2024: the year for transformation at speed

As the economic downturn intersects with unprecedented new opportunities, indie advertising agency Federation says that for many brands and businesses, now’s the perfect time to shake things up.

In 2024, Federation is an agency that’s leading transformation and defying downturn trends. One of New Zealand’s most well- established independent advertising agencies, it’s a company that’s built a reputation for continually zigging in a zagging industry.

In recent months, it has announced a string of senior appointments, including awarded creative leader Brad Collett as Chief Creative Officer; internationally recognised Dan Bye, a double-global Effie winner, as Chief Strategy Officer; and the promotion of Cambridge University sustainability-qualified Olly Walker-Boden to the role of Managing Director.

Federation views 2024 as the shake-out year for many brands and organisations – a year in which economic downturn intersects neatly with unprecedented opportunity via rapid strategy acceleration and transformational change that fully optimises future results.

CEO Sharon Henderson says they know a thing or two about ensuring a business remains forward-facing.

The agency – which she herself founded in 2008, during the global financial crisis (GFC) – forces itself to change continually to ensure it adapts to an ever-changing business landscape she believes has accelerated into three-year cycles. 

“Our hypervigilance for staying ahead of future trends on behalf of our clients is how we’re able to continually drive their brand growth and financial performance,” she says.

Henderson says marketers need to know they have experts working alongside them who have genuine commercial acumen, who can deliver day-to-day results while building brands that consumers are glad to
have in their lives, and developing marketing business cases that can pass the most rigorous boardroom tests if required.

“It’s why our own capabilities as an advertising company and client partner never stand still, making us the bedrock behind some of New Zealand’s most resilient, high-growth brands and some of the world’s best-known consumer brands.”

Best-case success scenarios

“We get it that marketing is a major financial investment on any company’s balance sheet, and never more so than in 2024,” says Walker-Boden.

“If you’re a marketer or C-suite leader reading this now and thinking, ‘Yes’, get us in and let’s talk about what you want to achieve. The first thing we’ll want to know is what success looks like to you. We’ll want to know your best-case success scenario, and our process works backwards from there. 

“We’re genuinely in the business of solving problems and bringing instant horsepower and acceleration to market opportunities – and it sets us apart,” he continues.

“We’ve always been obsessed with creativity, but have an equal obsession for delivering commercial growth and consumer behaviour change results. It’s why we remain one of New Zealand’s most progressive independent advertising companies in 2024.” 

Walker-Boden points to the success of Federation client The Co-operative Bank, which the agency won in early 2023. He says that although it’s a comparatively new partnership, it has already produced step-change market-share results, achieving more than double the bank’s actual growth target in less than a year.

“It’s a truly exciting time for The Co-operative Bank and full credit to their Chief Marketing Officer Catherine Bateman for enabling this genuine strategic partnership to deliver so quickly.”

Walker-Boden joined Federation in 2018 from Colenso BBDO, having previously been based in the UK, where he worked at London agencies RKCR/Y&R and Glue Isobar across brands such as Adidas, Budweiser, Lloyds Banking Group and Vodafone.

As Managing Director, he’s continuing to raise the bar for Federation’s sought-after strategy design-thinking approach that combines creativity with communications, tech and intelligence capabilities, further integrating them across all areas of the company’s business and client offerings.

The four forces

Strategy design-thinking is the cornerstone of the agency’s approach to solving marketing and business problems, and is led by Bye, who had previously been consulting to the agency for more than 12 months.

“Dan’s one of our industry’s most talented strategy leaders and offers our clients incredible knowledge garnered from working across global markets and brands, and a leadership experience that spans a trifecta of client-side, media and creative agencies,” says Henderson.

The recently appointed Chief Strategy Officer’s work has been internationally recognised and has led to him being ranked in the top 10 planners in the world. He’s also a double Global WARC Effie winner and is a huge proponent of creative effectiveness and creativity as tools to drive business performance. 

Bye is equally ambitious for the opportunity 2024 represents to marketers.

“Innovation is the biggest problem clients are facing in 2024, exacerbated by the economic climate,” he says.

“We’re living in an age of strong prevailing headwinds, both short- and long-term. It’s common in this pressure-cooker environment to overestimate the short-term and underestimate the longer-term impact of things [aka Amara’s Law]. 

“For marketers, there are four forces to wrangle and get ahead of in 2024,” he continues.

“The first is economic headwinds, particularly the significant drop in consumer demand in the current economic climate, and in categories over-satiated over Covid. The second is audience fragmentation. Recent restructures at TVNZ and Discovery have highlighted the fragility of the New Zealand media industry and the impacts of consumer fragmentation at play. The ability to reach audiences will require more channels to achieve the same results. 

“The third force is AI. Is it buzzword bingo or a creativity killer? It’s too early to tell, but if Amara’s Law is anything
to go by, we’re still a way off truly understanding the future ramifications of AI on society and marketing. In the meantime, understanding and appreciating it is something we’re embracing as an agency, to identify how to leverage technology to maximum benefit for our clients.

“The fourth force is sustainability. Both societally and from a business perspective, we need to make conscious decisions around how we transition and move faster towards a net-zero world.

“It’s why Federation has led the industry as an early adopter, qualifying with Cambridge University’s Sustainability Leadership Institute in 2021 and 2022, and working as consultants to marketers and business in that arena ever since, to maximise the value of purpose and minimise the risk of greenwashing.”

Future fit, forward-thinking

Agencies like Federation that were born in the GFC are now lead agencies, helping clients navigate the world.

“Our role for clients has increased over the past year and become much more about being both orchestrator and facilitator, right into channel performance,” says Henderson.

“There’s been a big shift away from TV-driven, traditional multinational agencies.”

Walker-Boden agrees. “We’re breaking down the barrier between brand and performance marketing, and our client DoorDash, the number-one on-demand delivery service in the US and Canada, is testament to that. Their full-funnel marketing launch via Federation was among their most successful new market launches in the world. 

“Our remit covers the entire marketing funnel. There’s a serious push by clients to help them streamline marketing efficiencies by connecting different disciplines and channels together. Resolving that tension is easy for us and a skill that we’ve always had – it’s implicit in the name Federation.”

“This is the year for an agency like Federation,” says Collett, who has helped secure creative and effectiveness awards for New Zealand’s multinational agency network brands on the local and global stages.

During his career, Federation’s new CCO has crafted some of New Zealand’s most loved campaigns, for brands including Lotto, KFC, McDonald’s, Tui, Toyota, Heineken, The Warehouse, BMW, Carl’s Jr, New World and Rebel Sport. 

“Federation has a future-fit, forward-thinking business model and breadth of talent that exudes energy and drive,” he says.

“There’s a passion in the leadership team combined with that indie spirit that I think is everything clients need to thrive in 2024. Already I’m seeing an agency that cuts through bureaucracy to prioritise clients’ interests, grasp their unique challenges and deliver work that cuts through and drives results. It’s a winning formula for everyone.” 

For more info, email [email protected] or [email protected], or visit federation.net.nz.

This was first published in the March/April 2024 issue

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