Saatchi’s embarks on another staff search as Harrison packs his bags

There was jubilation in the Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand ranks when it signed up Dylan Harrison as executive creative director in January. Well, he’s off again, heading back to his old network and his native Australia after taking up the role of ECD at DDB Sydney.

It’s been a pretty rough ride for Nicky Bell since she took over as chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi NZ earlier this year. Some significant ‘restructuring’ was required and the winning of the Sanitarium account has been one of the few silver linings in a series of clouds, including the loss of Westpac to Colenso and DDB NZ’s recent retention of Cadbury in spite of international pressure to align with Saatchi’s.

“I’m naturally disappointed that Dylan has chosen not to continue the journey we began almost eight months ago but, in a funny way, with this first phase of the agency’s reinvention complete, now is probably the best time for him to go,” she says. “It’s no secret it’s been a challenging first few months. We had some of the toughest briefs in the business to crack and were under some pretty intense pressure at times. But the agency has really come into its own during this period and, as a result, we now have a tight, cohesive team, a positive spirit and a raft of great work in production for our brands.”

She says the agency knows “our clients, our people and our community” more intimately now, and the search for a new creative head for the next phase of the agency’s evolution will be informed by that. Harrison is sticking around until the end of the year to finish off the large load of work in production and, as for his replacement, Bell told the NBR she thought the recruitment process would be easier second time round because she knows the New Zealand landscape, the clients and the staff much better now.

Harrison, who grew up in Melbourne, tried his hand at stand up comedy, studied law and commerce, fled a respectable legal career for the London advertising scene, worked at DDB London for ten years and has picked up a host of awards for the likes of Volkswagen, Marmite, Budweiser and the Guardian in his time, said the decision to leave Auckland was the most difficult he’s ever had to make. But the opportunity to return to Sydney with his young family was irresistible and he leaves confident in the positive momentum that’s been established at Saatchi’s since he began.

Harrison had some pretty big boots to fill, taking over from Mike O’Sullivan, who packed it in and started up Droga5 New Zealand with Andrew Stone. Although, more than a few loose industry lips have mentioned the fact that the state the agency was in when they departed meant there was always going to be an element of ‘poisoned chalice’ for whoever took over.

Marty O’Halloran, chairman and chief executive of the Australia and New Zealand arms of DDB, says an international search was undertaken to find the right candidate and he is certain they’ve found the best talent in the market.

“He gets we’re in the business of applied creativity, all the international awards he’s won have been solving the real issues that keep our clients awake at night. Dylan and Chris [Chris Brown, DDB Group Sydney’s managing director] will be a great partnership.”

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