BUSAN - Based in Auckland, New Zealand, Colenso BBDO is one of the world’s most renowned creative agencies, and it will celebrate its 50-year anniversary next year.
Last August, Colenso BBDO won Grand Prix of the Year at AD STARS 2017 for PEDIGREE® Child Replacement Programme – a title that comes with a US$10,000 cash prize.
Six months on, we asked Dan Wright, Executive Creative Director, and Ahmad Salim, Group Business Director, to reflect on winning the top gong at AD STARS, and what they’ve been up to since then.
What were the risks or challenges of bringing the PEDIGREE Child Replacement project to life?
Dan: “The brief for PEDIGREE Adoption drive is consistent: connect dogs that need homes with homes that need dogs. The challenge is uncovering new angles on the relationship between humans and dogs. For PEDIGREE, the answer is always hidden in that relationship, and like any other, it includes love and loss and longing.
“The first stroke of genius the team had was discovering a new emptiness to fill in the large homes of middle-aged parents. But the second was equally crucial to the result – treating the situation with the perfect amount of disrespect. The insight behind Child Replacement Programme was what made it right, but its bluntness was what made it famous.”
Is there a secret to creating campaigns in which every element is equally strong?
Dan: “I wish there was a magic reveal, but the reality is the team worked their arses off. On the insight, on the program, on the website, and then on crafting print and film and custom products – all of which stood on their own. There was a time when an agency would come up with a program idea like Child Replacement and it would be job done. We’ve seen it many times – when an agency has an idea for a product or a program that itself needs advertising, it gets some of the straightest ads ever. We forget to be creative when we’re promoting our own ideas. This is the most exciting thing about Child Replacement Programme – it reminds us we can (and must) do both.”
It’s been one year since you (Dan) & Levi Slavin returned to Colenso from BBDO New York. Why did you decide to come back?
Dan: “We came back because we realised that Colenso was in a position to act on the theories that were being discussed at length within North American agencies. I’d learned an enormous amount from some blisteringly smart people there, but I think there’s an impatience that’s bred in the southern hemisphere that wants to put it all into action. It’s been clear for a long time that agencies can be much nimbler in New Zealand, but it’s never clearer than when you work somewhere else. We felt like now, more than ever, we wanted to be somewhere we could move quickly. And we’re definitely doing that.”
Colenso has been at 100 College Hill for a while now. Is there something in the water there that contributes to the agency’s successes?
Dan: “At the moment, we have some pretty cool taps that dispense sparkling as well as chilled and standard water, but they are a pretty recent thing. Colenso has been at 100 College Hill for over 20 years, and over that time the agency has been in continuous flux. We’ve seen new businesses grow from within the agency, we’ve had close group partners share the address, we’ve had collaborators and friends of the agency move in and out. 100 College Hill covers all of that. I think everyone who arrives here takes the role of continuing the agency’s success personally. Having such a long-standing home for that is great, but it’s the people who carry it off.”
Colenso won US$10,000 at AD STARS 2017. What did you do with the prize money?
Ahmad: “It’s always nice to win a cash prize with an award, and we don’t have a set rule around how to spend them when we do. This one came in just as we were looking at some R&D costs for a tech-first for PEDIGREE, which we hope to roll out in the near future, and everyone involved decided that was the right way to invest it.”
As Group Business Director, can you tell us about your role in bringing the campaign to life, the agency’s approach to creative/account teams, and your relationship with the client?
Ahmad: “I’m lucky to be surrounded by an amazing team who are well practiced at delivering amazing work. That said, I do still love being on the tools and find it hard to stay away from making work this rewarding. My real job is generally to work alongside our creative leadership and make sure that as we go through and build the many parts of a platform this complex, we stay tight to the original idea and never lose sight of the business objective for the client.
“It’s a real strength I’ve found in the agency during my time here – that unlike many others, there’s no default tension between account management and creative because we’re all here for the same thing – delivering incredible work that works.
“We have a way of working at Colenso that we call The Game of Love and Trust. It’s presented as a set of beautifully designed playing cards, and consists of 14 mantras and musings that embody our values. The crux of it is wonderfully illustrated by our relationship with the team at Mars both locally and globally. “They have absolute faith in our motivation to help them meet their business objectives and fulfil their purpose as both brands and people. In return, we are rewarded with trust and freedom to make and craft work that we’re truly proud of.”
How do you follow on from a campaign as successful as this one?
Ahmad: “Haha! That would be telling, but when it comes to PEDIGREE, we’re always looking for new ideas and playing with new technologies that can help us fulfil the brand’s purpose of making the world a better place for dogs.”
Pedigree SelfieStix has also been a huge success this year. Was there a point where you thought developing facial recognition technology for dogs might be too hard? Is the idea really going global now?
Ahmad: “Getting SelfieSTIX into the world was genuinely challenging. We had reached out to all of our friends at Google, Facebook and Snapchat to see if anyone had a way to make it work, but the tech just didn’t exist to create a platform that did what we needed it to do. There was a point when we were pretty stumped, until one of our creative tech team came to us and said he’d found the Stanford University data set and with some hard work and a good machine learning platform, we could teach a system to do it. It took a long time but was totally worth it.”
“SelfieSTIX is already confirmed to run in 24 markets around the world, which we’re really excited about.”
* AD STARS is free to enter and the only festival with a US$10,000 cash prize for Grand Prix of the Year winners. AD STARS has extended the deadline to enter this year’s awards until 31st May. Enter via www.adstars.org.
In photos are Ahmad Salim, Group Business Director for Colenso BBDO, and Dan Wright, Executive Creative Director for Colenso BBDO.