Campaign Brief recently spoke with Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand CEO Mark Cochrane and CCO Steve Cochran about their two years together so far…
CB: If the definition of famous is: ‘Known of by lots of people’, then Saatchi & Saatchi is still the most famous advertising agency brand in New Zealand. Yes?
Mark Cochrane: By that definition, yes. Adding to the fame is a privilege and also a challenge we love.
Cochran and the team have been doing a great deal of that.
Steve Cochran: It’s still the only agency my mother can name, and not just because I work here. (A fact she’s very proud of by the way).
CB: So how do you try to maintain that reputation?
Cochrane: Cochran will answer this better, but more recently we’ve been pleased to have a body of work living up to the legacy of focusing on ideas that become part of our national culture, by playing with culture and influencing it positively. We call this Cultural Creativity. Of course everyone has a view and different lens on creativity. This is just ours. It’s what we like doing, and think it’s often the most effective use of a budget, both for short term impact, and for long term brand building, across any medium.
Cochran: I’d describe most of what we do as a kind of fame game. We try to make brands famous, we try to make messages, propositions and products famous for specific audiences and so on. It’s all degrees of hunting fame. And I guess we want to be famous for doing famous work. Work that is interesting, entertaining and populist as well as persuasive is the aim, it’s a big part of what made Saatchi & Saatchi ‘famous’ in New Zealand in the first place.
CB: What barriers do you have to achieve the kind of work you want to be doing?
Cochrane: I personally believe the consumption and proliferation of media makes brand ecosystems more temporary, light and frequent. The challenge right now is creating impact. Peppering lots of little things is good just to say you’ve done something, but it can be like a leaky tap, going unnoticed. Good ideas should be like roaring campfires that we are drawn to, huddle around, talk over, share, and play with… as communities, or as a nation.
Personalisation at scale is also key, but only with the impact to draw attention. We often discuss that this is the real balance and challenge we face as an industry. What we have had a lot of success with lately is connected storytelling. Put simply, connect to culture and the audience, then personalise the story through the shopping experience. Stories & Systems if you like. S&S? Is there something in that Mr Cochran?
Cochran: Yes, maybe Mr Cochrane. I think time is often our barrier. How do we do truly great work without putting so much pressure on ourselves that people burn out? There’s an inconvenient truth in our industry which is that doing great work (particularly internationally award winning standard work) is demanding. It is often achieved thanks to hundreds of hours spent getting to truly special and unique ideas and then executing those superbly. But client budgets rarely afford this kind of luxury of time, particularly in a smaller market like New Zealand. So that means agencies and production partners will often pursue something for the ‘love of it’. If this becomes the norm for the way an agency operates, it’s not either sustainable nor healthy for its people or the business. So creating great work that achieves fame, but in a sustainable, fun, enjoyable and profitable way for everyone involved is my not-so-simple ambition.
CB: You’ve been working together for two years, what are you most proud of?
Cochrane: A lot of our work has been to land new brand platforms of late, and we are really proud of what we have achieved, especially on Toyota, Z Energy, Chorus, Pepperstone, Global Women, DB, and Tourism NZ, but also quite proud of our growth in general. After finding our rhythm, I really enjoyed the honest and connected way our team have been approaching things. The outcome was nine solid wins and therefore clients joining our community, with 54% YOY growth as a pretty good outcome. But what we were most proud of was maintaining a good culture during that period. That outcome also gave us the ability to hire 47 awesome people during 2022 so we can continue to evolve.
Cochran: I’m proud to say, ditto.
CB: What keeps you up at night right now?
Cochrane: Rain storms, the challenges our clients and New Zealanders are facing this year, and ensuring we inspire our people to a new altitude of originality, craft (across all disciplines) and just straight up impact.
We are also quite focused on creatively led culture, wellbeing and personal performance through a series of initiatives bundled as Sustainably Saatchi. One of those initiatives is what we call Impossible Hours. These creative hours are allocated (within in the 40 hour week) to achieve the impossible, on anything you want. Be it a client brief that you want to give more love too, pure craft, or an idea you think will better the nation. It’s our way to push for that something better, sustainably.
Cochran: After 35 years of doing this, if anything, it’s still briefs that keep me up. Briefs are like puzzles. But they’re a kind of puzzle that don’t just have one possible answer. So even if you’ve solved it, there’s always another, perhaps better answer just one thought away. Often you can’t stop trying to beat what you have up until the moment you need to present. As a CCO, I want the best for and from my team, so thinking of ways to help them improve their work is part of the soup of puzzles ever present in my head.
CB: What’s your ambition for the next year or two?
Cochrane: Nothing much different than what we’re doing now. With our clients, chase big impactful ideas, believe that Nothing is Impossible strategically, creatively, logistically and in mindset, and also to look after our people whilst doing so. If we do that, who knows, Agency of the Year again would be nice, but really, I just want to be known as a ‘Nothing is Impossible’ company. Solving any brand or customer challenge, across any medium, in a way that gets talked about.
Cochran: My ambition for the next two years is the same as my ambition has been any year. To do more of the best work of my own and our whole team’s careers, and have fun doing it. And to make friends with AI before it deletes me.
CB: Thanks for the time.
Cochrane: You’re welcome.
Cochran: What Cochrane said.