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Advertising agency Stanley St appoints CEO, poaches DDB talent for ECD

3 min read

Three of New Zealand’s big four creative agencies are now run by women.

Independently owned Stanley Street has announced the appointment of Siobhan Burke as chief executive.

The sister of agency founder Greg Partington, Burke has been with the business for 25 years, most recently as head of operations.

Burke tells the Herald that Partington’s decision to relinquish the CEO role should not be seen as a sign that he is stepping away from the business at all.

“He will absolutely continue to be involved in Stanley Street and our broader group of companies,” says Burke.

“The significance of my appointment is because he trusts me implicitly to run the agency side of the business. That means working with clients and growing and shaping the group we have been building since the buy-back.

“Being a family-led business, we feel responsible for the team as the buck stops with us – there is no offshore company or corporation to take up the slack.”

Burke refers here to the highly unusual step Partington took in 2019 to buy back his company from the advertising holding company WPP and relaunch it as a fully-fledged independent shop.

Overnight, the move made Stanley Street the country’s largest independently owned agency.

Burke says that independence gives the team the ability to evolve the model and respond to client needs without having to answer to a holding company.

“There is constant chatter about how the traditional agency model is changing, the world is more dynamic than ever and that clients need an agency ahead of the curve; here at Stanley St, we are doing it,” she says.

“With independence is the freedom to think about it, and then actually do it.”

The appointment of Burke as CEO comes at a pivotal point in New Zealand’s advertising history, in that DDB and Colenso BBDO have both also appointed women to their respective chief executive roles.

“More women in senior leadership roles is very valuable in terms of role modelling, especially in an industry that has typically been run by white males,” says Burke.

Burke’s new role isn’t the only significant appointment to be announced at Stanley Street in recent weeks.

The agency has also announced Brad Collett as executive creative director and James McHoull in the newly established position of managing partner.

Collett joins from a six-year stint as a creative director at DDB Aotearoa and will fill the void left by former Stanley Street chief creative officer Regan Grafton, who announced his departure to Culture & Theory. Collett has worked across a range of blue chip clients, including BMW, Westpac and Heineken, picking up numerous awards along the way.

McHoull’s appointment sees him return to New Zealand from the UK, where he worked at powerhouse agency Wieden Kennedy until July 2020. Before leaving London, he worked on a two-month fixed contract with the agency Mother to assist in the launch of KFC’s first global campaign.

McHoull has already started his new role, while Collett will join the agency on July 19.

“These are just the first two appointments of a number of appointments we’ll be rolling out over the next few months,” says Burke.

She says the agency has serious ambition to boost its senior client service lineup to ensure the team has some real “weight and skill” to offer businesses.

In addition to continuing to build the advertising business, the Stanley Street Group last year also launched School Road Publishing, following the demise of Bauer in this market.

“There were a lot of talented journalists, art directors and designers who lost their jobs, and Greg just decided that going into the publishing business was the next step,” says Burke.

“We now have four titles: Thrive, Women, Haven and Scout. But we also have plans to build on this in the coming months.”

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