Take Zephyr’s three senior partners and you’ll discover over 60 years’ experience, nigh on 80 awards, nine kids, a fondness for sausages and a partnership with clients more akin to family
- Communication ninjas
- Digital disruption
- Full speed for Central Station
- Local focus, global results
In the weeks prior to Zephyr opening in 2006, Robert Coulter, Warwick Delmonte and Quent Pfiszter wrestled with the seductive lure of a multinational agency brand and ownership. The advantages were obvious: a leg up with new business, and a salary. “The salary part was particularly attractive,” says Delmonte. “Wives were all for it. So were ex-wives.” But with so many years behind them working for the behemoths of the industry, there was the suspicion that the ‘fun’ of being independent would be gone before it even started. “We didn’t want to leap from the fire into the meat grinder,” says Pfiszter. So it was decided not to pursue a ‘Buy Now’, and to instead see how things panned out.
Four years later, things are panning out very nicely for Zephyr. Foundation client Nosh has gone from strength to strength, Otago University continues to be oversubscribed, Cottonsoft relaunched, Turners registrations are up over 30 percent, Contact Energy’s sponsorship promotion has seen triathlon participation grow by 38 percent, and a doubling of Arano sales has led to a growing number of opportunities from Frucor. Recent business gains include Lighting Plus.
The debate about small agencies versus big doesn’t divert a lot of their attention as Zephyr’s focus is simply on creating effective campaigns for their clients. Besides, the answer, according to Coulter, is quite simple. “Effectiveness is key. Debate about small versus large, or specialist versus fully integrated is irrelevant. It’s about the quality of the people that actually work on the business day in and day out.”
“Being small, but with huge industry experience, means you always deal with senior people who have a pragmatic and commercial approach”
“What we do here is not a lot different to what we did when we worked for the Saatchis, Colensos and DDBs,” agrees Delmonte. “We’re still a full-service agency. A small one admittedly, but that’s the advantage. We’re accountable. We’re not insulated from failure the way a planner or a creative is in a big agency. At Zephyr we feel every sales percentage point. We’re grownups now and think the client should be the hero, not the agency. We take results very personally and find bonds forged in profitability are particularly strong.”
Zephyr resists employing fulltime specialists, instead they cultivate strategic alliances with a wide range of independent experts. “Nine times out of ten,” says Coulter, “a client’s requirements will be fulfilled directly by Zephyr. But sometimes research is needed, or PR, or website construction, or digital expertise. Media needs to be bought and placed. All this we supply, just not in-house, which means we get to cherry-pick the very best on offer. It also means our clients aren’t stuck with subsidising the services required by just a few, as happens in the bigger agencies. Obviously, if we pick up Telecom next week things might change, but then, no … with all due respect Telecom, we don’t want you. We still like to have fun.”
Todd Hunter, chief operating officer at Turners, confirms it: “These guys are great. Quent, Rob and Warwick have complementary skills and always over-deliver on expectations. They have an attitude that’s all about mutual success and are just a fun bunch of guys to do business with. And they like a beer and a sausage … top shelf.”
Another fan is Frucor’s marketing director, Scott Wright. “Being small, but with huge industry experience, means you always deal with senior people who have a pragmatic and commercial approach to advertising which is difficult to find these days. Combine that with sharp creative minds and a good sense of what works in the New Zealand market and you have a very strong proposition. They also make small budgets go an awful long way—oh, and they cook a great sausage on a Friday afternoon!”
Obviously Zephyr has no vegetarian clients.
Zephyr believes there are five questions advertisers should ask themselves: Does the team that pitched your business work on your business? Does your creative team truly understand your business objectives? Are you getting services and creative that can move fast enough to keep pace with the marketplace? Does the cost of those services truly reflect how difficult that marketplace is becoming? Are you working with grownups?
If you can’t answer at least four out of five with an unequivocal yes, then the time has come to consider a smaller, more nimble agency and leave the elephants to dance with other elephants.