Talking to the senior team of Augusto now involves a live weather update from New York, as its newest member Angus McNab joins the call. It’s the first time Augusto has had a chief strategy and international officer in its mix, with the hire marking the agency’s international expansion.
Branching out of the New Zealand market and opening its door to clients from around the world may seem ambitious, but it’s a natural step for the agency says general manager Oliver Sealy as he explains that 30 percent of existing work comes from outside New Zealand.
This also comes off the back of the hugely successful Richie McCaw film, Chasing Great, which has led to many questioning what the brand was planning to work on next.
"Pressing 'go' on Angus was about us recognising that we could further exploit that space and improve how we service it as well," Sealy says.
However, co-founder and managing director Michelle Walshe puts it a little differently: “It’s time to take the bull by the horns and see where it lands."
And helping tame that bull is McNab, who joins from Perform’s content division in North America. There, he led the company through a period of significant growth building revenue and relationships with major sports broadcasters such as NBC Universal, Major League Soccer, U.S. Soccer, North American Soccer League, and other digital media companies—all contacts that will come in handy as Augusto looks to expand the business.
In his new role, he’s currently a lone ranger for Augusto in New York but feels like a piece of furniture in the Auckland office because he joins it on-screen a couple of hours each day. He’s also been joined in New York by Sealy and Walshe, to whom airport terminals are becoming a second home. Already this year, they’ve been to the UK and US and now Walshe is heading off on her third trip to Europe for a shoot in Paris—which goes to show just how broad Augusto is going.
And with the global market being a slightly different kettle of fish to working locally, McNab's expertise will be helpful as Augusto looks to tap into the available opportunities.
However, despite the differences, the country’s local ethos has served the agency well thus far, and the team believes that it will continue to be of great importance in the future.
“Something we talk about a lot is the need for us to retain our New Zealand identity as a New Zealand business while we do this and not try and be something else as we continue to grow,” Sealy says.
“In the creative space, New Zealand has a fantastic track record of being able to service global markets…. [it's] is a creative powerhouse.”
Sealy says the success of Augusto has largely been built on the fact that staff is engaged in projects from conception to final execution and because clients are given as much access to editors and production managers as they are to account directors and strategists.
“We love that, because it gives everyone more ownership of the work,” Sealy says.
Ensuring the agency’s culture follows it into new markets, Augusto wants to open opportunities to the existing team, who Sealy and Walshe credit for building the agency domestically. They say team members have all shown enthusiasm for the expansion and willingness to get involved and get on the ground overseas. And in turn for the experience, they will bring new skills back to New Zealand.
Over time, Sealy and Walshe will look to grow the international team, but they don't want to rush into making too many hires too fast. Instead, they want to grow efficiently with a strategic head on to make sure new staff benefit clients as well as being right for the agency.
Walshe gives the example of meeting McNab a few years ago and knowing at the time she’d one day like to have him on the team, so to now have that become a reality has been really exciting.
“We started the company nine years ago and it’s just a really beautiful thing now, with Angus joining we have our A team, it feels like everyone’s arrived, we’ve got everything we need and that’s an amazing feeling,” she says.
Tech meets stories
These sentiments are also shared by McNab, who McNab who said that he was particularly drawn to Augusto's balance of new technology and storytelling.
He says tech isn't just used for the sake of being the shiny new thing, but rather to amplify the message of the client.
“360-story telling is a good example, it’s not just the guys throwing up a camera and saying putting it through Facebook or YouTube,” McNab says.
“They are creating things in storytelling terms that have a beginning, middle and an end—they tell a narrative that goes through the whole thing.”
But despite the agency’s technology and storytelling related skills, McNab says the first question from any potential client is always: “what does your reel look like, and who’s on it.”
For Augusto, that includes consumer, home and hardware, and sportswear clients as well as work in the entertainment space, having created Everest Rescue with the Discovery Network, worked on branding for two Indian TV shows and of course its own Chasing Great.
However, despite the diversity, its international focus will be in the sports space—no doubt aided by McNab’s experience working with sports broadcasters and its own experience with Adidas, which it’s just won global work for.
Walshe says sports storytelling is such a rich space, covering everything from ambition to heartache and adversity, and she sees Augusto having the right skills to tackle it.
“One of the things we understand in that space is that athletes aren’t talent and some aren’t that interested in having camera crews around them in high-performance environments. It’s a very sensitive environment to film in.”
She calls is a privilege to be in the athlete’s environment and you can’t approach it like a big crew that’s taking over with a big idea. She says Augusto has an understanding of this and maintains the utmost respect for those it’s shooting.
Speaking on the topic, McNab recalls an analogy Walshe used when working with the All Blacks: “she said that when she was given an inch she took three-quarters, because she respects that it’s a performance environment for these people and once the line is crossed it’s hard to get it back.”
And while the agency is keen to pursue work in the sports space internationally, at home, the team remain energized and excited about its existing clients, like Mitre 10, for which it’s currently working on a series with George Clarke.
"The line under our logo is 'Thinkers & Makers' and we're really living that now," Sealy says.