The World: Insider's View - New Zealand

A small market with tiny production budgets has bred a lean, hard-working advertising industry, where creativity and simple solutions are cherished.

Twelve months ago, I was living in London, working at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, with assumptions of what the ad market in New Zealand would be like. Now I can begin to describe what it's really like.

It's a tiny market. New Zealand's population is 3.8 million - around the size of South London. So budgets are tiny too. The average production budget for a 30-second TV ad is around NZ$250,000 (£96,000), but ads are regularly shot for just NZ$20,000. That's £7,500. It still amazes me that production companies and agencies can do this and win not only the hearts and minds of consumers, but industry awards.

Another assumption was that the smaller budgets would mean less TV and more print and press. I couldn't have been more wrong. Airtime is cheap, and every man and their dog is on TV.

Naturally, the brands we deal with are global brands. However, it's heartening to find that much of the work is generated locally, not global work that's adapted for the New Zealand market.

This mix of big-name brands and small budgets is challenging, but it's also exciting. It has made New Zealand a place of innovation and experimentation.

Brands can move fast here. Products can be launched, tested and rolled out - or quietly de-listed - without too much fuss. And with smaller client structures, with fewer tiers of management, you get to speak to the decision-makers and never waste too much time.

I made some other naive assumptions about the ad industry before I came here. I thought New Zealand and Australia - often treated as one market - would be roughly similar. They're astonishingly different. Again, this is mainly down to the size of the market - Australia has bigger budgets, bigger structures and slower processes. Research is part of the landscape.

Here, it's an option for clients, but link-testing is rare - the money eaten in the process could be better spent on ads.

I thought New Zealand might be isolated. New Zealand is part of Asia.

The potential for agencies to participate in the future growth and business opportunities in Korea, China, India and Japan are colossal. Agencies and clients in New Zealand have access to an enormous emerging market and a chance to influence the work there.

Perhaps the single biggest misconception was that there would be a healthier work-life balance than there is in London. I've never been so busy - the industry here is lean, hard-working and focused. Imagination and creativity are cherished because, with fewer resources, you need simple, smart solutions.

But when you do get some time off work, the fishing is spectacular. Maybe this accounts for the high proportion of talented people who come here and never leave.