Last night, for the 35th edition of the Axis Awards, the nation's ad folk descended on SkyCity in their finest robes for a night of celebrating the best work produced in the industry over the course of the last year.
As CAANZ chief executive said: "Axis has always been the pivotal moment in the New Zealand creative calendar because it is a celebration of our best creative work; the work our industry is most proud of because it has broken the rules, permeates popular culture and influences behavioural change, and the winners this year are all great examples of those attributes."
From the outset, host Jesse Mulligan knew that he was in for a rough night of presenting. His opening address was delivered as something of a requiem for past emcees, and he jokingly said that Kerre McIvor only drinks because of her experiences hosting the gig. Looking back at Mulligan's efforts to shush the crowd, one can't help but think that in the age of automation the industry should really invest in a robot to replace human emcees.
That being said, the restlessness of the crowd was understandable. This was, of course, the culmination of a caffeine-fueled year of late nights, impossible deadlines and intense pressure.
By the end of the night, when all the gongs were handed out, DDB walked away with the largest haul of three Grand Prix, eight golds, nine silvers and 14 bronze across 13 different campaigns for SKY TV, Steinlager Pure, Speight’s, YWCA and Westpac. Colenso placed second and FCB came in third. And in confirmation of its growing prominence in the Kiwi ad industry, Special Group pipped Saatchi & Saatchi to take fourth (Special did well across the board winning gold for Smirnoff with their 'Instagram Your Fridge' campaign in Direct).
DDB's chief executive Justin Mowday attributed this success to the quality of the team the agency employs.
“What a fantastic result to be named Creative Agency of the Year and to have Lion announced as Creative Business of the Year, plus receive a tonne of metal across a whole range of our clients," he said. "This rewards the quality of work our guys produce year-after-year, for all our clients, no matter the task, budget or challenge. We put a lot of effort into making sure we have the very best people at DDB, and alongside Damon Stapleton (chief creative officer), Shane Bradnick (executive creative director) and Lucinda Sherborne (head of planning), we’re building something pretty special at DDB."
Mowday went on to commend the bravery of the clients, without which it would not be possible for the agency to produce the work it has.
“We’ve celebrated a lot of big wins as an agency over the past year and it’s great to see that continue at Axis. There’s simply no way we can be at our best as an agency without smart, trusting and brave clients, which we are grateful to have at DDB. The standard of work in New Zealand is always very high, so we’re honoured with this result.”
The Grand Axis, which is awarded to the single best piece of creative work in the show, went to Clemenger BBDO for its 'Mistakes' campaign, making it two in row for the Wellington-based agency, which last year won the coveted gong for its 'Blazed As' campaign.
DDB's haul also included three Grand Prix awards for Lion's 'Live Dive' campaign in the integrated category, and Sky's 'Bring down the king' in the out-of-home and digital and interactive categories.
The other four Grand Prix awards went to: Clemenger BBDO for 'Mistakes' (craft – copywriting and film categories), Saatchi & Saatchi for 'Tui catch a million' (PR/experiential category) and Colenso BBDO for Mars' K9FM campaign (radio category).
Overall, the lion's share of the gold awards went to DDB's 'Bring down the king', Saatchi's 'Tui catch a million', and Clemenger's 'Mistakes', each of which won five golds.
So regularly were these campaigns awarded that Mulligan at one stage quipped "you might've heard of this campaign," before handing out yet another gold to 'Bring down the king'.
For the most part, the Axis is largely about commending the efforts of the nation's advertising agencies. However, in the case of the video-based campaigns, the creativity and imagination of the agencies would not exist were not for the efforts of the production companies.
For the fourth year in a row, The Sweet Shop was named the Production Company of the Year. In addition to this, the company also won a gold in the direction category for its work on Sky's stunning 'Murmuration' spot, which was released late last year.
Methods Studio Sydney ('Mistakes'), Robber's Dog ('Born to Defy') and Finch ('Mistakes') also walked away at the end of the night with gold gong apiece.
As has come to be the case a tradition at the Axis Awards, the bustle of the crowd only died down when it came to the announcement of the Lifetime Achievement award, which this year went to creative stalwart Jeremy Taine in honour of his long-running service to the industry.
And to illustrate that the future of Kiwi advertising is in good hands, the emerging talent award went to Liz Richards and Nick Dellabarca this year.
Today, as the inhabitants of nation's agencies weather their hangovers, the long road to Axis 2016 starts. And there's no doubt that by March next year, we will again have a showcase of outstanding work, illustrating that Kiwi creativity is alive and well.
- To see the full list of winners, click here.