Retail, Innovation and Manufacturing reporter for the NZ Herald

Ad-makers chase moving target

Axis awards seek best adverts, as new media rewrite the rule.

The cream of Kiwi advertising talent gathers in Auckland next week for the industry's annual awards as the rise of social media and digital channels tear up the traditional blueprint for a winning campaign.

The Axis awards, now in their 36th year, are a chance to outshine fellow agencies, and a good indicator of which campaigns are likely to rate well in international awards, with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and D&AD awards both major targets.

But in such a fast-changing industry, what does it take to run a successful campaign?

According to Paul Head, chief executive of the Communications Agencies Association (CAANZ) which runs the Axis Awards, the number of finalist entries and the size and spend on campaigns was not indicative of who was likely to win at Axis, citing last year's Tui Catch-a-Million campaign which he said was not hugely expensive and ran over 12 games across the New Zealand summer cricket series of 2013/14.

The campaign gave cricket goers a chance to win a portion of $1 million by catching a six while wearing a signature orange Tui shirt.

A DB spokesperson said of the 60,000 orange Tui T-shirts made, 57,000 were given away with a Tui purchase, and a further 3000 were sold separately at the grounds.

"As a result, one in four adults in the grounds were wearing one of our T-shirts - we effectively turned the crowd orange," they said.

According to DB, game attendance for New Zealand cricket matches rose by 75 per cent during the campaign, with Tui sales and volume share reaching their highest point in two years.

As well as a successful campaign for its client, Catch-A-Million also demonstrated the evolution of the creative industry, which Head said was reflected in the Axis awards.

Campaigns have increasingly shifted from straight TV commercials to multi or omni-channel with social media, digital, a physical presence and experiential learning all important factors now.

"If we go back even five or six years, one of the biggest categories in Axis was 30-second TV commercials," Head said.

"Since then, entries into that category have probably declined by around 70 per cent, and it doesn't mean that people aren't doing TV - there's about as much TV advertising going on as before, but what marketers and agencies are doing is engaging with them in different ways," he said. "So campaigns are now much more multi-channel and omni-channel than they've ever been before and that's definitely the way of the future."

Head said as well as giving the industry a chance to celebrate all of its work, it also set the benchmark higher each year for the creative agencies.

"It's not just about walking away with a statue," Head said.

"It's about setting the benchmark higher and higher for the industry. So we talk about great campaigns in the industry over the years, and those are the ones that people hold up and aspire to."

"Hopefully Axis this year sets a benchmark that people next year will aspire to, so it's about improving the breed as much as celebrating the great work that's been done across the year."

This year more than 400 finalists have made the cut across the 74 categories, with several of the big agency names leading the pack, including Colenso BBDO/Proximity, well ahead with 85 entries, followed by FCB with 58, Y&R with 51 and 33 from DDB - last year's agency of the year.

According to Otago University lecturer Roel Wijland, creative awards had changed, with agencies in the past having been able to spend a significant amount of time on campaigns that were designed specifically with the goal of winning awards.

In recent years, however, as the industry has changed, this focus has lessened.

"It's absolutely true that some of those cases put forward in the Axis awards, everybody knew were made specifically for awards," Wijland said.

"In some ways that's fine but to my mind we're seeing less and less of that because people perceive that it's shallow and not related to business objectives."

Wijland said in some of the bigger agencies, competing for awards could take up to five or 10 per cent of people's time, and winning an award was a moment of celebration and excellence and one which helped strengthen client relationships.

Although local awards may give some indication as to international winners, Colenso BBDO managing director Scott Coldham said it was never certain.

"It's a funny thing, the creative award shows," Coldham said.

"Work that does well down here sometimes translates to success globally or in different market places but sometimes it doesn't," he said.

"The work that will be successful at Axis next Thursday will probably have a really good chance of being successful at the big festivals - sure - but it's never a guarantee."

Winning the awards, as well as earning the pride and respect of the industry, allowed companies to stand up in front of their peers and prospective clients on the night, and also helped attract the best talent and despite the time and effort involved.

- NZ Herald

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