Auckland welcomes a new indie as Addis returns home to run Zoo

Kelly Addis has returned to the homeland after 14 years in Melbourne to open an Auckland branch of ad agency Zoo. And he’s confident its model—and its trans-Tasman knowledge—will make it an attractive proposition for New Zealand and Australian clients. 

Addis was chief executive of award-winning Melbourne agency The Boiler Room before taking on the role of partner with Zoo, and he says Melbourne’s been very good to him. But, in the three weeks he and his family have been in the country, so has Waiheke Island.

“It’s certainly a bit of a culture change from South Yarra.” 

He says the Zoo model is quite unique—and quite successful. He says it’s built a network of independent agencies, all operating under the main Zoo brand. Each agency has local ownership as well as a shareholding in the main company, so he says there’s a genuine desire to share resources and knowledge.

“Our motivation is driven by client requirements and not conflicted by different profit centres … I look forward to building the Zoo team with senior specialist people seeking to help create Australasia’s largest independent advertising network.” 

As for business, he says it will be kicking off with the digital account for a big client and it’s pitching for a big client that he says is probably one the country’s top ten spending advertisers. 

The Auckland office has ten staff and he says it is close to announcing the appointment of a senior creative director who has worked in New Zealand and all over the world and has won a host of Cannes Lions. And if it wins the business he mentioned, he says it will need to increase staff resource. 

Corporates tend to look for ‘efficiencies’ and often see New Zealand and Australia as one and the same, but the lack of focus on the subtle differences between the two markets means that policy can backfire. Addis agrees that subtleties are crucial, but he says more and more companies are looking for a trans-Tasman model, where there’s one idea with different executions.

He says he has significant experience launching New Zealand brands into the Australian market and he intends to seek out more hoping to do the same (or Australian companies hoping to launch here). He points to Contact Energy as an example of success as it’s gone from nothing to a $1 billion business since launching in Australia. But he says it’s crucial for companies that are accustomed to being incumbents in one market not to fall into The Warehouse trap and assume that will transfer across. It’s a big change in company culture to start thinking like a challenger again. 

Back in 2010, Addis was inducted into the Onehunga High Business School Hall of Fame. And a release explained some of his background.

He left Onehunga High in 1981 as a 15 year old, without any qualifications, with intentions of becoming a butcher’s apprentice. And he says he could still be chopping meat had it not been for his OE.

“I tripped off overseas, as you do, but when I came back in the mid-1980s there was little work. Someone suggested a bachelor of business studies so I shot off to Massey in Palmerston North. While at uni I surprised even myself by winning an Advertising Agencies Association scholarship and got an interview at Saatchi’s in Auckland. At the time Saatchi’s was a hot-bed of advertising creativity with the likes of Andrew Stone, Nick Bayliss and Cindy Mitchener all working there.”

He stayed at Saatchi’s for a year before moving on to various agencies and settling at McCarthy Moon, which won NBR’s agency of the year under $30m, in 1998, with its work on the Drake Recruitment account leading to the agency being invited to handle Drake’s global business.

Addis moved to Melbourne on the Drake account and soon after won the business for Telstra’s youth brand Communic8. He left McMoon to set up BoilerRoom in early 2001, which was named as the emerging agency of the year in 2004 by B&T magazine and as the country’s 25th fastest growing company in 2005 in Business Review Weekly’s Fast 100.

Addis sold the business to publicly-listed Commquest in 2007 but was able to buy it back almost two years later when Commquest—which was rebranded as d2 Digital—put BoilerRoom up for sale.

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