Why and how does a little agency in New Zealand consistently stay top of the world’s Creative and Effectiveness charts? Nick Worthington, the long serving Creative Chairman of Colenso BBDO, attempts to explain.
I discovered New Zealand 25 years ago; not literally, but my partner’s twin had a bit of land there.
On an island 50 miles off the Auckland coast.
There was no mains electricity, so everyone had solar and battery packs on their houses.
There was no piped water, so you collected rain.
There was no sewage system, so you dealt with your own waste with vermiculture.
There was not much to buy so you caught your own fish and grew your own fruit and veg.
From one perspective it seemed backwards, but from another, it was the most advanced self-sustaining community I had ever come across. Way ahead of its time. It’s the same for business.
The isolation and the scale are two things that make conditions perfect for business here.
The structures are small, even in the biggest companies.
You meet the decision-makers and the owners of the companies you work with every day.
If they like stuff, they buy it.
You move fast. If it works, you gain trust.
With trust comes boldness.
At Colenso, things are different too.
We have a pack of cards called “The Game of Love and Trust.”
Everyone who joins gets a set.
In each pack there are 13 tried and trusted mantras that help us win the Love and Trust of our clients and their customers.
Our Head of Production’s favourite would be, “If it was easy everyone would be doing it.”
We expect things to be hard, we expect not to have enough resources, we expect not to know how to do things that have never been done before.
Every day we remind ourselves of that, until achieving the near impossible becomes normal.
There isn’t much money here.
The market is small so no one has the luxury, time or funds to defer decisions to endless rounds of research, consumer testing of communications, animatics etc.
The culture is simply to get smart people to work out the real problem. And then come up with practical solutions.
If everyone really understands the problem, the solutions don’t need to be sold. They become immediately obvious as soon as they are conceived.
And half the time they’re not advertising.
No one is afraid to ask the dumb questions.
One of the other things that’s different here is we believe fiercely in the power of creativity. Not creativity for its own sake – creativity with purpose.
Through helping a client define their purpose (before purpose was a thing), they asked what ours was; it was a good question. The answer was that our purpose is to use creativity to help them achieve theirs.
Pedigree’s purpose is to make the world a better place for dogs. But the real problem is that dog ownership is in decline. As a result, over the years, we’ve thought less about selling dog food and more about getting people to get a dog.
It’s led to a decade of innovative work and has grown the love and trust of our clients and their customers.
Doggleganger matched dogs in homes with new owners who looked most like them.
The child replacement program got families whose children had left home to replace their kids with dogs.
A Dog’s Story tackled families with young kids who were afraid of dogs by creating a program for kids in school, to learn how to behave with dogs and not get bitten. Which has become part of the school curriculum.
Most recently, we’ve created SelfieStix, a simple oral hygiene chew that now comes with an attachment for your smartphone. Ever tried getting your dog to look at the camera for a selfie? Now you can. Is it advertising? Is it product innovation? Does it make the world a better place for dogs and their owners?
Most of what I’ve said so far has been said before.
What’s new for Colenso is the power of the collective.
We’ve stopped trying to do everything on our own.
We’ve started working with clients, councils, NGO’s, pressure groups and Kiwis who share the same agenda.
Very few coordinate their efforts, but when they do, it’s logical that they can achieve more than any one of them can achieve alone.
Again, it was necessity. We simply had to find a way to get the biggest and best ideas off the ground.
Brewtroleum with DB Breweries is a good example; it brought together a bio-fuel tech company, a petrol station chain and a brewer. There is no way any of them could have done it alone.
The mutual agenda of creating and distributing a sustainable alternative to petrol allowed multiple previously unconnected companies to provide and combine their resources to achieve something that was seemingly impossible.
We’ve been doing this with DB, Mars, Spark, Auckland Council, Vector Anchor and IAG Insurance and you quickly realise that there are always other people trying to solve the same problems. Nutrition for kids. Internet for everyone. Safety in the community. Saving a language.
Ban Ki-moon asked the world’s biggest brands and their clients to help solve 7 of the world’s most crippling issues.
It’s a big ask.
From NZ, there feels like a few we could have a crack at.
Sustainability and a clean energy future are two.
Our work for DB Export is turning its marketing budgets into sustainability programs and vice versa.
Solving the fossil fuel problem by creating a bio fuel from beer waste, turning bottles destined for landfill made from desert sand back into sand, and distributing this to the construction industry to make new products meant they could stop dredging sand from our beaches and give people in NZ a couple of new reasons to choose DB Exports and feel good about drinking more beer.
Charming and wonderful though these ideas are, it’s perhaps a little naïve to think that companies will spend anything on something that doesn’t have a commercial return.
So it’s incredibly exciting and empowering to be amongst a diverse group of people who can collectively achieve things far greater than anyone of us could alone.
Not least to build their respective brands and become more loved and trusted by their customers.
And why is this different in NZ than in the rest of the world?
Well, there aren’t many people here, and everyone knows everyone or knows someone who does.
You can pitch your ideas to CEO’s at work, at your daughter’s football match or your neighbour’s BBQ.
There are 10 packs of Love and Trust cards that we’d love to send to the people who leave the nicest comments. #ColensoGunn100