Harnessing the creative collective

Following the 2022 Axis Awards, we hear from some of the creative marketers who won after producing some truly magical work. They tell how embracing the challenges of modern marketing and channelling a collective response can see creative excellence achieved.

For the launch of this year’s Axis Awards, Convenor Steve Cochran (who’s also CCO of Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand) wrote a poem that spoke to the event’s 2022 theme: ‘A Kind of Magic Show’.

Creativity in the commercial world is often referred to as ‘the magic’.

“Bring us some of your magic,” says the CMO down the Zoom call.

“It just needs a bit of magic,” reads the strategist’s brief.

“But where’s the fu*kin’ magic?” asks the plucky young suit in the creative review.

Yep, we’re undoubtedly in the magic industry.

It’s this magic that our clients come to us for. It’s (mostly) what they pay us for.

Magic is the bit they can’t do on their own.

Or that their freelancer cousin seemed unable to do.

Magic is the mysterious, unquantifiable and surprising thing great ideas have.

It’s the unique solution to a problem.

It can be found in the strategy, concept, execution and delivery.

Magic can come from individual brilliance.

Or from the secret chemistry of many.

Magic is what makes this industry fun, interesting and ever-changing.

It’s the thing we creative types get up for every day.

And it’s why we bother with all the other malarkey around it.

This year, our Axis theme celebrates what creativity is truly about.

A kind of magic.

It’s this kind of magic that marketers from Rockit, Samsung, New Zealand Blood Service, Global Women NZ and others who received recognition at this year’s awards had in mind when they were seeking exceptional solutions to their unique brand challenges. But before these brands and their creative partners get into what makes for truly magical creative, let’s let Steve set the scene:

“‘A Kind of Magic Show’ was our theme for this year’s Axis Awards, and the reason for this theme was two-fold. The world right now is a more complex place to operate in, but we didn’t want to dwell on the challenges and difficulties of where we find ourselves. We wanted Axis to simply be a celebration of the industry and our best work, an Axis show that took the work seriously but was still light, fun, imaginative and entertaining — either in real life or as a virtual show, as it ended up being. The other reason for this theme [came from asking] what we look for in great work that elevates it to win a creative award. ‘Magic’ was a word that answered that.

“[As my poem read], creativity in our commercial world is often referred to as ‘the magic’. ‘Bring us some of your magic,’ says a client. ‘It just needs a bit of magic,’ reads a brief. ‘But where’s the magic?’ asks the plucky young suit in a creative review. Yep, we’re undoubtedly in a kind of magic industry, and the Axis Awards are about identifying the stuff we think has the most of it. 

“But what do we really mean by ‘magic’? If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. There’s no simple explanation of what it looks like or how to create it. It’s often the alchemy of many different inputs
and much collaboration, a mix of science and art, sometimes the stars aligning with a sprinkling of luck. It’s often subjective, nuanced, subtle and therefore debated. 

“Magic is the thing that makes something unique, distinctive, entertaining, surprising, interesting, simple, relevant. It solves complex puzzles. It can make someone rethink something or emotionally engage with a brand or product that they might otherwise not have given a second thought.

Steve Cochrane.

“Creating magic almost always starts with a good client and agency relationship, one that’s galvanised by mutual ambition for the work, and respect and trust of each other — an understanding that you’re creating something together, not having something created for you by the other. This allows freedom to explore ideas. If you don’t start here, magic is always going to be far more difficult to achieve.

“Experience suggests that establishing strategically sound creative platforms will often make creating magic easier. A platform means you’re starting with an agreed positioning, voice and brand codes, hopefully backed by some kind of purpose. When we have confidence as a collective about exactly who a brand is and where it’s going, magic is way easier to find — and agree on.

“I’ve been asked if there’s less magic about these days; this year’s Axis had two-thirds the number of golds as awarded last year. I’d suggest that’s mainly because the effects of Covid were more overtly felt in the past year than the one before. I think generally there’s as much magic as ever in New Zealand. The possibilities of where and how it turns up have certainly changed, though. 

