After last year's Axis Awards, shit hit fans when two of the country's best campaigns—NZTA's Ghost Chips and Steinlager's 'We Believe'—were largely snubbed. Since then, CAANZ, the CAANZ board and a collection of the country's executive creative directors have been working together to make sure it doesn't happen again. And a few important changes were announced at an event last night at The Bluestone Room in Auckland.
CAANZ chief executive Paul Head admitted that it was "pretty apparent there were some issues that needed to be fixed" following last year's awards, his first in the role. And, over a period of six to eight months, he says a lot of effort has gone into breaking it apart and building it back up to prepare it for the future.
Nick Garrett, managing director of Colenso BBDO and awards chair, says Axis needed to become a more collegial, more credible and more celebratory event that helped show the business community how influential creativity can be.
"There were lots of great things about Axis and lots of things that weren't working. But they didn't feel like the kind of place we could take a client and share that atmosphere of celebration,"he says.
Credibility is a major issue for Axis, and while there are a rare few clients who seem to appreciate the value of creativity, many others seem to see the awards as agency wank; an insular celebration of expensive art. With more emphasis being placed on effectiveness at most international creative awards, including Cannes, this raises an interesting question: do the Axis Awards even need to exist? And should CAANZ and the wider industry be placing more emphasis on the Effies?
Head says the two awards serve different purposes and getting rid of Axis or merging it the Effies was never discussed throughout the process.
"We think there is real value in celebrating creativity in this industry in New Zealand. And if we did away with it, local agencies would only have international awards like Spikes or AWARD to enter."
He says this is year one of an evolving process, so there is the possibility that, like Cannes and Spikes, a creative effectiveness award will be added in the future, allowing winners from the previous year to prove their commercial worth.
"But what we don't want to do is is walk away from celebrating commercial creativity. I think it would be a retrograde step."
Interestingly, despite the desire to appeal to and impress the business community, no clients were involved in the 'rebirth', but Head says two of the major changes to the awards—an exhibition to be sponsored by Getty Images, where all the work entered is displayed for a few days before the event, and a series of speaker events—aim to bring clients into the fold.
One of the turning points for the Cannes Lions was when clients decided to turn up and, as anyone who has been there will tell you, the seminars and speeches are now one of the major drawcards. So, as well as performances from the three international judges (Chris Wall, vice chairman, North America at Ogilvy & Mather Chicago; Damon Stapleton, executive creative director from Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney and Feh Tarty, creative director from Mother in London), Head says there will also be a host of other inspirational international speakers brought over, with the possibility of a seminar on the power of words from a top writer.
Antonio Navas, Saatchi & Saatchi executive creative director and convener of judges, also announced some changes to the categories and judging process and, like Garrett, he said not being from New Zealand and having plenty of experience with international awards shows helped him cast something of an objective eye over Axis to see what needed to be changed.
The design category has been removed, as it wasn't particularly well-supported (but Head says it hopes to bring it back in the future), and public service is now no longer separate from charity. Public service is also eligible to win the grand Axis. And the trophy itself will also be new.
There will also be five jury presidents (Nick Worthington, Andy Fackrell, James Mok, Paul Catmur and one other to be confirmed), with a grand prix awarded in each category and the grand Axis awarded to one of those winners.
Instead of sending material to be be judged remotely, the executive judging will take place in person, something Navas hopes will help to reduce the chances of the Ghost Chips scenario happening again.
"What we're trying to do is bring Axis up to global best practice within the constraints of our local budget," Head says.
In keeping with the theme of rebirth, Saatchi & Saatchi embraced cult-like creative for the call for entries.
Entries close on 18 March and the awards take place on May 9 at the Viaduct Events Centre.