DDB Aotearoa has poached an Australia-based staffer from Google to lead its creative department in this market.

The company announced to staff today the appointment of Matty Burton as its group chief creative officer.

The role will cover a broader remit than the previous chief creative officer position, spanning a remit across agencies within the DDB Group.

Once he picks up the reins in November, he will be responsible for driving the creative output across agencies DDB, Track, Tribal and Mango.

Burton joins the agency from Google, where he has led the Asia-Pacific innovation team from the Sydney office over the last four years.

Prior to that, he co-founded the Australian arm of New Zealand independent advertising agency of Special Group. He spent six years building that business, before departing for the Google role.

He also spent six years at TBWA in Australia earlier in his career.

His work in the advertising industry has seen him accumulate dozens of awards over the course of his career, including more than 50 Cannes Lions and Effies.

While Australian at heart, Burton has close ties to New Zealand through his work at Special Group but also through his Kiwi wife.

He also served as the creative group head at Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand between January 2006 and December 2007.

“I love New Zealand on a personal level, just because it’s so creative,” Burton told the Herald through video call this week.

“Even the recent naming convention of the ‘Shot Bro’ bus showed that it’s in the culture. If you look at Kiwi art, music, cinema and food. It’s all incredible.”

In addition to the appointment of Burton, DDB Group chief executive Priya Patel has also announced the promotion of Gary Steele from executive creative director to the position of chief creative officer for DDB.

Patel told the Herald that the recruitment of Burton and the promotion of Steele will be integral in ensuring that DDB retains its momentum in the market.

“We believe both of them can bring some magic and they’ll work closely together,” Patel told the Herald from her MIQ hotel room, which she was finally able to secure recently.

“This will strengthen our overall creative intelligence. The more big brains we have in the building, the better our output is going to be.”

The DDB Group has grown significantly from around 150 to employing about 270 staff over the last five years.

Patel says that much of DDB’s recent growth has come in that data, CRM and digital space, which fall within the core skillset of Burton – particularly after his tenure at Google.

“Matty’s diverse multidisciplinary experience as a creative leader is fairly unique and we believe that with his skills and the existing capability in our building, we’ll be unstoppable,” she said.

Despite the recent growth, the DDB Group has hit a few speed bumps recently, most notably the shock departures of former CEO Justin Mowday and chief creative officer Damon Stapleton, who left earlier this year to launch Accenture-owned creative agency The Monkeys in the local market.

These moves occurred amid growing concern in the advertising industry about the departure of talent from agencies to consulting groups, tech giants and in-house marketing teams.

Interestingly, Burton has now walked on both sides of the divide. So what’s his take on working for Google versus an ad agency?

“My career has not been a linear journey,” he admits.

“One of the reasons I went to Google in the first place was to figure what I did and didn’t know. And this has been personally really good for me.

“Google is essentially an engineering company. To answer a question, Google always looks to technology. Whereas I believe the answer always lies in creativity.

“I felt a bit like an outsider in their company, and that’s cool because you get to learn a lot of things in that way. And then at the same time, I was able to look back at the advertising industry while not being in the daily grind of it.”

Burton says this gave him some valuable insights on how the advertising industry could perhaps better adapt to a technology-led world – a theory he’s hoping to put into practice once he lands in New Zealand.

Asked for his views about the consulting giants muscling on to the creative turf of advertising agencies, Burton doesn’t appear too concerned.

“There is a lot of talk and questions in the industry at the moment. Are we too slow? Are we too expensive? Are we losing relevance? But I think the thing these conversations miss is that we are creatively led. There is a spine of creative thinking that underpins everything we do.

“I think creativity is the last unfair business advantage you can have. Creativity is a business word and we need to get much closer to understanding our worth.

“It’s interesting because the tech companies and consultancies are poaching talent from us because they want what we have. They can see that it’s valuable.”

The point Burton makes here is that while the advertising industry is concerned about whether it’s still on the right track, consultants and tech companies are spending massive amounts recruiting advertising staff who have honed skills that make the spend worthwhile.

Having worked on both sides of the divide, Burton says he is now ready to return to the industry that gave him his start in his well-travelled career.

Before he starts in November, he will, however, have to navigate through a short stay at an MIQ hotel after being fortunate enough to secure a slot.

This will mark the beginning of a new era for the agency and the pressure will be on Patel, Burton and Steele to ensure that growth continues to track in the right direction.

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