Creative excellence: Shane Bradnick on the Axis Awards, creativity, and change

Shane Bradnick

When StopPress met up with Shane Bradnick in December, he was just one week into his new job as chief creative officer across TBWA, Digital Arts Network (DAN) and Eleven PR, after leaving his role as DDB’s executive creative director.

Alongside stepping into a new agency’s doors Bradnick is also taking on the role of convenor for the 2019 Comms Council Axis Awards, which will be held on 14 March, something he is looking forward to.

“One of the things I really enjoy about Axis is that it’s a true celebration of everything that went into making great work over the last year,” says Bradnick.

“Creative excellence isn’t just in the output, it’s also the input that gets work to that point.”

With the Axis Awards in its 39th year, Bradnick says he’s seen it develop and grow up in the past six years, becoming a robust and sophisticated show without losing its sense of fun.

“It’s a great get together for everyone…there’s a real sense of optimism and celebration, even if there’s the usual grumbling about who wins or doesn’t win…people like Natasha [Galloway] and Paul Head [from the Comms Council]have worked hard to push Axis forward and make it a world-class awards show.”

The theme

The 2019 Axis Awards theme is ‘Can you feel it?’ which Bradnick says gives a sense of the kind of work they want to celebrate.

“[Can you feel it] gives you a focus on how to theme the evening, but also importantly it gives the juries a way to focus on the work they’re looking at as well – what we are really looking to award and celebrate are those pieces of work that go beyond just being clever and well-executed.”

Elaborating further, he explains that what the industry does, most of the time, is connect with people emotionally.

Bradnick says to have a theme like ‘Can you feel It?’ was to really try to bring that emotive feeling to life.

“[Advertising] is a tool to connect a brand with an audience emotionally — we’ve got the ‘physical tools’ to play with such as music, film, words or images, but what people really respond to are emotional stories that connect us as humans.”

Two examples Bradnick gives of emotional connection and “landing clever ideas with heart” are pieces he did at DDB; Lion’s  – Speight’s ‘Dance‘ and Netsafe’s ‘Re: Scam‘ ­­– The World’s Most Unhelpful Chatbot (which took home five golds at the 2018 Effies and two golds at the 2018 Axis).

Bradnick is humble about his own award achievements so StopPress puts it to him — is it nice to be acknowledged on the awards circuit?

“It’s wonderful for a couple of reasons – to acknowledge how much work has gone into the [campaign] and to acknowledge how much of the agency has been involved. Nowadays, to do a fully integrated piece of work there are sometimes more than 20 people involved in making it a reality.”

Speaking about awards in general, Bradnick says there are too many and they take a lot of time out of agencies because they involve so much prepping in terms of submission material. 

“When I was at DDB – we worked out there are over 26 awards shows a year from around the world you could enter – that’s about one every two weeks you could be entering, it’s just too much time and energy focused on the wrong thing. So we picked a handful of meaningful shows and focused on those – I still believe this is the right approach.”

“Awards can help build the agency profile, but there’s a balance,” explains Bradnick.

“To get your agency’s name in the headlines a couple of times a year is a good thing, keeps you top of mind, but if an agency is seen to always be winning awards it can have the opposite effect and clients could think that’s all you’re focused on.

“Awards are also really important for the morale of an agency – they help get people to collectively believe what an agency is capable of.”

Another point Bradnick makes is that it’s important to support your local industry, and its awards, especially in a country like New Zealand. 

“The best agencies are creative companies that happen to have a creative department…so winning an award is a great moment to acknowledge all the people who were involved in making it happen.”

The two international judges for the 2019 Axis Awards have been announced; Tara Ford, executive creative director at DDB in Sydney and Jenny Glover, executive creative director at  Juniper Park/TBWA in Toronto. 

L-R: Jenny Glover and Tara Ford 

“It’s amazing to have two of the world’s leading female creative leaders join us as the international judges this year,” says Bradnick.

“Tara and Jenny have both been recognised at the biggest award show around the globe and bring a fresh perspective to Axis judging. It’s a testament to Axis and the work that comes out of New Zealand that we can attract such interesting and talented international judges.”

Moving agencies

Bradnick explains to StopPress that his reasons for the move to TBWA had nothing to do with DDB, and he loved his time at the agency. 

“Great friends, great clients, great work. I think it was more of a personal challenge, and a bit of a change.”

To explain further, Bradnick uses an analogy, something he professes a love for.

“I always feel agencies are like football teams, they go up and down the ladder. Sometimes you’re at the top and I’d say DDB is at the top of the league at the moment ­— but it took four years of hard work — I was lucky enough to be there and help them to get to this point.”

While it is a change for Bradnick, he’s been at TBWA before, back in South Africa. With TBWA, Bradnick says there’s a sense that the agency has [great work]in its muscle memory and its history so it felt like just the right time for him to go to a place where he can help create a sense of momentum.

Looking at what to expect from this year, Bradnick says he thinks there’s going to be a lot of disruption around the world.

“In New Zealand, we’re sometimes lucky to be far away enough to not really be affected, but also close enough to watch it and still be involved in the best work globally.”

And with the Axis Awards, the first big advertising awards of the year, Bradnick says it looks to be a good time. 

“[Axis] is a time to see how people are feeling about the industry, a reflection on the work over past year, and to see the work that is going to go on and do well in the year ahead.”

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