Kiwibank signals strategic shift as it ends agency-of-record partnership with Assignment Group

Kiwibank is embracing the changes taking place across the industry as it takes its lead creative agency off retainer from 1 August.

This is according to Kiwibank general manager of marketing and communications Regan Savage, who says the shift is necessary at a time when it has become increasingly difficult to rely on a single provider to deliver across all available channels. 

Savage emphasises the point that Kiwibank is changing its model rather than its agency and that it will continue to work with Assignment in the future.

“Assignment has been our agency-of-record for about the last four years and we’re really proud of the work we’ve done with them and that will continue on certain jobs,” he says.   

“The objective for Kiwibank is to ensure that we continue to have complete freedom to bring to the table the very best partner for the job at hand.”

This will sometimes include Assignment, but it could also mean the introduction of a number of other partners with specialist skills.    

This move has parallels with a few shifts happening elsewhere in the industry: BNZ took Colenso BBDO off retainer last year; ASB recently ended its partnership with Saatchi & Saatchi and subsequently appointed digital shop With Collective; and Frucor and AMP have been working with Many Minds on a project basis.

Savage says the growing trend of polygamy among clients is by no means unique to the local market.      

“I was fortunate enough to recently attend the Cannes Festival of Creativity and everything I heard and saw suggests that isn’t only a New Zealand issue.”

This move has been some time in the making for Kiwibank, which has already been working with a number of different partners over the last 12 months.

Savage lists OMD, EightyOne, Springload and Affinity ID as other partners the bank has worked with over the last year, and adds that it might be willing to cast the net even further if necessary.

Just how far the bank is willing to cast its net can be seen in its single biggest creative investment of the last two years in the TV show Mind over Money (produced by Ruckus Media).

“This is a sign of the times,” Savage says.

One potential criticism of the polygamous approach recently voiced to StopPress by an agency executive is that if you’re going to work with a number of partners, then you’d better be a damn good marketer if you’re going to keep the brand messaging cohesive.

Savage responds to this by saying that the team wouldn’t be doing this if he wasn’t certain they could.

“I would also flip that around and say that if an agency promises to do everything, then it had better do a damn good job across every channel.”

Savage elaborates further on this point by challenging the concept of a full-service agency in 2017, arguing that it has become incredibly difficult for an agency—regardless of how big it might be—to deliver high-quality work across all the available channels.

“Perhaps, in a few years, we’ll come back to the full-service model but right now it’s more about securing specialist partners,” he says. 

And he isn’t alone in this belief. In a recent survey for the Agency Perceptions issue of NZ Marketing, one of the primary frustrations on the part of marketers was an agency partner’s insistence that it was a full-service shop when it clearly couldn’t deliver on all fronts.

In the context of today’s complex media landscape, marketers are within their rights to find the partners that best suit their needs for a given task. 

This is part of the reason why Assignment Group chief executive Peter Biggs was pragmatic when asked for his thoughts on Kiwibank working with a number of partners.

Biggs says the agency exists only to service its clients and that it needs to stay in tune with their evolving needs.   

“If this is what they want to do, then we will support them and continue to do the best work we can for them,” Biggs says.

“We embrace change and go with it, and we just look forward to doing more great work with Kiwibank in the future.”

Kiwibank is set to roll out a major campaign via Assignment Group in the coming months.     

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