“There are without doubt more barriers for creativity to navigate these days: legal departments and their risk assessments, tighter advertising regulations, dozens of media channels for an idea to stretch across, budgets being spread over the many places clients often have to support, even our more consciously aware society
being more sensitive to tone in messaging. But these things don’t negate magic — rather, they demand more of it. Answering problems and challenges is what our collective creativity exists for. The dynamics we all face only mean that when we do truly succeed together, it’s all the more magic.”  

Steve makes a good point when he talks about the many barriers to creating magic — challenges that marketers often lean on their creative agencies to help them navigate. To this end, we spoke to four of the
big winners from the 2022 Axis Awards about what it takes to create magic in a collaborative environment. 

Special new zealand Group wins Gold for Rockit Apple’s brand Design

In mid-2021, mini-apple brand Rockit unveiled a fresh new brand identity created by Special Group New Zealand. The new brand work was designed to function across all of the company’s touchpoints and included a logomark and identity, packaging, cartons, website, digital content, signage, livery and even some pack-house shirts.

Rockit Apple is the world’s first miniature apple (as recognised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) and can help everyone from kids to elite athletes ‘Rockit’ every day. Convenient and healthy, Rockit apples come in a handy recyclable tube, a modern approach designed to draw attention across all platforms in all relevant markets in New Zealand, Australia, China and the US.

“We needed Rockit to break the mould,” says Julian Smith, GM of Global Marketing. “Rockit apples are premium, so we needed a brand that reflects our premium price positioning, while also engaging with the health-conscious parent. We didn’t want a design ecosystem that compared apples with apples, so we needed a creative partner that could help us really stand out. That’s why we’re so pleased to
have partnered with Special Group, who’ve helped us turn Rockit into the rockstar of the apple world. We’re exceeding our export volume and price targets for the year, up 43 percent in global markets volume
on 2020.”

The branding and design (pictured below left) has come at a pivotal moment for Rockit Global, which has quickly expanded into 30 markets and is predicted to sell well over 400 million apples per year by 2025. The identity refresh has seen a new range of iconic symbols created, derived from the typography of the new wordmark. Ranging from descriptive (such as apples, leaves and blossoms) to symbolic (such as a lightning bolt, star and exclamation mark), illustrations represent the brand’s energy and attitudinal purpose. The new colour palette reflects the environment in which Rockit apples are grown and the seasonal colour changes of the flora and land throughout the year.

“It’s been a terrific opportunity to design such a bold new integrated brand with such an innovative company as Rockit, and it couldn’t have been a better fit for us. 

 We’re proud of Rockit’s success, and would like to thank their team for being a true partner of the agency — from the design of the core identity and building blocks to a beautiful and useful website through to customer communications — it’s a fantastic result to be recognised at Axis.

We really enjoy working with such an ambitious Kiwi company looking to supersize their brand globally. What’s more, Rockit insists on doing it with real attitude,” says Heath Lowe, Executive Design Director and co-founder of Special Group.

DDB Group Aotearoa wins seven Golds for Samsung iTest, as well as a Grand Prix for Brand Experience
& Activation 

From left: Tribal’s Haydn Kerr, Liz Knox and James Blair.

An innovative new mobile platform launched by Samsung New Zealand last year allowed non-android users to test drive a Samsung without having to change phones. Cleverly named iTest, the platform created with Tribal (part of DDB Group Aotearoa) lets people navigate the Samsung operation system via a web app that mimics Samsung’s operating system. Once the experience is launched, users are prompted to explore all of the apps and features in an interactive simulation of a Samsung Galaxy device.

John Alexander, Marketing Manager Flagship Mobile at Samsung NZ, says the iTest allows users to see what they’re missing out on in a no-risk environment. “We know that the idea of switching to a new operating system can be daunting for many mobile users. iTest was designed to give consumers a taste of Samsung, without changing phones,” he says. “Although we can’t replicate every function and feature, the experience enables users to explore a range of apps and settings, like phone and messaging apps and the Galaxy Store.”

To guide non-Samsung users through the journey, iTest is designed to be interactive, with tips and content that entertain people as they navigate the experience. Users can explore a number of experiences, including a camera tutorial and the ability to change themes, and they can even receive text messages that hint at features they might like to check out.

