Contagion sweeps through Tourism New Zealand offices

The unofficial word was out a while back that Dean and Bridget Taylor were heading back to New Zealand with some big plans. And now the official word is out: the couple have taken up the reins as directors of a new outfit called Contagion that will, from October, partner with Vivaki to lead the Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) business won by Razorfish in moderately interesting circumstances back in May.

Vivaki is the Publicis umbrella operation that oversees Starcom, ZenithOptimedia and Razorfish in New Zealand and Australia and the pair will be taking a strategic oversight role on the Tourism New Zealand business across all the global Razorfish campaign activity, working closely with TNZ’s creative partners Assignment and Hill & Knowlton.

Vivaki chairman Kevin Malloy told the NBR a few weeks back that getting Razorfish off the ground in New Zealand was a huge priority and, given the current client pressure to do so, it would only be a matter of time. He also said the rumour that the Taylors were to be tasked with setting it up was categorically untrue and that it was likely to be a boffin from inside the Razorfish network, not someone from another New Zealand agency who would take the helm.

Dean Taylor, however, says that for all intents and purposes Contagion, which has been pegged as a social media/digital company/consultancy, is now the New Zealand arm of Razorfish. And the official word is that it’s “backing into Razorfish globally on Tourism New Zealand” and bringing what he says has been an at-times disjointed digital approach “under a strategy banner”.

He is fairly outspoken about the lack of digital nous on display in the New Zealand market at present and he believes big agencies aren’t really too interested in the digital area.

“Chief executives and creative directors tend to delegate this area to the juniors in their agencies,” he says. “They are still holding out for the big TV ads, not writing strategy based around big engaging ideas and then considering the media … The existing digital specialists don’t seem to be big on ideas and the big agencies don’t seem to understand how to write strategy.”

The Taylors arrived in the country last week (after driving a Mustang down the West Coast of America) and, after speaking to clients and agencies in the New Zealand market, he says there was a big demand for the Contagion offering because there just isn’t enough senior resource going into this increasingly important area. There’s also a lack of talent, he says, and he believes using the current skill set to achieve digital goals is almost “like using wooden tweezers”.

“We need the right tools for the job,” he says.

Taylor, who has lectured on topics digital at the University of Auckland and in Singapore, left Saatchi & Saatchi NZ in early 2009 when he was transferred to Saatchi Singapore/Kuala Lumpur to replace John Foley, another ex-Saatchi New Zealand team member who moved Saatchi & Saatchi Australia as chief executive. Bridget Taylor was deputy creative director at DDB at the time and spent just under a year as creative director at BBDO/Proximity Singapore.

Now it’s just the two of them at Contagion, as well as their head of HR, their dog Dave. And, interestingly, they’ve also rented an office on the second floor of the Saatchi building in Parnell.

Once its house is in order, Taylor says Contagion will be looking for other work and, not surprisingly, overtures are welcome. And he says it will be watching with interest to see how the pair’s entry back into the market will be received.

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