Marketing firm returns to Christchurch

The time is right for Australasian marketing firm Designworks to reopen its Christchurch office, with optimism abounding in the Garden City, its new regional managing director says.

Christchurch managing director and head of strategy Michael Prentice joined Designworks in November as the company was installing itself in its new office on the second floor of the Alice in Videoland building in Tuam St.

Designworks has more than 110 staff with offices also in Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne and Sydney. It is owned by STW Group, a massive Australian-listed marketing and communications company.

Designworks had opened a Christchurch office in September 2010 in Victoria St. The February 2011 earthquake forced the office closure and the firm's presence in the city shrank, although it kept most of its Christchurch clients and took on a few more. Designworks did not reopen an office in the city until late last year.

Many businesses that were affected by the earthquakes, including the Christchurch branch of Designworks, found the disruption gave an opportunity to reassess, Prentice said.

"To step back and think: ‘Is how we've done things how we should do things in the future? And should we take a moment and see how we can do things better with a model that will be more sustainable?'."

The company had "taken a breather" and thought about when the right time to return would be, Prentice said.

In the past few months the city had seemed to turn a corner, with more optimism apparent and strong market signs filtering through both in statistics and on the street, he said.

Now was the time to open up and "get serious", he said.

He was confident there would be plenty of work defining brands for the innovative start-ups of "young, hungry entrepreneurs" as well as the "big, meaty projects" the firm was known for.

First he wanted to strengthen the service to existing clients before looking to snap up other customers, he said.

He expected a slow, measured growth of personnel; the office was staffed by three people at the moment, with room to grow. Most of the creative work is done at the company's Wellington office, which Prentice visits regularly.

Prentice has been in Christchurch for almost five years, previously working for Strategy Design and Advertising as a strategic director. Before that he lived in Auckland.

He was lured to Designworks by the chance to build up the office.

While at Strategy Design, Prentice led the award-winning Share an Idea campaign for the Christchurch City Council.

The 2011 campaign asked the people of Christchurch to give their view on how to rebuild the city with parts incorporated into city planning.