Power of rhyme used as Keats beats neat OMD retreat

Nigel Keats, managing director at OMD Wellington, is one of the country’s most respected media men. And after more than 20 years in the business and a slew of awards on the mantelpiece, he’s decided it’s time for something new.

Despite plenty of speculation, Keats says his departure from OMD is “totally unrelated” to Matt Bale’s recent resignation. And it had nothing to do with job dissatisfaction either.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I’ve been with OMD since it started [in 2007 when three media agencies came under the OMD NZ umbrella]and I was with Clemenger for 19 years before that. Basically, my whole career has been in the media and I’ve achieved a lot, or all, of what I’ve wanted to achieve. We’ve got a great team doing great work and the business is in great shape. So it was a question of whether I spend the rest of my career doing more of the same, or whether I go and do something new.”

When Keats says the business is in great shape, he is, of course, talking about his beat, OMD Wellington, which has a “very big market share in the city” and is the biggest operation by a long way. There’s been plenty of talk around the industry traps about OMD Auckland’s recent struggles, with a few big clients going south and, within the wider Omnicom Media Group (OMG), M2M recently shutting up shop and Total Media seemingly just hanging on.

In fact, the word ‘disarray’ has been used more than once. So are these current issues a result of too much emphasis on price, margins and ballbreakers cutting deals and not enough emphasis on strategy?

“All parts of the business are important. You can’t just do one or the other. There’s no point being just a trader, or being good at strategy or good at service,” he says.

Of course, media is an ever changing landscape, and, looking at things more holistically, he says the development of media owners, trading research and the rise of the digital realm are all things that have helped maintain his interest in and passion for the profession over the years.

“As much as media has been my whole career, I’ve always stuck with it because no two days are the same,” he says. “It will always be an evolving industry.”

Keats’ departure means there are now two pretty big holes in the OMD Wellington ranks, but he’s confident Matt McNeil, who worked for Clemenger from 2001-2007 before taking up a role with Mediacom in the UK working with two big banks, will be a fine replacement for Bale. McNeil starts next month and, because he knows the Kiwi market, as well as many of the staff, Keats believes he’ll slide in pretty easily.

No word yet on who will be replacing Keats, however. And despite a long time in what is an extremely tough industry, he has no plans to take any time off because his new enterprise set to go live at the start of next year.

“It’s not just a new business. It’s a new field. So it won’t be happening overnight.”

Not surprisingly, this new venture, which he says is “loosely related to advertising”, is still shrouded in secrecy and mystery. But he certainly makes it sound fairly intriguing. It’s “not the normal kind” of strategic consultancy style business that many experienced campaigners departing the big shops tend to set up.

“I’m going to start a business. I’m not giving too much away at the moment… It’s a new thing. But it’s not a business that currently exists in New Zealand.

Whether this is another case of the ‘new, different and exciting’ disease that regularly afflicts the marcomms industry is yet to be seen. But with Keats’ experience and media mana, it seems unlikely he’ll put on any emperor’s new clothes.

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