 2014, and expects to appoint a second agency to support arts and culture communications shortly. A final appointment is expected to be made in early 2015 following an open proposal process. The council is looking to build key strategic partnerships to maximise the effectiveness of its communications and engagement activities and continue to deliver value for money to Aucklanders.”

DDB chief executive Justin Mowday says that as an Aucklander (via Bluff) running an Auckland-based agency, it’s pretty exiting to be working with Council to achieve its vision of becoming the world’s most liveable city.

“It’s a real tangible thing that the Council are striving for.”

Auckland Council held a fairly controversial tender back in 2011 as the various councils from across the region were brought together under the Super City umbrella. Not surprisingly, it needed a fair bit of help from outside partners to make sure it all worked, but that obviously came at significant cost, so since then it has created its own in-house production studio that employs 11 people. 

Mowday says DDB’s main role will be to partner with Council on big strategic and creative projects that require significant community engagement (for example, the comms around the Unitary Plan). He wouldn’t comment on how much the account is now worth to the agency or how it will be paid, but because much of the production work has gone inhouse and because it split the accounts up (see below for the Council’s rationale on that), one source who didn’t want to be named suggested it has halved in terms of value and remuneration is now based on project fees rather than a retainer. And for an entity that comes under plenty of scrutiny for how it spends its money, it makes sense to link those payments to actual work done.

Mowday wasn’t a fan of the last pitch process, but he says this one was brilliantly run and he reckons he’d be saying that even if he lost.

“The tasks were very clear, they delivered on the dates. It was very fair and equitable.”

Ogilvy & Mather has built a big retail and production machine that is capable of handling a huge amount of work. But Mowday says DDB is also pretty well set up in that regard, with significant retail capability gained through work with clients like The Warehouse, Mobil and McDonald’s.

He says DDB, like most agencies, doesn’t have a huge amount of capacity among its existing staff, so it will be looking at recruiting some more as a result of this win and it will also move some existing staff around.

The Auckland Council was thought to be Ogilvy & Mather’s single biggest client, so it’s a big loss, but chief executive Paul Manning was unable to be contacted to confirm rumours of redundancies. 

In 2011, when the last review was undertaken, Ogilvy beat out strong competition from DDB and Colenso BBDO/.99 to keep the account on its books. Prior to this, the account was held by Metromedia—founded by Manning—from 2000 until the agency merged with Ogilvy in 2007.  

According to Nielsen’s AIS rate card statistics, Auckland Council spent $7.3 million on advertising in 2011, $6.1 million in 2012 and $7.2 miliion last year.

Here’s what Auckland Council’s Mark Hanson told us about the pitch back in July.

StopPress: Why did Council decide to split the account into three disparate accounts?

Mark Hanson: Council’s approach to this strategic procurement aims to secure the optimal mix of vendors to support council’s communication and engagement with Aucklanders. There is an ever greater focus on engaging in a two-way dialogue with our customers, citizens, residents and visitors in support of good decision-making as we create the world’s most liveable city. Likewise, digital channels continue to grow in importance as an effective and accessible means for engaging with our diverse communities.

SP: What will each of the three accounts include? Will there be an equal split in spend between the three accounts?

MH: Council has not yet decided how many contracts will result from this procurement except that there will be a minimum of two. It is expected that new appointments will commence from 1 October 2014.

SP: Given that split means that Council might not spend as much with a single agency, this might preclude Council from qualifying for high-spend discounts. Does this mean that rate payers are not getting quite as much bang for their buck?  

MH: Council’s consistent approach to all procurements is to ensure that contracts deliver value for money for Aucklanders. No further comment can be provided while the confidential process is underway.
SP: How will you ensure uniformity across the board if different agencies hold each of the accounts?

MH: However, like many other organisations who choose to work with more than one agency to meet their needs, quality control measures will be in place at council to support consistency of communications. No further comment can be provided while the confidential process is underway.

  • This story originally stated Auckland Council’s in-house production studio employed over 20 people. But it employs 11. 

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