Nestled within the exposed brick walls of The Strand, also known as the iconic Saatchi & Saatchi building in Auckland’s Parnell, Spark Foundry NZ is surrounded by New Zealand advertising history. NZ Marketing travels the old hoist-style lift that connects the building’s historic floors to meet with the Spark Foundry NZ team and find out what has transpired in the 18 months since the agency’s inception in Aotearoa.
After we are greeted with warm handshakes from Spark Foundry NZ’s Managing Director Nicky Greville, Head of Strategy Olly King, and Head of Digital and Data Rob Thomas, the trio cheerfully oblige with our photographers’ directions which are momentarily interrupted as a pair of apologetic delivery people stoop in front of the camera chuckling “this is so advertising!” as they duck past.
It’s been less than two years since Spark Foundry, a Publicis Groupe Agency, launched in New Zealand and announced Westpac as its founding client at the same time.
It all began in the midst of Auckland’s longest lockdown, with Nicky building a team of 24, sitting through three months of virtual interviews before heading into the Christmas break with a serious case of Zoom fatigue.
When Olly and Rob came onboard, Spark Foundry NZ continued to take shape and amalgamated with two other agency brands, quickly bringing the team to 46.
“We had our operational model and structure to set up, new clients to get to know and some changes in management to go through, both from our own team and the people we were bringing into the Spark Foundry family,” Nicky says. “We had a focus on building the right structure for the future, bringing everyone on the journey with us and starting with internal culture was of utmost importance.”
The first phase of the New Zealand agency’s growth has largely been focused on ‘internal momentum’. That is, setting up the right processes, infrastructure and team structure.
Despite having experienced rapid growth, Spark Foundry NZ prides itself on its ability to retain the “spirit of a start-up and the soul of a powerhouse” as its global motto goes.
“There’s a bit of a magical combination to agencies. It’s people plus culture and how you work together and how
all those things come together in beautiful alchemy,” Nicky adds.
“We are also incredibly proud of Spark Foundry globally, which is famous for its incredible measurement solutions, its incredible strategic point of view. We also have the backing of Publicis Groupe, which is very large.”
This is the ‘Silver Platter’, which Nicky explains is a combination of support, tools and processes from the agency’s global team combined with the start-up spirit which allows the team to be flexible.
Globally, Spark Foundry is founded on its distinctive and unique strategic process, called HEAT which stands for Higher Engagement, Affinity, and Transactions.
“That was about everyone bringing a strategic point of view and a real passion behind that,” Nicky says.
“We strategically put people into places and positions where we knew they could talk to our clients with a
strength of conviction. And it really does help with how the team gels today.”
In this phase of internal momentum, celebrating the small things played a key part, explains Nicky. “One thing we identified, going through the change management of two agencies existing into one, was celebrating that.”
And now, with these strong foundations in place, the time has come for the agency to switch gears to ‘external momentum’.
Spark Foundry NZ was created to deliver what its clients need with so much changing in the industry, says Rob, allowing its experienced team to take ownership and guide the agency in the direction they believe it needs to go.
“A big part of what we want to do is give that over to the people and let them help to build that into what they think is right as well.
“We provide the products, we provide some tools, but actually we really need them to help guide us through that and mould it into something that they see as fit for purpose, because ultimately they’re the ones doing a lot of the work, but also its something that they’re excited about.
“It’s not often you get a new agency launched with that start-up mindset but with the backing of a group.”
In terms of Spark Foundry’s strategy, Olly says it’s focused around really listening and understanding what clients’ business challenges are, doing the research and understanding the audience.
“It may sound a little bit basic, but you sometimes can lose sight of that. When you start developing a long-term platform and we start going into comms, you sometimes lose sight of what the challenges are that we’re trying to overcome or what the ambition of the client originally was. You need to always have that lens when you are looking at things. What is the essence of the brand, but at the same time, what is the purpose? What are their strategic pillars and how do you start pulling those things through?”
To achieve this, the team at Spark Foundry really that each client strategy needs to be customised as they all have their unique structure, legacy, and vision for the future.
In some cases, Spark Foundry NZ can assist businesses in making marketing the driving force behind their sales team, by integrating marketing efforts with sales, analysing data on customer purchases, and enabling the client to optimise their internal operations and capitalise on leads. On the other hand, some clients rely heavily on e-commerce, which requires a different approach.
“For us it becomes how do you deliver as much return on investment as you possibly can and capture more audiences with more intent. Ultimately it’s our job to take that step back at the beginning and ask, ‘do you understand what your role for marketing is, where the spend is going and how can we help you best justify that back to your business?’”
As for what we can expect to see in the future? “Fundamentally all of the work we’ve laid in terms of foundations is going to manifest in better solutions for our clients,” Nicky says. “We talk about those all the time because that is the currency of our business, creative work and interesting work.
“All of this energy, all of this talent, and the really strong relationships we have with our really wonderful clients, will be externalised more and that will drive growth.”
This article was originally published in the June/July 2023 issue of NZ Marketing. Click here to subscribe.