New Zealand is a growing, thriving place. But how does it compare to other markets in the APAC and around the world? We talked to krunch.co’s new Head of Adtech, Nick Licence, about his experiences overseas and the core of what he feels makes NZ unique.
So, Nick, why krunch.co, and why now?
There are professional and personal factors that made up my decision to leave Singapore and move to New Zealand.
From a personal standpoint, NZ has always been a huge draw for me. I love the outdoors, I love fishing, wine, rugby and lamb, so this country ticks every box! It also helps that I have extended family here, and my wife and kids really wanted to be here too.
From a professional standpoint, it became apparent after meeting Darren, Abi and Becky from the krunch.co team that this is exactly the type of agency model so many of the big ad companies are trying to build but finding hard to deliver. Some networks are doing a good job of evolving, but others are struggling to evolve away from the silo mentality.
krunch.co, meanwhile, was a very attractive proposition. Darren and the team have removed the silos and built an agency on the pillars that others are trying to replicate: data, content, media, playing very well together. When I was offered the job, I had to accept.
You’ve been a strategic planning director with Dentsu Aegis Network and have worked with some major brands across the APAC region. What’s different here than roles you’ve had in the past?
Four weeks in and what’s refreshingly different is the interplay between all of krunch.co’s capabilities. This is a fast-moving, close-knit team that works hard. Everyone is an expert in their field. They’re on the ball about what’s happening in the wider company and everyone has a voice.
That’s different to what I’ve experienced previously. There are so many smart points of view, different perspectives. And it’s a very multicultural place, both Auckland as a city and krunch.co specifically. It’s great to see so many backgrounds, so many walks of life, all working together to create a nice trifle of people. There’s a very human aspect to working here.
How have you found moving from big companies with endless resources to a smaller team?
We may not have the same resources as a big network, but we’ve got people who are just as smart who can move with greater agility and ultimately help drive outcomes for clients at the speed today’s market requires.
To be honest I don’t feel like we lack resources here at krunch.co. I get to focus on the NZ market, the NZ Adtech scene, the team I work with are awesome, and if we need more insight and information we’ve got the likes of Google, Facebook and multiple national vendor-partners with access to huge amounts of data for us to work with.
How does the Kiwi market compare to other areas in which you’ve worked?
New Zealand, without a shadow of a doubt, punches way above its weight in terms of creative output. Thailand used to be a lot like that as well, with a lot of slapstick and/or emotional ads driven by deep insight. I get the sense that Thailand may have fallen off the pedestal a bit recently, but New Zealand has habitually always been an award winner.
The thinking here is usually backed by solid insight, but there’s often a wry sense of humour to it as well. As a fairly cynical Englishman, there’s a sensibility to the work here that I love as it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s seriously effective. NZ has a very well connected population with a ‘give it a go’ attitude. When looking at a client’s budget, while we don’t play fast and loose, there’s a lot of room for experimentation too. The whole country being quite small, with very concentrated, diverse urban centres, means you can test, learn and iterate quite rapidly.
That’s why some of the bigger multinationals do some of their braver work here. If it goes right, great. Transport that thinking outside. If it doesn’t catch fire, that’s OK too. There’s a bravery attached to testing which I didn’t see in Singapore.
You mentioned the Kiwi sensibility. What’s your experience with it so far, and how does it differ to other regions?
There’s a friendliness and openness to a lot of the brand messages I see. They’re down to Earth, matter of fact. It allows for a refreshing clarity and brevity of messaging. It gets to the point – no bullshit.
I think Thailand and NZ have some commonality around that no-bull factor. The Thai market puts more of an emotional spin on things. The slapstick humour can be very Thai and might not travel, but their heart tugging stuff (like Thai Life Insurance for example) resonates everywhere. When you look at a lot of the best work here, it’s the sense of humour and practical approach that really shines through.
100% Pure NZ was arguably one of the best destination campaigns ever and I think it helped mould a global perception of the market. After 20 years it’s going through a re-think at the moment but the elements of ‘Kiwi-ness’ it helped create are really valuable in a commoditised world because they’re ownable and provide a unique point of difference. Kiwi brands should try to retain those elements wherever they can.
What do you see as one of the biggest strategic challenges for Kiwi marketers and businesses?
Being able to operate in a globalised world whilst retaining the unique identity that has provided so much success in the past.
In the face of advancing automation, and an increasingly borderless data world, how we help Kiwi marketers make sense of that data and trust in the machinery of our business is vital.
As an agency we’re in the business of driving that efficiency but never at the expense of what made our clients’ brands famous in the first place. I’m really looking forward to helping our clients evolve their businesses and brands to be fit for purpose in the environment of tomorrow.
Speaking of automation, what are your thoughts on automation and what does it mean for media and Adtech?
I think it’s a great enabler. It frees us from time spent on low value, repetitive, manual work and allows us to shift focus towards delivery of much higher value activity; really getting under the hood of our clients’ businesses, guiding strategic brand direction, generating the type of data-led ideas that help drive genuine outcomes. If we can prove we’re a strong value-add to a business, we increasingly get a seat at their top table and that’s where we’re able to influence the decision makers, rather than being left in the weeds doing a bunch of grunt work.
How will the shift to automation impact a smaller market like NZ?
I get the sense that businesses are already running fairly lean here so whilst it may not make too much difference to overall headcount, I do think we’re seeing an accelerated shift in the skill sets demanded of the workforce, and the need to rapidly upskill where any shortfalls are identified.
Given the borderless world we live in it’s so much easier to find capability at a given price point globally, and so the Kiwi market will need to find its own delivery niche. We’re not going to be lowest cost so how do we demonstrate the different and better ways we understand, use and hack major Adtech and Martech platforms to add value to brands here?
What do you think NZ businesses need to do to ready themselves for what’s next?
I guess it’s pretty basic Darwinian evolution in action…
We no longer have the relative insulation of geographic isolation and my previous point about operating in a borderless environment still stands. In this environment businesses will need to make sure they’re highly adaptive. Do they have the right skill sets in place to deal with data, to deal with automation, and the ways in which the experts in these fields work best together?
A corporate mindset geared to curiosity, discovery, to never knowing enough but being willing to continually learn will always help too. I think there’s already a real sense of practicality and curiosity built into the Kiwi mindset that helps hugely. I’m very excited to be here and to experience what’s coming down the track!