They have their own brand reputations. A bunch of international awards. And business brains to boot. Meet 50 creative consultants who have turned their backs on a regular paycheck and a corner office to contract their services out through The Pond
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When Arjan Van Woensel arrived in New Zealand after selling his award-winning Amsterdam ad agency, the first thing he did was take a long walk along Muriwai beach … then he made a very smart phone call.
About 50 kilometres away, in a refurbished Victorian building nestled in the heart of Auckland Viaduct‘s corporate hinterland, the phone rang at The Pond Creative Consultancy.
Attracting phone calls of that calibre is what has underpinned The Pond’s success as it has gathered together 50 of New Zealand’s leading consultant writers, designers, art directors, strategists and digital people to conquer all forms of communication bar smoke signals.
From a former digital director of a top-three New York ad agency to an Italian designer trained in Europe’s fashion houses; from a creative director who wrote the award-winning Budweiser ‘Jersey guys’ commercials in Chicago to a social networker who did many a creative stunt in Europe, The Pond has assembled a formidable line-up.
If three people make a crowd, then 50 creatives make a trend. And that’s exactly what The Pond is tapping into.
“On the one hand, top creatives want to take control of their lives—that is, to gain the flexibility to not only create bold new work in the commercial world but also explore other creative projects,” says The Pond co-director, Sue Worthington. “On the other hand, more and more businesses need access to top-level creative consultants when and where they want them—on a project-by-project basis.” The solution is a creative consultancy of independent contractors. It’s model common in HR or IT, but unique in the creative industry.
“We don’t define ourselves by our services, or even our clients, but rather by the need,” she says. “You can book an individual for a three day job or brief in a project where we pull together a team of creative specialists and manage the whole job—whatever works best.”
While the structure is innovative, in many ways it’s a common-sense, horses-for-courses approach that makes it blindingly easy to connect with award-winning creatives.
The website, is built to showcase the wonderfully diverse individual creative brands of the ‘Pondees’. It’s a rollicking read that offers intriguing insights into each consultant, such as: “I’m a prankster. I successfully faked my own death by gunshot wound.” That’s a true story, by the way.
Behind the flippancy, however, is some serious talent. “Many top creatives return or immigrate to New Zealand but aren’t able to get the money they made overseas by going fulltime here,” says Leighton Howl, the other co-director of The Pond. “A few years ago we would have lost this talent back overseas, but now The Pond is giving them options.”
For example Richard McCoy, a digital director, lives on Waiheke island, does four or five projects a year through The Pond, works for connections back in London and also earns a crust as an illustrator, photographer, painter and sculptor!
Likewise, other creatives are lured to The Pond as a way of balancing commercial creativity with purer forms of creativity, such as designing record labels, writing books and films, exhibiting art or designing sculpture, furniture.
“From Monday to Wednesday, social media creative expert Hadleigh Averill may work on a social networking brief with Simon Pound [who also reports and presents on TV show Media 7]. He’ll spend Thursday on a client photo shoot. Then on Friday and part of Saturday he’ll do some art for his own upcoming exhibition,” says Howl.
Flexibility breeds flexibility. The Pond model is actually helping smaller companies to access top talent on a project basis, which enables them to play with the big fish here and overseas.
“With such a depth of talent, we can fine-tune the selection of creatives by discipline, industry expertise, skill level and budgets—even pairing up teams and ensuring the right ‘fit’ with the company,” says Howl.
Behind all of this are several safe pairs of hands. All consultants are heavily pre-vetted and The Pond has the back-end processes to ensure everything goes smoothly. Consultants are also locked into a contract for services covering essentials like confidentiality, restraint of trade and conflict of interest.
“Everyone’s trying to predict what’s going to happen with ‘media fragmentation’ and the ‘conversation economy’. For sure, we see big gaps in areas like specialist content writing and 2D/3D flash animation as a result of Web 2.0,” says Worthington.
But the changes run deeper than this as a result of the digital decade.
“In 2006, Time magazine made Person of the Year YOU. But today this ethos is also flowing into business. ‘You’ are the marketer, the creative person, the CEO. It’s about a greater sense of community, collaboration and individual expression.
“When you truly embrace the future of communications, you can see how a company such as The Pond can do very well simply by offering flexible creative resourcing on your terms.”
Hence The Pond’s slogan: Find Creative Independence.
Disciplines covered by Pond consultants
- Design and branding
- Writing (creative & specialist)
- Social media
Growth areas in 2010
- Content writing for web and business in general
- Flexible, creative resourcing
- International clients tapping into Kiwi creativity