Westpac moves $20m media account to new agency

Westpac has confirmed the appointment of a new agency for its multi million-dollar media account.

A rigorous pitching process has resulted in the bank handing the business to Publicis Groupe, which will be launching a new agency to handle the account.

In announcing the account win, Publicis Groupe chief executive Mike Rebelo confirmed the launch of Spark Foundry in the local market.

Spark Foundry is one of a number of media agencies operating in the international market under the Publicis banner.

Nicky Greville, previously client services director at MBM, will be moving within the Publicis Groupe to take the reins as the Spark Foundry general manager.

Rebelo said that the move would not have any impact on the continued operation of MBM and that he was committed to ensuring its continued success and growth in the local market.

The Publicis Groupe has made a number of big moves in the media space over the past few years, acquiring New Zealand independent agencies MBM and Affinity ID (now Digitas) in 2019.

Winning the Westpac account is confirmation that major clients like what they see happening on the media agency side of the business, but it will come with big responsibilities.

Media agencies are responsible for managing the strategy of where and when businesses place their ads.

Data from researcher Nielsen shows that Westpac spent $22 million placing advertising across various channels in 2020. This was up on the $20.68 million spent in 2019.

The loss of that account will be a huge blow for FCB Media, which has held the business for seven years.

FCB Media managing director Blair Alexander confirmed his disappointment at losing the account.

“We were told on Monday and it came as a complete surprise, given the excellent long-standing relationship and continuous strong scores during performance appraisals,” he told the Herald.

“We’ve held the account for seven years including retaining it in a competitive pitch less than two years ago.

“They are a fantastic team of people and we respect the decision to replicate and align with the Australian agency model. We wish them all the very best in their new partnership.”

Alexander said he was hoping to minimise the impact this will have on his team.

“While we are still working through what the change means for our business, we intend to re-deploy our talented team onto some new client and organic growth opportunities so the overall impact on the team will be minimal,” he said.

Asked why it was necessary to launch a new brand when the Publicis Groupe already has a number of other media agencies at its disposal, Rebelo said it was a strategic decision.

“As a group, we are continually identifying new opportunities to strengthen our portfolio of agency brands in NZ,” Rebelo said.

“Our goal is to maximise growth opportunities for our business and capture as much market share as possible. 
“We believe the time is right to launch Spark Foundry in NZ. The agency is a fast-growing global powerhouse, with a compelling proposition, strategic tools and unique capabilities which we believe are relevant to the NZ market.”

Westpac chief marketing officer Suraiya Phillimore-Smith said that the conclusion of the contract with FCB ultimately led to the decision to run a pitch.

“FCB had come for contract renewal so that just started the process,” Phillimore-Smith said.

“From our perspective, we’ve got a hugely constructive and positive relationship with FCB and the utmost respect for everything they’ve worked on.

Phillimore-Smith says she ran a “rigorous and closed” pitching process with a number of agencies.

“With Spark Foundry there was just a real alignment for us,” she said.

“We’re looking for that kind of challenger position. And Nicky, whom I’ve worked with before, has just come with a new strategic solution for us.

“It’s been a difficult decision for us to make, but a great decision in terms of where we want to go strategically.”

The Publicis advertising group currently has another banking client, with MBM serving as the media agency for TSB for a number of years.

Asked whether she was concerned about a potential conflict of interests given close proximity of another bank, Phillimore-Smith said she wasn’t concerned at all.

“Those are absolutely discussions we’ve already had. TSB is with MBM and Spark Foundry is completely separate from them. We’ve gone through the process and we’re confident there are no issues with that whatsoever.”

Westpac recently released one of the most talked-about advertising campaigns of the year with the launch of a TV ad by creative agency DDB that featured a friendly monster helping a girl build an epic treehouse in the forest.

It is the single biggest investment Westpac has made in its brand in the local market for more than a decade.

“We’ve turned up with a differentiated platform – ‘Together, Greater’ – and what we were really asking for is a partner that could help us show up in the market differently. And media is one of those critical partnerships that really enables us to demonstrate what we’re trying to say to our customers.”

Greville sees an opportunity in delivering a similarly creative approach to how media is used through the life of the campaign.

“The vision we have for Australia and New Zealand is fuelling famously effective ideas,” says Greville.

“Let’s be blunt, it can’t be art for art’s sake. It absolutely has to be rigour-based creativity.”

Greville says her intention is to ensure the creativity of the platform reaches current and potential customers at the right time, while also ensuring that all decisions are informed by data and research.

Given the competitive nature of the banking industry, the pressure will be on New Zealand’s newest media agency to ensure it delivers on those objectives.

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