UPDATE: Auckland Council confirms Clemenger Group, Federation and Ogilvy & Mather as its new partners

Following the report last week that Auckland Council had announced its panel of agencies, the government body has now released an official comment regarding the change.

Here’s the full statement from the communications arm at the council:

The Auckland Council Group has announced the agencies appointed to its new creative and media panel.
99/OMD (Clemenger Group), Federation, MBM and Ogilvy & Mather will provide their creative and media services to Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED). 
The council’s director of communication and engagement, Karl Ferguson, says the agency panel will deliver specialist work, such as behaviour change campaigns and increasing awareness and participation in local board elections.
“These agencies were selected to deliver strategic creative and media work to the Auckland Council Group following a thorough pitch process,” he says.
“We’ll be working with our new suppliers on the details around how the panel will operate once it formally commences, including how we select which agency best suits the needs of the projects we work on.” Mr Ferguson adds: “As well as this, the council will continue to meet many of the council’s creative needs through its in-house design studio.
council thanks DDB and Spark PHD for all the work and services they have provided in the last three years in partnership with us. However, we’re confident the agency panel will deliver on the range of benefits we’re seeking,” he says.
Every three years, the council is required to review its agency partnerships. As part of the council group’s ongoing efficiency drive, a panel of agencies was the preferred option due to the benefits it affords the council as a group.
Examples of work where the group would likely use these agencies would be the Auckland Council behaviour change campaigns for waste and increasing awareness and participation in the local body elections.
For Auckland Transport, the panel may help deliver behaviour change campaigns such as increasing public transport patronage, road safety or promoting new cycling infrastructure. The panel will also assist ATEED with consumer and industry-facing campaigns for domestic and international tourism and events, economic growth, skills and youth employment, trade shows and design initiatives.
“Auckland is a great place to live, with the Auckland Council Group providing and supporting hundreds of services and events across the region each year,” Mr Ferguson says.
“A big part of our role is to ensure Aucklanders know what we do and
why, of which creative design is a critical part of this. The creative panel will assist with special projects which will deliver on both Aucklanders’ information needs while achieving great value for money,” he says.
The agency panel will be operational from 1 July 2017 and each organisation will be joining the panel at the conclusion of their current contracts. By 1 October, all of the Auckland Council Group will be working with the panel. The agencies will sit on the panel for two years with a one-year right of renewal.

Previous story: published 26 May 2017

StopPress understands that the Auckland Council advertising pitch, which includes the Auckland Council, ATEED and Auckland Transport accounts, has been awarded to a collection of agencies.

Clemenger Group (which lodged a joint pitch with Colenso BBDO and 99), Ogilvy & Mather and independent Federation are thought to be in the process of finalising the details of their respective partnerships.

This result sees Clemenger Group, which previously worked on the ATEED account, emerge as the only incumbent to retain its partnership with the client.

DDB (lead), Goodfolk (digital) and Alt Group (design) previously worked with Auckland Council, Colenso and 99 worked on ATEED and Auckland Transport was serviced by Work Communications and JWT.

This result serves to reunite some old friends in Ogilvy & Mather, which worked with the council for many years prior to the departure of the account to DDB in 2014, and 99’s managing director Paul Manning, who was at Ogilvy & Mather for almost 10 years. 

In 2011, Ogilvy, with Manning as executive director, 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.

During the pitch process, various industry sources speculated that Auckland Council was looking to appoint a panel of agencies, similar to the All of Government panel introduced in 2013. 

At the time of publication, Auckland Council had not yet commented on the appointment of the agencies. This story will be updated should Council decide to comment at a later stage.      

Original story: published 13 April 2017

As is obligatory for government agencies, Auckland Council is reviewing its various partnerships with its agencies after three years.

Following the previous review in 2014, Auckland Council appointed DDB as its lead creative agency and PHD as its media agency, supported by Goodfolk (digital) and Alt Group (design).

For this year’s pitch, Auckland Council is, however, taking a slightly different approach to its strategy.

Until now, Auckland Council, ATEED and Auckland Transport have operated as three disparate arms, each with its own set of agency partners.

But this is set to change with Council instead introducing plans for a panel of creative, design and digital partners that can be called on to service any of these arms.

As a corollary, the agencies working with ATEED (Colenso BBDO and 99) and Auckland Transport (Work Communications and JWT) have also been required to go through the RFP process to qualify for inclusion on the panel.

As part of the RFP, agencies were asked to work on a hypothetical project involving the creation of single card to be used across all Auckland public services, including transport, pools and libraries.

The agencies were asked to design the card and develop a creative and media plan for the roll out in a bid to show Auckland Council the extent of their capabilities.  

Given the size of the account, it has attracted interest from a number of agencies.   

One source revealed to StopPress that the shortlist of applicants happens to be “more of a long list”, which is thought to include DDB, Ogilvy & Mather, Clemenger (a joint application by Colenso and 99) and Work Communications, among others. FCB is not thought to be in the running. 

Auckland Council head of brand and channel Debbie Lowe explains the move toward a panel was made to make the Council’s size work in its favour and to deliver value for money for ratepayers, who aren’t backward in coming forward when it comes to Council’s spending.

“It was identified that setting up a panel of agencies to service the needs of Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and ATEED could bring about efficiencies,” Lowe says.

Auckland Council is a relatively big spender, with one source estimating overall spend to be in the vicinity of $40 million per annum across all three arms. Like many big organisations, Council has, however, reduced its agency spend in recent years by taking some of its work in-house, and executives will hope to further cut down the overall figure with the latest change.      

The idea is that rather than having a single creative agency to work on an account, Council will be able to tap into the services of the suitable (or, perhaps, most affordable) partner when necessary.

One source, who preferred to remain anonymous, compared this approach to the All of Government panel introduced in 2013, which led to the appointment of a panel of 37 services providers. (as one of the agency heads said rather poetically at the time: ‘What the fuck?’)

During the launch of this panel, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment openly admitted that the new approach was driven by the desire to reduce costs.

At the time, MBIE anticipated that the introduction of the panel would lead to a ten percent reduction of the total advertising bill.   

Similarly to the All of Government application process, agencies interested in working with Auckland Council were asked for a rate card breakdown of how much they charged for their services – and this will no doubt influence which agencies decision makers decide to work with.       

Cost over strategy?

While the panel scheme might make fiscal sense in theory (at least to Auckland Council), several industry sources have expressed concern about how it might be put into practice.

Auckland Council has until now appointed a lead brand agency to guide its strategic direction, but it’s unclear how these responsibilities will be divided across the panel.   

“It’s all good if you’re a bean counter trying to save money, but not so much if you’re trying to develop a strategic voice to drive change in a major city,” one source says.

The source says the approach is largely cost-driven and anticipates it might lead to Auckland Council squeezing the margins on agency work by pitting providers’ prices against each other.

It’s plausible that providers may be required to pitch against each other for bigger projects, leading to costs being pushed down for Council, but this means agencies will also have to carry the cost and inefficiency of pitching for each project, further reducing the profitability of the partnership.

“There is a risk that agencies might become fatigued with having to pitch so much,” the source says.

Asked whether the agencies on the panel would be required to pitch for all major projects, Lowe wouldn’t comment.

“Due to the fact that we are still in a procurement process, we are not in a position to answer any specific questions about how the panel of agencies will work until this process is completed,” she says.

“As a group, we believe there will be strong strategic benefits that we can all derive from this new arrangement.”

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