Award-winning content on a Shoestring comes to the City of Sails

Fresh off collecting an award for marketing on a shoestring budget at the 2022 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards, creative video content, and production agency, Shotover, has set up in Auckland with a mission to bring their emotive and nimble approach to the Big Smoke. We asked Co-Founder and MD, James Perry to tell us more.

Tell us about how Shotover came to be. 

Back in 2014, my Co-Founder, Pete Whittaker and I were a couple of free spirited travellers on working holiday visas, living our best lives in Queenstown, before inevitably re-entering the dense atmosphere of the British rat-race. Pete had been through film school and I had spent the previous decade in financial services, managing relationships with our strategic partners for a FTSE 100 investment company before travelling and documenting the world with my partner, Rhi, a couple of small backpacks, and an even smaller stills camera. 

Both keen storytelling creatives behind the camera, we’d met in Queenstown through our mutual love of bringing the amazing South Island landscape to life through film and photography and decided to do something with our passion for the local community. So we teamed up with the New Zealand Cancer Society to raise funds and awareness through a project we called Shooting Cancer in the Face. We shot video and stills for local small businesses and asked them to donate to the NZ Cancer Society instead of paying us. We raised thousands of dollars, boosted local and broader awareness and even spawned its now ubiquitous tagline “We Can”. What a cool thing to do before heading back to the UK, I thought. But Aotearoa had different plans for us. The local business community really got behind our project and the awesome people at the Cancer Society (we’re looking at you, Marie Wales) encouraged us to transition into a sustainable business. So over the years we slowly evolved into Queenstown’s go-to commercial production company (founded on the banks of the Shotover River), and then into the people-first creative content and production agency that we are today. Now a team of 10 (12 if you include the dogs), we’re all about doing great work that matters across our Queenstown and brand-new Parnell offices. 

Tell us about the reason for the Auckland move and the new Parnell office.

Well, we’ve got the best neighbours you could ask for in the Marketing Association, sharing the space at 69 St Georges Bay Road. Auckland is ground zero for brand communications in New Zealand and to be part of the incredibly vibrant marketing and creative culture here, and help drive it forward, is something we’ve always wanted to do. Pete put his hand up to head the Auckland studio and the team there are an epically talented group of production creatives that cover the whole creative and production process end-to-end. Pete heads up production and the editing genius that is Floriane Caillot heads up post production. Myself and partner number three, Head of Digital & Marketing, Jason McKay Williams are frequently back and forth between Queenstown and Auckland covering our clients’ strategic and campaign executional needs, while our Queenstown Production Director, Zyanya Jackson continues to do amazing things down south. We’ve really designed our set-up to achieve effective results through collaboration, stand-out creativity and seamless execution. 

The quality of your video work speaks for itself but tell us more about your approach
to effectiveness.

Over the years we’ve worked with mom ’n’ pop SMEs through to commercial and public giants but our approach has always been the same. I’ll always remember, one of our clients, the Comms Director at Queenstown Airport at the time, calling me to say she’d showed one of our deliverables to the team who had all cried. “The thing about you guys that stands you apart is your ability to convey emotion. All of your content gets you in the feels and that’s why people want to watch it and why it stands out,” she said (they still proudly play that piece of content on their internal screens at the airport today). 

I’d never really thought about it before but Pete and I, in our natural desire to tell great stories through film and photography, had inadvertently trained ourselves to deliver on three of the key rules in effective brand advertising: get emotional, be creative and be distinctive.* This comment had stirred a personal journey into the world of advertising effectiveness, and a deep dive into the works of Peter Field, Les Binet and our very own James Hurman, which allowed us to see how we could apply our inherent creative storytelling skills to drive greater value for our clients through a focus on effectiveness.

This journey was the catalyst for the evolution of Shotover from production company to creative content agency and our main focus ever since has been to create emotive, distinctive and creatively superior work. Not because it’s cool but because it’s the right thing to do for the campaign. It’s what will keep audiences engaged and ultimately what will work for our clients. 

So how do you think Auckland marketers will benefit from your model? 

In a small town like Queenstown, where 75 percent of businesses have less than 10 employees, we’ve consistently pushed ourselves to do more with less. To find a way to meet our high creative expectations and deliver effective results with challenging limitations. When the pandemic hit and financial resources were extremely scarce, this approach was absolutely vital for our clients. We did this through a completely in-house, end-to-end approach and embracing the multi-skilled capabilities of our amazing team. All of our projects consider strategy, creative, production and execution and our small team of strategists, creatives, production crew and marketers cover all aspects of that in-house, allowing for direct collaboration and personal relationships between the client and the whole team throughout the process, resulting in a greater level of care as well as time and cost efficiencies. 

This nimble and agile proving ground has stood us and our clients in good stead for the current climate marketers find themselves in globally and particularly in places like Auckland. A climate where marketers are constantly being pressured to do more for less at every scale of business. Whether it’s the big guys we work with like government organisations and international retail brands or SMEs and start-ups, our position is always the same. How do we use the resources available to achieve the greatest level of value and the best possible result? The value of this approach really struck true when we picked up the award for Best Marketing Campaign on a Shoestring Budget at the 2022 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards for the part we played in Great South’s Te Anau Time campaign. 

In the short time we’ve been here, I’ve met some incredible marketers in Tamaki Makaurau doing amazing things, and many of their pain points align. Ultimately, marketers need people and processes that they can trust to deliver powerful creative video content that works for their strategy and their bottom line, and that’s something we can help with.  

For more on the Shotover mission, get in touch with James via email at [email protected]

This article was originally published in the March/April 2023 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

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