New Zealand's marketing and advertising royalty invaded Eden Park on Thursday night for one of the most prestigious nights on their calendar.
The fortress of the All Blacks last night played host to the Effies Awards, an annual event that celebrates the most effective marketing ideas to emerge from New Zealand.
The man of the match of this year's proceedings was undoubtedly Sean O'Donnell, the marketing brain behind DB Breweries and this year's marketer of the year.
The Marketer of the Year is determined by the number of awards and finalist spots a marketer achieves over the course of the event - and as the numbers were tallied, O'Donnell emerged as the clear winner.
This was the first year the Effies featured this leaderboard, which will sit on the Comms Council website for the year. Rather than being wiped clean every year, the scores will be accumulated year-on-year to give an indication of which marketers have staying power.
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DB Breweries creative work, developed by ad agency Colenso BBDO, picked up a number of awards of the course of the night, including two golds for the well-received 'We're drinking it for you campaign,' which featured an epic love song trumpeting the DB Export Gold, extra low carbohydrate beer. This haul also saw DB awarded the most effective client of the year.
Colenso also won a gold for its hilarious 'Famous names' campaign for Skinny, featuring a collection of ordinary Kiwis who shared first and last names with far more famous people.
The Comms Council put a concerted effort this year into shifting the focus of the event from the advertising agencies, which don't usually mind the limelight, to marketers who invest in making the campaigns happen.
"It isn't just about agencies executing outstanding campaigns," said Comms Council boss Paul Head.
"It's about having great marketing clients. Marketers who are bold, strategic, determined, creative and brave – and empower their agencies to be the same. The best, most effective work is always a partnership and the marketers that lead that partnership deserve greater recognition."
That's not to say that the agencies didn't also get the opportunity to shine on the night. The most effective ad agency of the year went to FCB, which won three of the 13 gold awards handed out over the course of the evening.
FCB's campaign for Testicular Cancer New Zealand won in the most effective PR or experiential campaign category, while the agency's other two golds came for longer-term efforts, with Mercury Energy winning in the highly coveted Sustained Success category and Pak'nSave being declared New Zealand's "Most Consistent Brand".
This year's international judge Andrew Geoghegan, Global Head of Consumer Planning for Diageo in the UK, said Pak'nSave Stickman was the obvious choice for the consistency award.
"Has a decision ever been reached so quickly?" he asked.
"The judges unanimously awarded Pak'nSave's Stickman the Grand Effie. This is deceptively sophisticated work – the creative means and message are so well integrated they deliver the campaign's intent in every touchpoint efficiently and effectively.
"Tapping into culture drives everyday relevance and that competitive brand truth about being a real NZ brand. Most of all they have stuck with and evolved the work over years and have impressive results in a tough category. Bravo!"
FCB's haul saw the agency nudge just ahead of DDB to win the big agency award of the night.
The team at DDB will not, however, be complaining about their night, having picked up golds in both the Short-Term Success and Charity categories. These were won for their clients Kiwirail and Pet Refuge, respectively.
The coveted 'Hardest Challenge' award went to Clemenger BBDO for NZTA's 'Belted Survivors' campaign, which showed graphic pictures of the injuries suffered by people who were involved in car accidents.
Rounding out the gold winners on the night was Stanley Street, which won the Most Effective Integrated category for "The Deciding Question" campaign developed for NZ Police; OMD, Fuse and TBWA, which stepped up to grab the 'Most Effective Use of Data' gold for Carlsberg's 'Probably the Best Time' campaign; and VMLY&R, which won for its 'Be a Safe Guy' campaign for WorkSafe.
What is marketing effectiveness?
This was a question FCB's chief strategist David Thomason strove to answer when he asked to be the convenor of judges at this year's edition of the Effie Awards.
He admitted there has been little lasting consensus on how advertising works, industry historian Paul Feldwick, who said that our definition of effectiveness, and therefore how it's achieved, never stops evolving.
"It's tempting to believe that we've recently become smarter, analysed the data and figured it all out. That delusion's been reached many times for over 100 years," writes Thomason.
He tracks the impact of behavioural science, the writing of Byron Sharp, the pointed remarks of Mark Ritson and more recently the research of Les Binet and Peter Field to point out that measure of effectiveness remains an ongoing discussion.
He does, however, land on the important point made by Binet and Field that effectiveness shouldn't only be measured in the short-term and that marketers should always take a longer-term view of what they're doing.
"Field and Binet's greatest contribution is their reminder of the power of long-term thinking and brand-building," says Thomason.
"They present this as the approach that most marketers should take, most of the time. Unlike many evangelists, their thinking is balanced, and non-revolutionary. It's one philosophy we must never tire of."
And while it is unlikely the industry will ever land on a universal view on what really defines effective marketing, the one constant Thomason has seen in every campaign is a marketer's brave enough to take the plunge.
"To create exceptionally effective work, marketers have to be smart, strategically consistent, focused, bold and brave," he says.
"It's clients, not agencies, taking the risks we admire in outstanding campaigns."
See all the winners and finalists here: