TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards: Whittaker’s and MBM win Long-term Agency Partnership

Starting from humble beginnings, MBM as a start-up independent agency, and Whittaker’s struggling to claw share off Cadbury, the two have worked together over the past nine years to deliver world-class marketing.

The Challenge

It’s more than just your typical client and media agency relationship, with Whittaker’s engaging MBM on decisions from its inception, through to setting targets.

Whittaker’s has to ruthlessly prioritise to ensure impact and stay true to its collective mission and MBM are the guardians of this. And as a local operation up against the strongest global chocolate brands on the planet, ultimately Whittaker’s is forced to act differently within its fiscal constraints.

Whittaker’s challenge MBM to deliver an idea that holds 10 percent terror – and MBM constantly deliver.

The Response

Like all strong marriages, Whittaker’s and MBM agree on the things that matter – both aware that getting stuck in a middle ground between premium and a discounting game is dangerous territory.

Together they set a vision: the world eating world-class chocolate from a world-class company in Porirua, and then collectively developed the strategy. Derived from the insights and vision, it is simply to continue to push up into mass premium positioning to maintain a higher price per kilo than the competition. From this, together they identified multi-year strategic priorities spanning all facets of the business.

This included building for long-term brand saliency by telling the provenance story of its beans to bar, producing chocolate that cares for Kiwis, and identifying growth areas.

Other priorities include stimulating the market with innovation and news, while exciting people through new product development. Together they have also delivered products outside of the expected chocolate category, such as the Music Month chocolate record, Garage Project Chocolate Beer and the Auckland International Airport Store.

Retaining surprise and delight to keep Whittaker’s advantage is also important, with the company actively avoiding category conventions and delivering experiences beyond the chocolate bar.

It hasn’t been an easy ride the whole time. In 2018, Whittaker’s experienced an agency breakdown with its creative partner which could have flipped everything on its head.

But, with MBM as its partner, Whittaker’s rallied and created a bespoke Whittaker’s creative team within MBM to get back to the heart of what it does well – the idea.

It was a unique and innovative solution that took some convincing for MBM to adapt its business model to this degree.

The Result

The list of awards, successes and milestones Whittaker’s and MBM have picked up together is testament to their partnership.

Whittaker’s was awarded New Zealand’s Most Trusted Brand one year into the partnership and has maintained this for eight years running, taken home 11 Commercial Communications Council Beacons awards, won Colmar Brunton’s Most Loved Brand from 2012 to 2018 and Reader’s Digest’s Most Trusted Brand from 2011 to 2019.

Like all relationships, there have been challenges and constructive debate, but all riddled with an absolute mutual respect for one another, honesty and standing by each other through bumps in the road; ultimately collaborating to deliver stellar thinking and outward marketing.

Long-Term Agency Partnership
J H Whittaker & Sons and MBM
DB Breweries and Colenso BBDO, Lion and DDB New Zealand, Pak’nSave and FCB New Zealand, Trustpower and Gunroom
Judges’ Comments
“A significant partnership over the years where the agency is truly operating in the business and has shared some accountability for outstanding, sustained business results. A great New Zealand success story based upon some shared values.”

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