DDB’s work on iTest for Samsung gained international traction and has been downloaded more than 10 million times by Apple users globally. Tribal Managing Director James Blair says, “These unexpected, innovative digital experiences have changed the way brands interact with and offer their services to customers online. Through our collaboration with DDB Group Aotearoa, we’ve created some award-winning creative campaigns that have driven incremental growth for clients and gained them global recognition. 

“Samsung iTest demonstrates the power of a good idea, and how utilising creativity and technology to tap into the human experience can really deliver results,” he continues. 

Head of Corp Marketing Samsung New Zealand Simon Smith adds, “When we briefed Tribal to help us launch a new smartphone in New Zealand, we never expected they’d deliver a campaign so innovative that it would gain global recognition. This campaign shows how great creative has the ability to cut through even the most hard-wired consumer behaviour. Tribal Aotearoa have become integral to our success in New Zealand — their talent for delivering unforgettable digital experiences has completely changed the way people are able
to experience Samsung, and this award is well deserved.”

Haydn Kerr, Executive Creative Director at Tribal Aotearoa says of the wins, “We are incredibly proud of the work we produce with Samsung and thrilled to be recognised at Axis with a Grand Prix and 14 awards for iTest, including the gold Axis for Innovation. Some of the best work can happen when an agency and their client are both on the same wave-length. As an innovative company, Samsung also understands the power of creativity and technology and as demonstrated by iTest, its ability to cut through even the most hard-wired consumer behaviour.”

YoungShand wins in the For Good Government & Public Service category for New Zealand Blood Service’s ‘Unseen Emergencies’

Since its launch, New Zealand Blood Service’s ‘Unseen Emergencies’ campaign has encouraged much debate and more than 100,000 bookings — an +11 percent uplift in bookings since the campaign launched and
a +17 percent increase in bookings year on year. The question we posed to the agency was: How did they pull it off?

The new brand platform resulted from compelling insight and audience behaviour data, brought to life by YoungShand’s strategy, creative and media teams working side by side with production and media partners to deliver the launch — a showcase on the power of integration. Research showed that most Kiwis know about New Zealand Blood Service, but various barriers stop them from becoming a donor; however, donor behaviour also showed that all of these barriers are overcome by a national emergency, such as the Whakaari White Island eruption. If the need seems urgent enough, (often driven by wide-scale media coverage), New Zealand Blood Service is inundated with generous offers to donate.

“Our challenge was to shine a light on the emergencies that happen every day that rarely make the news,” says Marie-Claire Manson, Senior Planner at YoungShand. “Most of these stories are small and personal. Still, they result in life-threatening situations, so for the people impacted, they’re emergencies.”

To communicate the urgency, YoungShand had to build moments of impact. So they took over the news hour to shine a light on just a handful of the 83 stories that don’t make the news every day. Inspired by real medical emergencies, the series of short films (a still from one of which is pictured below) brought viewers into the centre of five emergencies as they took place across Aotearoa in real-time, ending with the rallying cry for support “Don’t wait to save a life”. 

Orchestrating the event took a lot of careful planning with media partners. “The campaign required considerable collaboration across YoungShand’s integrated strategy, creative and media teams,” says YoungShand’s Head of Media Andrea Long. “Those collaborative relationships extend to our incredible partners, who see the big picture. We invited media suppliers for a hui to brainstorm and problem-solve the messaging, timings and break fixing to ensure the storytelling worked. We ensured every partner had a bespoke creative solution, bringing the idea to life in a way that truly celebrated the  media channel. Landing the perfect timing on one of Aotearoa’s biggest news nights was one of those rare tingly moments when we knew  we’d done something really special.”  

The agency created executions designed to disrupt in each channel to maximise the impact and communicate the scale and regularity of these unseen emergencies. On TV, that was real-time storytelling. Outdoor used compelling statistics to tap into the number of emergencies in the area. Radio utilised the unmistakable voices of the news — Samantha Hayes, Amanda Gillies, Mike McRoberts and Simon Dallow — to give the unseen emergencies the presence of breaking news. And on social, a live countdown and short-form videos brought viewers into the centre of the unseen emergencies. Every execution is hyper-relevant.

