All hail the underdog: loyal voters send Skyline to TVC of the Year victory

Youtube VideoIt looked like Lotto’s ‘Lucky Dog’ had it in the bag the whole way. But some excellent campaigning at the final stages of voting last week saw the animated spot for Skyline Garages created by Barnes, Catmur & Friends (BC&F) and Cirkus beat out the big boys with the big budgets to take the inaugural StopPress/ThinkTV TVC of the Year award.  

Anyone who was paying attention to the comment stream on StopPress late last week may have noticed an unusually large number of fawning descriptions of the Skyline ad (our favourite: “I have always disliked TV ads but I find myself watching the Skyline ad”). And Paul Catmur, managing creative partner of BC&F, says the late surge in interest can be attributed to Skyline’s managing director Chris Cook, who sent the link around his distributor network.

There’s no doubt it’s a great ad, and it has struck a chord with consumers, the Skyline management and, judging by the comments and the end result of this poll, the people who sell them. Some will undoubtedly be surprised to see it taking out top spot, however. And some will undoubtedly say it’s not indicative of the will of the people. To clarify, we allowed each person to vote once for up to five of their favourite ads, but there were no restrictions on sending the link around to drum up support. So the win is basically a tribute to the power of social networks (and, as Obama can probably attest, their ability to set the course of democracy).

“It was down to their enthusiasm and I can honestly say we didn’t provoke them to do it,” Catmur says.

Interestingly, Cook says he forwarded the link on because he was so stoked the ad had made it through to the final 38 and he wanted to show his fellow Skyliners around the country that the relatively small, family-owned company’s ad was in such good company.

“It’s far and away the most professional ad we’ve ever done. We’ve never had an ad agency before, so this was new territory for us,” he says.

But, being the smallest business—and having the smallest budget—on the list, he never expected it to win.

“I sent out on email to show everyone how great it was that we had an ad of this quality. Then Daniel [Barnes] emailed me on Friday and said ‘have you seen what’s happening on StopPress?’.”

Back in October, Skyline Garages chose BC&F as its agency. Before that, most of its ads were created in-house and, as a result, Cook says the company had neglected its brand. It set about reinvigorating it, so BC&F redesigned the logo and came up with the idea of celebrating the role garages have played in establishing New Zealand’s reputation for inventiveness.

Catmur wrote the ad, with the recently departed Carlos Savage second in command, and it took a couple of months from brief to completion.

“Cirkus is on the North Shore but the actual garage we used was in sunny Mangere Bridge,” he says.

Given Skyline started in 1956, it’s fair to say Sir Ernest Rutherford didn’t split the atom in one. But the Britten bike, Catmur says, was actually built in a garage, and while it’s not clear if it was created in a Skyline, he hopes the ad might help ensure more Kiwi tinkering will take place in them in the future.

“We did try and find out how how historically accurate the ad was, but yes, there is a degree of artistic license involved.”

Cook says he was slightly apprehensive as to how the TVC would be received by his slightly conservative distributors. Was it too far, too soon? But when they were shown the ad in February, he says “they all cheered and whooped and howled. They were really proud of it”.

In fact, it’s been so popular internally he believes it has been something of a catalyst for a change within the company, which has just undergone a big restructure. He says morale is improving and “our people are now quite passionate about the brand”.

While the budget is commercially sensitive, it’s not huge (Catmur says “there’s a reason we used animation”). In fact, Cook believes some of the ads it was up against would likely cost more than Skyline’s entire annual advertising budget.

But it’s all about ROI these days and Cook says the ad has had a huge effect on sales and, importantly, market share, which is even more impressive when you consider the sad state of building consents in New Zealand at the moment.

“At this point in time, we’ve got a lot of ground to make up in market share. But we’ve heard from one distributor who’s sold as many buildings in the past month as they did in the six months before it.”

The TVC has been followed up with an online ‘Garage Sale’ campaign, which has also been very successful. And the results have been so good that Catmur says they’ll be preparing an Effies entry for it.

  • 12 lucky folks from the agency, client and production house, as well as two tag-alongs from StopPress and ThinkTV, will be heading off for a long lunch at Snapdragon in the near future. Keep an eye out for some photos of the festivities so you can see the unbridled joy on display as the underdogs celebrate their famous victory.
  • There were 1860 votes in total.


Agency: Barnes, Catmur & Friends

Client company: Skyline

Brand/product: Skyline Garages

Client contact: Chris Cook

Creative director: Paul Catmur & Daniel Barnes

Account director/team: Daniel Barnes

Media strategist: Monica Wales

Writer: Paul Catmur & Carlos Savage

Art director: Crispin Schuberth

Production: Cirkus

Producer: Amy Behrens

Director: Normon Weend



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