Creating momentum: YoungShand’s creative directors on ideas that move the needle

This year, YoungShand has made a name for itself delivering emotionally-charged, behaviour-changing campaigns for a number of not-for-profit clients, including Quitline, Blind and Low Vision NZ, and the New Zealand Blood Service. Erin McKenzie sits down with the agency’s creative directors Scott Maddox and Anne Boothroyd to hear about the thinking behind each campaign and how the agency hopes to make all clients stand out from the crowd.

When StopPress visited YoungShand in 2017, the indie agency was refocusing its strategy on digital with a number of hires flaunting digital credentials.

It’s since been bolstering its creative, account service, digital and media offering and now has a headcount of about 35.

Among that journey has been the hiring of creative directors Scott Maddox and Anne Boothroyd.

Maddox has been with the agency since 2017 while Boothroyd signed on in October last year.

It’s Boothroyd’s first permanent role after four years freelancing which led her to work at YoungShand. She says she didn’t intend on staying with the agency but saw an opportunity to do something interesting.

Maddox shares the sentiment, saying they had a similar vision of the kind of work they wanted to do and where the agency was going.

“We saw the potential with the kind of work and people that were here, where it was and where it was going,” he says.

Now, reflecting on the last year, and the work that it’s produced, that vision is being realised, with Boothroyd summing it up by saying:  

“Our internal ethos is ‘ideas that move’ and what we mean by that is, ideas that do something – go out into the world and have a reaction, create some momentum.”

Hitting the sweet spot

Evidence of YoungShand creating ideas that move can be seen in its work with HPA/Quitline, which came off the back the agency being appointed as an all-of-government supplier.

The campaign’s hero video follows a man and his canine companion as they go about life – a familiar sight for New Zealanders as our country has one of the highest rates of pet ownership. However, though pet ownership is common, not commonly known is the fact that smoking around pets makes them twice as likely to get cancer – something the campaign’s protagonist learns the hard way.

Reflecting on the idea, Boothroyd says the campaign is trying to motivate people to something that is fundamentally hard to do – give up smoking – and it knew it was onto something with the dog as New Zealanders are “unreasonably attached to our pets”.

“We knew it was an opportunity to get under people’s skin and find an insight that was really going to move people and motivate them to do something which is fundamentally hard,” she says.

Having a dog play the victim in an anti-smoking campaign is unexpected and it pushes the boundaries for the client – something Maddox says it’s challenged to do for charities and not-for-profits.

Last year, an article on Project Periscope reported that “New Zealand has the densest population of charities in the world” – with one registered charity for every 169 men, women and children. With this in mind, campaigns for charities have a lot of noise to cut through.

“It’s a challenge but also it allows us to push the boundaries with clients,” says Maddox.

“They are looking for something that is going to move the needle and do something for them.”

But it wasn’t just the saturation of charities in New Zealand adding some challenge to the campaign’s creation. These types of clients tend not to have massive budgets so careful consideration has to be given to the most efficient way to sell the story as well as earning it eyeballs.

For Quitline, a solution to this came unveiling the campaign on The Project.

The show’s team visited the shoot where they interviewed the director, the dog wrangler and a vet.

“To get that coverage was amazing for them because it doubled the exposure they could get from their media budget,” Maddox says.

After grabbing attention on The Project, the video was shared across digital and social channels and supported by teaser videos and targeted messaging on both. All messages led the viewer to Quitline’s website.

“We have a message that no one wants to listen to and a media no one wants to watch in a timeframe where no one is willing to give – literally everything was against us,” Maddox says.

“But when you have the right message, it does resonate with the right person and is worth watching and it does hit a sweet spot so you will get behavioural change.”

New year, new campaign

A client YoungShand has been working with for many years is Blind and Low Vision NZ – formerly known as the Blind Foundation.

This year, YoungShand tackled a campaign for it to open up the internet to those with loss of sight.

It encourages publishers to use the ‘Alt Text’ function when uploading digital images as it’s this function that describes the images to those with loss of sight. Without ‘Alt Text’, AI bots can make a poor attempt at describing images but this often leads to information being incomplete or inaccurate.

“Hopefully the solution we have created is for everyone to go ‘wow I can’t believe I had been excluding all of these people all of this time’,” Maddox says.

“It’s so easy to do.”

