The most enduring marketing marriage in the local IT industry has ended.
Botica Conroy, Microsoft's public relations firm since the software company set up in New Zealand in 1991, yesterday resigned the account. Although both sides are at pains to be diplomatic about each other, there has clearly been some tension leading up to yesterday's move.
Botica Conroy's managing director Allan Botica says there has been an opportunity cost in working for Microsoft, whose interests "cover a lot of ground" in the IT industry - limiting potential clients for the PR firm - "but that wasn't the driving decision."
He says that Microsoft has recently represented only 8% of his company's revenue and that since last year's move to Microsoft of Botica Conroy staffer Carol Leishman, "who is a significant resource … they really don't need the sort of strategic counsel that we have traditionally supplied them.
"If you're not providing strategic counsel and your revenue levels aren't high, you have to say, are we doing everything that we can for them, and is the relationship delivering to us? And after a while you decide that it's not. It's been a good relationship and we've got a lot out of it and this is a good time to move."
Leishman says the two companies have grown in separate directions. She says Microsoft had told Botica Conroy last year that it would be seeking pitches from local PR firms immediately after the recent Windows 2000 launch. Botica Conroy would have been invited to pitch, she says, but the software company has already been talking to other contenders.
"There are quite a few. Microsoft has a process by which we'll talk them and invite some, but not all, to pitch. So I'll probably invite about four key agencies to pitch."
As to what kind of firms will be in the frame, she says "Microsoft is not a small account, but it's not an all-encompassing account either. So it suits a medium-sized agency. You can't be too small because we have the need for a strategic component as well as hands-on implementation."
Leishman says the company will announce its choice of a new PR firm in April.
Meanwhile, Botica is positioning his firm as the country's only new-economy specialist. Botica Conroy has companies such as Advantage, Strathmore Group, Walker Wireless, Genesis Research and Development and Newcall on its books.
"Basically our revenue has grown over 50% in the last 12 months and it's mainly from new-economy companies - growth stocks. And that's really where we're putting our focus.
"The growth that's coming out of that area is just phenomenal. And the challenge is not just to understand that space but to develop the right skills to do it. "We still run a very big IT practice - the likes of Compaq, Intel, Symantec, Peoplesoft and Greentree - but all out our growth's coming out of that new area."