Needing a last-minute advertising campaign? Chances are clients won't be top of the priority list this week, with most of the major advertising agencies having their heads down, polishing competition entries for the upcoming CANNZ Axis awards.

The start of the creative and advertising awards season, the Axis awards showcase the creme de la creme of New Zealand's creative industry with winners typically going on to clean up in the rest of the season. With the deadline looming tomorrow, the focus will be on perfecting those entries - although as is typical for these awards there may be a few entries sneaking in just under the late deadline wire of January 21. As well as a chance to outshine fellow agencies, Axis is often a good indicator of which campaigns are likely to rate well in the international awards, with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity a major target.

Last year saw 379 entries across 75 categories make it through to the finals, with FCB leading the way on 54, followed by Colenso BBDO with 49 and DDB with 47. Clemenger BBDO's "Mistakes" driving campaign for the NZ Transport Agency, DDB Group's "Bring down the King" campaign for Sky TV and Saatchi & Saatchi's "Catch a Million" campaign for Tui were among last year's grand prix winners.

"Mistakes" took out the top prize of the Grand Axis and DDB was named agency of the year. There are likely to be a lot of familiar faces in this year's finalists although Saatchi & Saatchi may miss out on the big gongs having lost several of their major clients in the last year, including most recently Tui which has shifted to Colenso BBDO.


The Key to racing

Prime Minister John Key opened up about one of his unfulfilled childhood dreams during the holidays, saying when he was younger he wanted to be a racehorse trainer - an idea quickly vetoed by his concerned mother. Key attended the Chinese New Zealand Business Lunch hosted by Ateed over the Christmas period, celebrating the continuing investment in New Zealand's racing industry from China. A guest at the lunch, Key welcomed guests before revealing his short-lived training career.

"Obviously, the training side of racing is a very fun and exciting thing and good trainers can be hard to find," Key said. "I once wanted to become a horse trainer myself, it's a very famous story. I went home and told my mother when I was 15 that I was leaving school to become a horse trainer," he said. "I received a one-word response - 'no' - and that was the end of that discussion."

A leaf from the PR book

At a time of crisis for one of the world's biggest car-makers, Volkswagen's global team could take a note from its New Zealand branch which has fronted the issue from day one in an effort to be transparent with customers. It was revealed last year the Volkswagen group had been tampering with software in its cars to cheat emissions tests and the company has since been scrambling to recover its reputation, something made more difficult by Volkswagen executives avoiding media queries.

In contrast, the New Zealand operation, led by chief executive Tom Ruddenklau, has taken an active role in contacting customers and keeping them up to date with developments. With a potential solution close to being approved, it remains to be seen whether the fix will affect the performance of the vehicles, something Wellington law firm Gibson Sheat says its Volkswagen clients are sceptical about.

The company said it was still planning its class action lawsuit against Volkswagen, but despite the outcome, Volkswagen New Zealand is to be commended on its PR which has been a step above that of those in other countries where media queries have gone unanswered.

New Nines

A new naming sponsor for the NRL Nines is due to be announced this week. Photo / Brett Phibbs
A new naming sponsor for the NRL Nines is due to be announced this week. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It seems the Dick Smith NRL Nines won't be without a naming sponsor for long, with organiser Duco Events preparing to announce its newest name next week after nutting out a few final details. Duco founder David Higgins said he was sorry to see Dick Smith go after the company went into receivership a fortnight ago. Higgins said Dick Smith had been great but finding a new major sponsor had not been difficult. "We're staging one of the biggest events in New Zealand, with an international and local broadcast to a huge audience so we have had a lot of interest in potentially taking up the sponsorship as a replacement for Dick Smith," Higgins said. "We're close to concluding a position which we will probably announce early next week and we're confident and satisfied."

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