Saatchi & Saatchi plays last NZ Post, as remaining contenders get ready to rumble

The call for entries for the NZ Post advertising tender went out late last year, as it does every three years. But, after a decade as the incumbent, Saatchi & Saatchi has confirmed it won’t be participating in the pitch process.

“We’ve had an excellent run over ten years, and we’re very proud of the work we’ve delivered. A highlight being the ‘Send and you shall receive’ campaign,” says Livia Esterhazy, general manager Wellington. “It’s well known that there are a large number of agencies providing services to NZ Post. Consolidation is a very necessary step and a big shift for the company.”

Saatchi & Saatchi’s contract officially ended in September and it was recently announced that the tender would be brought forward to January.

“We have some major client commitments and several other opportunities, including the 2011 Elections and Referendum campaigns that coincide with the process in January. We made a call that we believe is right for NZ Post, our other clients, and our own business. We are committed to delivering all of NZ Post’s campaigns until the business is successfully transitioned. We’re dedicated to working hard on these, and signing-off ten years of great work together on a very positive note.”

Given the agency’s well-publicised difficulties in 2010, most industry high rollers spoken to were very surprised to learn that Saatchi & Saatchi wasn’t interested in gunning for what one source called a “fucking massive piece of business”. Another anonymous mole heard the agency was told not to bother pitching and another said there has been some talk around the traps about whether staff trimming and what is thought to be a big project on the go for Telecom at Saatchi’s meant they didn’t have the resources to pitch for it anyway.

But Fiona Woolley, NZ Post’s manager of market engagement for targeted communications, wasn’t terribly surprised by the decision.

“When we spoke about it their thinking made a lot of sense. It’s been really good for a long time, something like ten or 12 years. And we’ve done some really good stuff together. But we’re doing a realignment and they’ve got some big projects on, so the timing was logical.”

NZ Post’s internal realignment, she says, includes changes at the executive level and with the prospect of new people in different areas she says it will inevitably lead to some relationship changes.

The NBR reported the account was worth around $6 million, but Woolley says even she won’t know much it’s worth until next week.

“I don’t know where that figure came from, but I don’t think it’s accurate,” she says.

While Woolley claims she would really, really love to say who’s involved, she can’t. And she would only say that a number of agencies have been shortlisted and “they are currently providing their credentials”.

“In early February we’ll shortlist it to the creative pitch stage,” she says.

Not surprisingly, plenty of others are speculating about which agencies have put their hands up.

DDB, M&C Saatchi, DraftFCB and and Clemenger BBDO are thought to be definites, with TBWA, justONE, Y&R and Ogilvy also thought to be sniffing around.

Of that lot, DraftFCB would probably be the favourite, as it’s done some great work for government clients recently and has shown that it can do the big social change type campaigns (like the National Depression Initiative’s ‘The Journal’) as well as the big brand campaigns (like Mini and Mitre10). The Posties are also thought to be looking for an agency that’s strong in Wellington, so Clems will be attractive.

AIM Proximity does NZ Post’s below-the-line work, and this is also being contested.

There are also a few other government pitches on at the moment, with work up for grabs on a consumer electricity switching campaign run by the Electric Authority and on the digital switchover set to take in 2013. These are relatively small pieces of work, but ACC, which is currently held by Clemenger BBDO, will also be up for grabs later this year.

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