Countdown ends creative partnership with Ogilvy, appoints Y&R NZ and Wellcom Group

After 20 years with Ogilvy & Mather, Countdown is taking a new creative direction with the appointment of Y&R NZ as its lead brand agency and Wellcom Group as the partner responsible for day-to-day advertising production.

The appointment of the new partners follows a pitch, which initially involved Ogilvy, Australian agency Red Jelly, and TBWA Auckland. After this, Countdown spoke separately to Y&R and another agency, before settling on its final decision.  

Countdown general manager of marketing Bridget Lamont says Countdown is looking forward to the creative firepower and strategic input of the Y&R NZ team to help build a strong Countdown brand over the next few years.

“The way customers are engaging with businesses like ours these days is very different to even just a few years ago, and we feel that the time is right to make a change and go into 2018 with some fresh thinking,” says Lamont.

“We’ve considered a number of options and have decided on a completely new way of working, with new support in place for creative and production which we think is an exciting move for Countdown.”

Until now, all three elements of Countdown’s account – branding, day-to-day production and media – have been managed by the Ogilvy team. This is now set to change with Lamont deciding to separate the disciplines.

“We want to work with a small group of agency partners with core competencies and expertise in clearly identified areas rather than operating with the ‘one-stop-shop’ approach,” says Lamont. “We think de-coupling our BAU retail advertising production work from the creative agency workload will give us the efficiencies we need in our unique, quick-fire environment, but it also means we’ll build a team of experts who are passionate about this type of retail work.”

This is also a major win for Wellcom Group in that it consolidates the company’s long-standing partnership with Woolworths in Australia. 

“We are very excited to have this opportunity to build a strong and productive partnership with Countdown,” says Andrew Sidwell, Wellcom Group chief executive for Australia and New Zealand. 

While there have been shifts on the creative and production side, Countdown will continue to work with Ogilvy on the media side of the business. 

“Our relationship with Ogilvy Media has gone from strength to strength in recent times and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with Greg [Partington], Rachel [Cormack], Kim [Leybourne] and the rest of the Ogilvy Media team,” says Lamont.

In related news, the source also says Countdown’s contract with Hypermedia Group is understood to have ended (Ben Partington, the son of Ogilvy managing director Greg Partington, runs this agency). The source says that at least some of the in-store activations previously done by Hypermedia have been taken in-house by Countdown.   

Despite holding onto the media account, the loss of creative and production will come as a major hit to Ogilvy given that Countdown is understood to have been one of the largest clients in the agency’s ledger.

The source reveals that there have already been a number of departures in the account service department at Ogilvy as the agency moves on from losing the Countdown retainer (StopPress has requested comment from Ogilvy regarding the number of redundancies). 

On the flip side, this win will serve as a major morale boost for the team at Y&R NZ, which has already celebrated a number of significant wins this year. In addition to picking up this account, Y&R NZ recently also won, TAB, the grocery and dairy sections of the Goodman Fielder account as well as the creative account for New Zealand supplements business Go Healthy.

Y&R CEO and chief creative officer Josh Moore says the agency’s reputation in the market has played a big role in winning the latest piece of business.

“As an agency, we have a reputation for work that demands attention and delivers sales,” Moore says. “We’re very pleased that this reputation has encouraged Countdown to appoint us as their new brand agency partner. Countdown is a major employer and makes significant contributions to communities across the country. They have a fantastic strategic direction and the ambition to be one of New Zealand’s most trusted and celebrated brands. We are very much looking forward to working with Bridget and the Countdown team and helping propel them into this space with our distinct approach.”

Ogilvy will continue to do some work on the account until the end of the year. Meanwhile, a source says that Y&R NZ will start working with the Countdown team this week. 

  • Correction: a few details of this story have been updated as more information has come to light. This includes the names of the agencies involved in the pitch, the reference to Countdown as Wellcom Group’s founding client in New Zealand and the official start date of the new agency relationships.       

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