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AUCKLAND, Jan 1: The ad/media experts on Pead PR’s senior leadership have provided M+AD with a thoughtful Q+A summarising the year as they saw it in 2019 – and some insights into how they see 2020.

What are your highlights from the past year?

Deborah Pead: For me, it would be the start of a successful succession strategy – and even though it does feel a bit like signing your own death warrant it’s the responsibility of every leader to prepare for the future.

And we have a great future planned for Pead PR – led with my business partners and now shareholders in the agency. It feels great to be sharing the baton with the co-owners and planning for a time in the future when I will hand it on to them.

Anna Farrera: The reaction from clients and the media to the agency’s new shared ownership was really humbling. Beyond this, we’ve had some terrific new wins including Xero, BMW and New Zealand Fashion Week returning to Pead once more. 

Sarah Munnik: I’m so proud of the strides we’ve taken with our team to prioritise wellness, including introducing a wellness benefit for our staff and working towards a more mobile-friendly future.

Kelly Grindle: As an agency, we’ve slowly but surely improved the quality of our content and digital offering. Some of the content we’ve produced for clients like Mercedes-Benz and Puma are of high enough level to transcend from ‘PR’ through to ‘brand’, and the investment we have made in digital means we have the capability to really take our stories and campaigns across channels.

Louisa Kraitzick: A real highlight for me have been nation-shaping projects we’ve been part of. We’ve got to enable or help our clients be part of conversation about mental health, our nation’s export strategy, the future of transport, cybersecurity, the roll out of 5G and so much more.

How has Pead changed in 2019?

DP: The development of the team at Pead who are excelling in the new disciplines that now define our industry.  It’s also wonderful to get some of our superstars back, with Kelly Grindle and Rachael Everitt returning, and the stellar recruitment in Devin Monajem as head of digital engagement.

KG: The type of people we are hiring shows just how quickly the business is changing. The roles we have now, such as Head of Digital Engagement and Social Content Producer, would not have existed in Pead two years ago, and my bet is that by the end of 2020 we’ll also have a Head of Strategy, an in-house designer and an in-house events producer too.

AF: We’ve produced outstanding content this year, with integrated content-driven campaigns for a number of clients including Maybelline New York, L’Oréal Paris, Puma, and Best Foods, as well as a shoot for Mercedes-Benz and Paris Georgia for NZ Fashion Week, which turned out beautifully. It’s all a testament the new thinking and creativity coming from our team.

SM: I agree – fundamentally we’ll always be grounded in PR but thinking through and visualising how campaigns translate into content is something our clients appreciate. 

LK: There’s a certain type of work that only Pead can handle, such as New Zealand Fashion Week or the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. Because we’re independent we can jump on things and make decisions fast. There isn’t another agency in the market that has the same scale as us that can handle corporate, consumer and integrated work with the same prowess – that to me is exciting going into 2020.

What are some trends from 2019?

DP: We have seen greater focus on integration and clients are looking for strong PR-led ideas. I’d love it if there was more courage to back the bigger ideas.

SM: The media landscape continues to evolve and change. We see and hear news all the time of downsizes, merges, changing staff and new methods to keep journalism alive like the recent wave of paywalls. Over the decades, PR has always survived, but how we achieve results change. We’ve noticed it’s increasingly difficult to get organic content across the line, but clients are more understanding there may need to be an element of paid media in the mix. 

What are upcoming trends you expect in 2020?

SM: Digital will continue to rise, and I think growth-hacking will become even bigger in 2020 as the industry works out what this means for our market and how we use it.

AF: Absolutely, as digital technology evolves, we’re likely to see more use of AR and VR to help brands tell richer stories and engage consumers. I also think we’re likely to see the rise of more personalisation and greater transparency, whether that’s in the products we choose and their origins, or how we consume information. 

DP: There will be more pressure than ever on brands to be net carbon neutral and maintain their relationship with their customers who are making purchase decisions based on a company’s climate change policies and results. 

KG: I hope we’re going to get more briefs where a brand wants to stand for something – take a stance on a divisive issue, give something back to the community and use their power for good. This is especially key as we see a new wave of political change and youth unrest. Brands need to take a stand.  

LK: I think next year we’ll experience an increase in conversations about accessibility. Roughly one out of every four New Zealanders live with a disability and it’s the natural extension of so many conversations already underway. It will change what’s expected of companies in terms of the representation and the products/services they build. 

What do you predict will happen with the changing media landscape in New Zealand?

DP: I think we’ll see even more shifts to paid content in the media landscape. The NZ Herald switch to Premium was massive for our industry and suddenly the trends started by independent outlets like Newsroom and The Spinoff became mainstream.

This will accelerate as more people get used to  paying for their news – just like they used to do.  We are also seeing more pay-to-view content, such as the Rugby World Cup. This will increase as the rights to cover the big sports tournaments increase beyond the reach of public networks.

KG: I agree. As the traditional media pool continues to shrink we are going to see a sharpening of the divide in media – on the one hand you will have highly trusted, experienced media outlets in New Zealand that can shape national opinion and influence; and on the other hand you will have highly commercialised, mass market, ‘infotainment’ publications that hold little credibility but deliver reach.  

You need communications campaigns that address each segment.

What are the top things to be aware of next year?

DP: The election year will see pressure on media  and a very busy news agenda. This will create obstacles for our industry and we simply have to be smarter. There will also be a lot to clarify in the upcoming referendums and responsible brands can assist their customers to understand the complex issues with apolitical explanations.

SM: We also need to make sure we don’t get sucked into the latest trends just because it’s cool. Being at the forefront of these trends means really understanding them and understanding how to navigate different trends. 

KG: I think agencies need to be wary of how much influence those social influencers really have.

Since returning from the UK I am aghast at how much influencers are charging, for fairly small audiences and without thorough performance metrics. It could be because New Zealand is limited in terms of its media impact but it’s the Wild Wild West out there, it seems anyone with a few thousand followers can suddenly be classed as an influencer.

At Pead, we’ve invested in the right tools to be able to identify, verify and report on influencer campaigns – but my key advice to brands is don’t be fooled by a polished Instagram grid and social cliques.  Influencers have their place, it’s a matter of finding it.

What do you think of the future of PR and communications?

SM: Pead is turning 20 in 2020. As we enter this new era, we need to take stock of where we came from, where we are and how the business will continue to evolve. I’m eternally grateful for the amazing foundation Deborah has set out for Pead. While we continue to grow, we can’t lose sight of what we’re good at. We’re not compromising or trying to be something we’re not. We are unique, we’re us, and we live by that ethos.

AF: I often reflect that it is a real privilege to do what we do here. I think about the bold and inspiring people and clients we get to work with each day and  healthy challenge that results from a desire to deliver the best possible outcomes. We’ve seen massive shifts in the PR landscape and Pead has been strategic in adapting.

KG: I believe we’re heading to an increasingly blurred world where advertising agencies and PR agencies could be chasing the same work, clients or ideas. Perhaps we’re not so far off seeing a whole bunch of generalist agencies, rather than any that are specialised to one discipline.

LK: Fundamentally, PR agencies are the best type of agencies at telling stories that connect with people and drive conversation. Going into next year, having beefed up our skillset and strategic prowess at both ends of the spectrum sets us up for some amazing work in the new year.

DP: Overall, the future of our industry looks great. For years, we have been evolving our skill set to support multiple communication platforms. Pead in particular has embraced all the evolving communications frontiers and we are fit and ready for the future.

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