Year in Review: Nicky Greville of Spark Foundry

Each year, StopPress asks players in the local industry for their reflections on the year that was. Brought to you by NZME, we’re shaking things up a bit by chatting to some of the biggest change makers of 2021. Those individuals who’ve made brave moves, impactful work and ultimately disrupted the market – because what was 2021 without a little disruption!

In September last year, Nicky Greville was appointed by Publicis Groupe to lead Spark Foundry in New Zealand, moving from her role as Client Services Director at MBM. Here, she talks lessons learned in business and marketing strategy in 2021, and what brands need to be doing better to engage customers of the future.

2021 was…

Beautifully chaotic!

A personal achievement I’m most proud of in 2021…

launching Publicis’ Spark Foundry together with our founding clients Westpac and building on that momentum quickly with four client wins in three months.  Most of this we achieved in lockdown, whilst we were building our stellar team. What a ride!

Why was 2021 the right time for you to make a move, and why Publicis’ Spark Foundry?  

After a fantastic couple of years working with the MBM team I had started discussions with the team about what was next. At the same time, I’d seen the momentum that Publicis’ Spark Foundry had around the globe, particularly in Australia, and had spent time working via our Publicis Groupe connections to get to know their HEAT planning process and analytics teams. I was hugely impressed with the strategic focus and market leading capabilities, so when the Publicis leadership team approached me (with the blessing of the wonderful MBM leadership team), it was an offer too good to be true.

What was your biggest taking/ lessons from your time at MBM? 

Our people are precious; by far and away, the biggest advantage any agency has lies in the incredible talent within our teams. MBM taught me so much about nurturing the community of talent that makes up an agency, with a particular focus on living and breathing shared values and celebrating diversity in thinking, skillsets and people. 

Of course, the timing of Covid-19 coinciding with much of my tenure with MBM also heavily influenced how we approach working today. We were lucky that Publicis Groupe had introduced our 100 percent flexible working approach, Liberté, just prior to the first lockdown hitting, which meant that we were set up for working from home. But on top of dealing with the dynamics of displaced teams, there were some critical lessons I swiftly learnt that have shaped how we launched Publicis’ Spark Foundry last year: Over-communicating with each other for the social connection as much as clarity of work, understanding and supporting each and every context that people were living with, and learning to present, generate energy and drive great culture in a virtual world. 

What was different about the way in which you approached business and marketing strategy in 2021?

Two things really stood out to me about 2021.

The first was the number of transformative conversations we were having with clients grew exponentially. Connected ecosystems, digital marketing maturity, data-based decisioning – you name it, we covered it. Perhaps it’s that I try to see the silver lining in amongst the volatility of the market and the undeniable impact on so many businesses, but the need to have connection between platforms and partners, coupled with robust measurement frameworks and distinctive and salient brand strategies is really exciting.

The second, was really simple. Short-term scenario planning rules for now. We still don’t know what the next curve ball is, nor when it will happen. So planning for flexibility in all facets of our business and our clients businesses, is crucial.

Marketers will have to reengage customers in 2022 given the way 2021 (against a Covid backdrop) has changed the way in which we interact with brands, buying and business – what do brands need to be doing better to engage future customers?

Even before the backdrop of Covid, I would have said that brands need to get better at translating brand strategies into how they behave and interact with their customers. There’s a lot of epic storytelling that comes out of our highly creative market in NZ; but it’s not enough to tell, there’s a lot of ‘do’ that’s missing for brands today and therefore a lot of missed opportunities with new momentum-building customer groups.  I think understanding the collision of brand personality, media platform, creative context and format engagement can drive more powerful MX or media experiences. When aligned to intuitive and fulfilling CX, there’s magic to be unlocked in driving growth.

In 2022 I’m looking forward to…

We have more of our world-class team arriving and I’m beside myself with excitement to work with them all! And of course we’re all excited and privileged to be working with our amazing client partners to produce some incredible media experiences.

Quick fire 10

  1. Favourite local campaign: That’s a hard one, NZ is spoilt for choice for amazing work. I’d say it’s a tie. Westpac, Together Greater because I love the distinction it has within the category and I love the meaning and intent behind the brand. And the amazing work out of Saatchi and Saatchi for International Women’s Day, Career Limiting, highlighting the motherhood penalty. An incredibly important topic executed in the most charming way.
  2. Least favourite campaign: Given the feat of just getting through the year, I think any work that went live was an achievement.
  3. Creative I wished I worked on in 2021: Anything to do with the NZ Police social account; genius, simple, topical and utterly engaging. And whilst not a campaign, I do need to shout out to the Betoota Advocate team out of Australia, their hilarity got me through some of the tougher moments.
  4. News story of the year: What didn’t happen last year?!  I’m going to roll with Publicis’ Spark Foundry launching for this one, surprise surprise!
  5. The most underreported news event/story of the year: The resilience of our industry and our people.
  6. Changemaker of 2021: Publicis Groupe: the momentum is tangible.
  7. Most impactful brand of 2021: Tied between Whittaker’s and Toyota for NZ. I can never go past Lego globally.
  8. A learning from lockdown: Overcommunication, supporting all contexts that people are working with, a new way of presenting and engaging with clients and embracing the curve ball. Oh, and having virtual meetings whilst building Lego castles, very, very important!
  9. 2021 trend I won’t miss in 2022: The use of the term ‘new normal’. 
  10. Most awkward video meeting moment: The entire MBM team singing the worlds’ worst rendition of happy birthday to me via zoom. Terrifying.

For more Year in Review 2021 brought to you by NZME, click here.

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