Special wins Holden’s hand after advertising duel

After separating from its long-time agency Ogilvy, Holden decided to choose its new creative partner in a novel way by giving the two top contenders FCB and Special Group their own real world tests. And it’s Special Group that has come out victorious. 

Holden New Zealand’s general manager of marketing Marnie Samphier was unable to be contacted this morning but she said in a release this afternoon: “We are impressed by Special’s all round skills, their team and their fit for Holden. Here at Holden we have an exciting few years ahead of us as we prepare to add an unprecedented number of new vehicles to our range. And with that comes some important work in evolving the Holden brand to be in the best possible position to capitalise on that expanded line-up.” 

Holden grew its total new passenger car sales by 15 percent last year, ahead of the record 12 percent growth overall. And that placed it third behind Toyota and Ford in terms of market share. Nielsen AIS figures, which are based on ratecard spend, show Holden spent $16.2 million in 2014, up from $13.9 million in 2013 and $12.7 million in 2012. 

Samphier said back in March that it started the pitch process towards the end of last year with four agencies, including the incumbent Ogilvy, which pulled out before the pitch started and had worked with Holden for around nine years, and Y&R. Its contract with Ogilvy finished at the end of March, but as it needed to get some work out the door it had FCB and Special work on different projects. 

Special just released its ‘Live Big, Drive Small’ campaign for the Holden Trax over the weekend.

And FCB released its campaign for the Holden Cruze in early March, with the spot featuring a family man who tries to use voice-command in his home, suffering a series of disappointments as he attempts to order his kids, his dog and a newspaper to do things. It’s only when he steps into his Holden Cruz that what he says goes.

For many industry watchers, Special first moved into the big leagues when it beat Colenso BBDO and WhybinTBWA to take the 2degrees business a few years back. And winning a top tier automotive brand in what is probably the biggest pitch of the year so far feels like another move up the agency pecking order. 

Like most journeys of acceptance, creative director and co-founder Tony Bradbourne said in the cover story of the May/June edition of NZ Marketing that respect has had to be earned and doubts overcome. 

“At the outset, everyone said ‘you’re really creative, but are you effective?’ Then we win multiple effectiveness awards. ‘But what about working with difficult clients?’ So we work with Unitec in a very difficult category and do the best work in the country and win. ‘But what about working with big clients.’ So we win 2degrees. ‘But how’s your digital’ …. There’s always a but.” 

By adding new clients such as NZTE and the Warriors, doing top notch work like Smirnoff Instagram your Fridge and 2degrees Play the Bridge, and opening an Australian office that’s lured some big names and is humming along very nicely, it’s regularly smacked those buts. And it has ambitions to take its model of ‘magic, logic and decency’ further afield, replicate the success of independent agencies like Wieden + Kennedy, Droga5, and Goodby Silverstein and create a world-class network from the bottom of the world. 

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