Like the work for Quitline, YoungShand has also considered how the budget for the campaign can be stretched to reach the biggest audience possible – a particularly necessary task as the campaign is aimed at everyone.

“It’s not like we are talking to 20 or 30-years-olds in Auckland – we are literally trying to reach every single New Zealander,” Maddox says.

Helping to do this is a series of call out videos aimed at international celebrities and organisations, including Ryan Reynolds, Chris Hemsworth, BBC, Ellen, National Geographic and Humans of New York.

“Ellen DeGeneres would reach an extra 30 million Americans if she wrote down Alt Text in all of her funny posts,” Maddox says. “If some of those celebrities pick it up we will get massive scope and scale.”

Last year, YoungShand looked closer to home when bringing influencers into its campaign for Blind and Low Vision NZ.

To show what people with low vision can achieve, some members of MediaWorks’ Newshub team were swapped out for three of the foundation’s clients to deliver the 6pm news broadcast.

Similar to this year’s campaign, last year’s effort also shared the foundation’s vision of enabling a life without limits for people who are blind or have no vision.

So why the need to create a new campaign just a year later?

Maddox says when you deliver the same message over and over, people will start to block it.

Using the Quitline work as an example, he says last year’s campaign showed a man coughing into a tissue, while previous campaigns have looked at the impact smoking can have on whanau.

These different approaches all evoke a different emotional response.

“It’s all the different triggers you go through – well give you hard-hitting and then we’ll give you light,” says Maddox.

“There are statistics showing it can take up to eight attempts to quit smoking. You might say ‘I’m going to quit for my kids’ and then get back on the bandwagon. Then you’ll quit for something else and it also won’t work.

“This year’s message just might be the tipping point that it takes for someone to quit because they may have tried to quit for a number of social reasons but they hadn’t looked at their pets yet.”

Building a bench

A mix up to the creative can be seen in YoungShand’s work for the New Zealand Blood Service as this year it asked New Zealanders to join the ‘biggest reserve bench’.

Having worked on campaigns for New Zealand Blood Service before, this year the agency learned that there is a need for plasma but to give plasma, you must have first given blood. Men are also better donors as they give more plasma, however, they donate 30 percent less often than women.

But it wasn’t just about appealing to men. This year New Zealand Blood Service needed to change the way it recruits donors in order to have a regular supply of life-saving products, rather than an influx when disaster hits – like the Christchurch terrorist attacks.

“The idea of the reserve bench was to reposition how we recruit and say ‘we don’t need to you to donate today but we need you on the reserve bench because we will need you to donate in the future’,” Boothroyd says.

The idea of a reserve bench also ties nicely with rugby and being World Cup year as well as having the support of Sir Graham Henry, YoungShand was confident it would attract attention.

When attention was earned, the audience was prompted to go online and share their name, email and date of birth as step one of joining the bench.

Uncovering opportunities

While it’s been a big year for the agency in the charity and not-for-profit space, it’s also had a big year of appointments, including work for Tourism Holdings Limited’s Discover Waitomo business, health company Vitaco, and most recently Hellers and Oceania Healthcare.

In recent weeks, the agency has released its first campaign for Hellers, which serves as a reminder that Hellers is the solution to unexpected occasions this summer.

Called ‘There’s a Snag’, it features the familiar face of Leigh Hart and while he isn’t a sir, and there’s nothing life or death about sausages, Maddox and Boothroyd say they approach all briefs the same – no matter the category of client.

“It’s about looking at where the opportunity is, rather than the client,” Boothroyd says.

“I think what we are looking for, in any brief, are the opportunities for the client and how we can create work that’s different and stands out in the market.”

To explain, Boothroyd gives the example of its first campaign for life insurance provider Pinnacle Life that was released earlier this year.

It asks Kiwis to think about what makes them feel lucky, and the consequences when that’s no longer there, with a story about a father’s passing.

Boothroyd says the insurance category traditionally “avoids the death route like the plague” in advertising but it saw an opportunity to be upfront about the realities of life and create a story that resonates with all.

Again, she comes back to the idea of a story and when asked about where the agency is going, she is joined by Maddox in saying it’s about showing it has the chops to deliver great work from the agency’s digital and creative mix.

“The fruits of our labour are coming together and the talent is coming on board,” Maddox says.

Watch this space…

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