Libby & Ben winning on merit, not reality show renown

Soon after brother and sister pair Libby and Ben Crawford won the first instalment of The Block NZ, they opened their own eponymous creative agency, Libby & Ben. So how’s that working out for them? 

Almost one year in, Ben Crawford says things are going really well. He says the agency is starting to get good momentum, it’s had a bunch of really good smaller projects and it’s also starting to have more conversations with some bigger clients, with its most recent win being Rainbow’s End, which it won in a pitch against “multiple agencies”. 

“The park has had significant investment over the past five years and the management have an exciting vision,” he says. “Our challenge is to match that vision with a new look and feel for this popular New Zealand brand.” 

In addition to Rainbow’s End (which had the highest visitor numbers in its 30 year history last year and recently opened Kidz Kingdom), he says the agency also works with, among others, Christchurch Airport, the Department of Conservation, Tear Fund and Sudima Hotels.

Libby, the creative director, is based in Christchurch while Ben, who works more as a strategist, planner and occasional copywriter, is based in Auckland. But he says being based in two different cities—or working with clients in Christchurch, Queenstown or Wellington—“doesn’t provide any great barriers” these days. During his time with Tourism New Zealand, where he worked in marketing for around eight years in the US, Australia, the UK and New Zealand, he says 90 percent of the time he dealt with agencies via phone or email, with face time for the important bits. 

He says starting from the ground up has been a hard slog, and it often takes a long time to get from a conversation to a signature on a contract. But they’re “very well employed” and the agency is a lean machine. It doesn’t have any salaried staff and brings contractors in when required, which means it can “cope with some of those lulls that inevitably come along as a start-up”.

He says setting up their own shop was something the siblings had wanted to do for a few years and the publicity from their win in The Block NZ was a nice kickstart in terms of publicity that earned them some extra interest. But he says that has completely died down.

“Now, the majority of new enquiries don’t know that side of us. They’re coming as a result of our professional credentials and it’s based on merit.”

Crawford still keeps his toes in the design and DIY water, however, and he writes a weekly column for the Herald on Sunday. He’s also just finished writing about and photographing 20 of his favourite cafes around the country for a book that is scheduled to be released in November.

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