Champagne broken on wall as Harvey|Cameron and E2 get serious

Five years ago Gary Lee, the founder of E2 Digital, and Neil Cameron, the managing director of Christchurch advertising agency Harvey|Cameron, had lunch. And what they talked about at that lunch—joining forces to create a fully integrated communications company—physically came to fruition earlier this week. 

The companies had worked together regularly for years and Harvey|Cameron took a controlling interest in E2 over a year ago. But in that time they worked 300 metres apart in the central city, so the shift to near new offices in Merivale (Cameron calls its the Parnell of Christchurch) now means the 40 staff are finally together under the same roof. It has also absorbed another small agency (that Cameron won’t name) and their client list and also works with fully-accredited independent media company Immediate, which is run by Sue McCrea and operates independently.

After the closure of Saatchi Christchurch, Cameron and Iain Harvey wanted to stay in the city and saw a future for the business here. And 14 years later, after adopting the good bits of a global network operation and losing the parts that didn’t work in this market, he says they were right.

“The big head office overhead contribution is something we and our clients don’t miss.”

There’s plenty of talk about the ‘new agency model’ at present, especially after Droga5 arrived on the New Zealand scene. Cameron has been around for a while and is fairly cynical about all the discussion of new and different ways of doing business (as Trinity P3 ‘pitch doctor’ Darren Woolley says, just saying your different doesn’t actually make you different). And after just a few days in the new digs, he says being able to offer a fully-integrated service is pretty bloody exciting. Added to that, he believes having all the various experts around the same table, rather than gathering together a collection of ‘best in breed’ agencies, is not only more efficient, it’s also much  cheaper.

As far as larger clients splitting their work into projects, he says that may be happening more in Auckland, but it’s much more conservative in the South Island and “not quite as cut-throat”. And, as many of the clients are mid-sized, he says Harvey|Cameron’s integrated indie offering is better suited to their needs.

“We have real grunt without the huge running costs of the networks. Many of our mid sized clients would find it hard to work long term in a big agency with the fees and charge-out rates.”

With current staff numbers, he believes it’s the South Island’s biggest advertising agency. But the definition of an advertising agency is changing, he says, which is why adding the digital skills to the offering is so crucial. For example, his first meeting this morning was with the e-commerce manager of Baby City, which Harvey Cameron does the traditional advertising for, and being able to offer clients both resources from one place is a huge benefit.

Despite losing the Jetstar account to Qantas’ agency M&C Saatchi in March this year, Cameron says it hasn’t really affected the company. In fact, with a range of new clients, he says it has grown by 20 percent in the last six months, something that was achieved “by working our freaking asses off”.

He says the vision of the company is to be able to offer a serious resource that can take care of the needs of local and international clients, like, for example, Minnesota based performance minerals company Zinpro, which has been on the books for 12 years (Harvey Cameron creates the marketing material for 20 countries). Sadly, to get to that point, Cameron says the supposedly relaxing southern lifestyle—and the two day weekend—had to go out the window during the Great Depression. But just like Warren Buffett, Cameron and the gang saw an opportunity to benefit. And while he says there’s still some way to go in terms of the financial side of things, he thinks the hard work during this time, as well as the recent acquisitions, new clients and a sparkly new office, puts it in a pretty good position.

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