The final challenge was exposure. As a not-for-profit crown entity that needs a constant presence in people’s minds and regular donations every week, a key element of success was a data-driven content strategy. The always-on content was carefully structured to identify and break down specific barriers to booking. Performance and sentiment analysis helped optimise the delivery of the content and drive stronger intent audiences returning to donate. 

“Our agency encourages true collaboration between all departments, and this allows us to deliver innovative approaches and better results for our clients,” says YoungShand General Manager Emma Dalton. “Our full-service agency offering is unique for an indie, and our size makes us agile and able to respond quickly, important for this work.”

With at least 30,000 more donors needed in the next year to meet the demand for blood and plasma, the campaign is asking eligible Kiwis to show up for the unseen emergencies, as well as the highly visible ones, because 83 Kiwis need our help every single day. 

“We have some challenging donor targets to meet the growing demand for blood and plasma across Aotearoa,” says New Zealand Blood Service National Marketing and Communications Manager Asuka Burge. “We needed a bold creative platform that could help us galvanise New Zealand, and the ‘Unseen Emergencies’ campaign does just that. The campaign’s success to date is a testament to the collaboration across YoungShand.”

We’ve worked with NZ Blood over a long period of time and because of that we have a really strong relationship. Asuka and her team are so passionate about what they do, we challenge them and they are prepared to do brave work. This campaign really showcases the magic that can happen with the power of an integrated creative and media approach. I’m very proud of the hard work we have done together .”

Saatchi & Saatchi NZ wins four Golds & a Grand Prix for its work with Global Women NZ

For International Women’s Day 2021, Global Women New Zealand released a campaign highlighting the ‘motherhood penalty’ and the fact that, on average, mothers earn 12.5 percent less during their career than fathers of the same age and education. The campaign was created by Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand and internationally awarded Swedish director Anna Mantzaris of Passion Animation Studios, one of the directors featured in the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase at Cannes in 2019. It builds on the humorous workplace scenarios Anna conceived for her critically acclaimed short film Enough and suggests there’s almost nothing a woman can do in the workplace that’s more career-limiting than having a baby. 

Anna typically works with different textures and materials to give her creations a handmade feel. For this TVC, she used puppets that consisted of a metal skeleton, felt, tiny beads and wool. “I just fell in love with this project as soon as Saatchi & Saatchi got in touch with us,” she says. “It’s the most rewarding thing to be able to combine my creativity with a subject that’s really close to my heart, so it was an honour to be asked to work on this project.”

Agnes Naera, CEO of Global Women, said of the campaign in 2o21, “This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #choosetochallenge and with this campaign, we hope to challenge and raise awareness of the ‘motherhood penalty’ that still has a significant impact on women in the workplace in New Zealand. We know that how an organisation supports and interacts with women around parenthood is key in a woman’s career trajectory. From our own research, we’ve learned that it’s critical for women to have relatable role models ahead of them, so they can see that having a successful career and a family is possible, and not just for the ‘superwoman’, who for many just doesn’t feel achievable or sustainable anymore. Finally, it’s important to remember that addressing this issue isn’t just for the benefit of women — this is about creating a better Aotearoa New Zealand for all. If women rise, we all rise.” 

Steve Cochran says of the relationships that produced this compelling creative, “The effort and brilliance from Anna and everyone else who helped make this work was phenomenal. We hope it means the message travels far and wide around the world. We owe her and everyone else who helped pull this campaign
together more gratitude than we can express. Having Global Women recognised in the country it was first created for is brilliant. It’s a good example of work that uses an unexpected combination of elements to create something magic. It had a great thought in ‘career-limiting’ some quite edgy scenes in terms of wrong behaviours, and beautifully crafted cute characters. Having a client that has trust in the idea, the agency and process is how you get to work that stands out like this work does.”  

This article was first published in the March/April 2022 issue of NZ Marketing magazine.

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