Shedding the conservative robes: Ogilvy and Public Trust win the NZME Advertising Challenge

Ogilvy’s Wellington office has won the second edition of the NZME Advertising Challenge, picking up $400,000 in media spend for its client Public Trust and an all expenses paid trip for two to the Festival of Media to be held in Singapore next year.

The agency will now set about bringing the winning campaign to life, and it will hope to emulate the success of the inaugural winner.

FCB’s win last year spawned the Sony ‘Sideline Challenge,’ a hugely successful campaign that went on to win three Axis Awards as well as four golds at the CAANZ Media Awards (and it was also shortlisted at Cannes).

And in much the same way that FCB relished having such a large budget for its client, Ogilvy is now eager to take its client on a similar journey.

Sitting down with Ogilvy’s general manager Christina Mossaidis, creative director Chris Childerhouse, media business director Denelle Joyce, senior account director Donna Lewis and Public Trust’s senior communications manager Greg Davies, it quickly becomes evident how much this win means to both the agency and the client.

Mossaidis says the sharing the news with Public Trust was a great moment for the agency.

“It’s a great feeling telling your client you’ve won them $400,000 worth of media off a proactive piece of work,” Mossaidis says. “Full credit to Public Trust for believing in us and supporting the idea.”

Strong competition

NZME commercial director Sandra King says that the Public Trust entry was selected as the best out of a strong field of 27 entries, many of which came from some of the country’s “biggest agencies”. And while the Wellington office is attached to the Ogilvy name, a victory against the industry’s juggernauts will be particularly sweet for a small, tight team in the nation’s capital.

“We looked at the client portfolio and came up with a selection of different ideas across the portfolio,” says Mossaidis. “And then given some of the time constraints and looking at the quality, extension and integration potential of each idea, we chose one that was really going to fly and be supportive to the overall brand mission.”

The winning creative idea will see Public Trust reunited 12 items of historical or sentimental value with their rightful owners. The final list has not yet been finalised, but these items could include things like an old, engrave silver platter, an old toolbox with the initials AH, an old watch, a painting and antique violin among other items.

“In the wills category, people take care of the big-ticket items: their property, their assets and other stuff,” says Childerhouse. “But there are many things that we own that has value—be it sentimental or financial—that isn’t in a will. And I guess that’s where the idea came from. There are all these amazing things out there that end up in junk stores or second-hand shops because they’re not in wills, and that’s a real pity. That’s where we started and we worked back from that. If we could find some of these items that are lost, there’s a fantastic story.”

The idea is to use the NZME channels as a storytelling platform that will help to reunite each of these items with their rightful owners, with the campaign being updated along the way.

As each item finds its way back to the rightful owner, Ogilvy will tell the story and use the media spend to distribute the content to the right audiences. Mossaidis says that Ogilvy set out to develop a creative idea that could marry the objectives of both NZME and Public Trust. 

“We actually came at it from a two-client perspective and treated NZME like a client as well as Public Trust,” she says. “So we had these two clients and we looked at how we could make them both absolutely delighted with the creative concept.”

For NZME, the Creative Challenge essentially functions as a piece of content marketing, illustrating to agencies how its various channels can be used to deliver campaigns effectively. And according to Mossaidis, Ogilvy plans to tap into the full breadth of the NZME offering to deliver a compelling story throughout the campaign.

An evolving brand

Public Trust has been in existence since 1873, and originally started out as a state-funded organisation aimed at ensuring the financial wellbeing of New Zealanders.

“In the past, the government actually used to pay us to write wills for people, but nowadays the public has to pay,” explains Davies. 

This change occurred in 2001, and Public Trust has since then had to ensure that its books balance. 

Over the last two years, the Public Trust ad spend figures have been relatively low ($72,000 in 2013 and $185,000 in 2014), but this does come off the back of big 2012, when the organisation invested heavily in radio advertising.

However, looking at the recent figures from Nielsen, it doesn’t come as much surprise why the organisation is pleased at winning $400,000 in additional media spend.

As a legacy organisation with a clear social responsibility, Public Trust until recently maintained a very conservative image when it came to its advertising—and Davies admits that this proved very restrictive for Ogilvy.

“I touched base with Christina at the beginning of last year. I knew what they had done in the past, but they were a little restricted by what we were telling them we wanted. A lot of it was families on picnic blankets, and it wasn’t getting the cut-through you need in the modern age. You need something a bit edgier.”

These conversations when coupled with a few changes in management opened the door for Public Trust to start developing more creative advertising, and Ogilvy responded by launching a series of creative executions, including one featuring a biker taking over the caretaking duties of a pair conservatively dressed kids, another referencing the loss of war medals in a court battle and a third showing an vase being used as a dog bowl.

Looking at the previous ads alongside the newer ones, it becomes tangibly evident what a difference a brave client can make to the creative quality of an execution.

“When you look at what was done five years ago, compared to what we’re doing now, it’s really quite amazing,” agrees Davies.

But Childerhouse is also quick to point out that the aim isn’t to offend people.

“We’ve been very mindful with Public Trust not to be deliberately disrespectful or confrontational,” Childerhouse says. “We just want ads that are thought provoking. It’s about talking to a segment of the audience that doesn’t have wills and giving them a reason to get one.”

And Mossaidis says that the new creative campaign has resulted in a significant lift in sales. And while she stopped short of quoting any exact figures, she suggested that the campaign would be entered into the next edition of the Effies, an awards ceremony focused entirely on commercial results. 

New ground

With the new campaign, Public Trust will again be breaking new ground because this will be the company’s first foray into the treacherous social media space.

“We’ve shied away from social media to a large degree, because the nature of our business is quite negative,” Davies says. “We’re dealing with people at a really emotional and fragile time. So this will be our first big move into this space.”

He says that campaign is ideal for entering the social media space because it focuses on the more positive side of the business.

Account director Lewis, who put many long nights into writing the award entry, agrees with Davies on this point: “We’re not going out with a story that’s offensive. We’re going out with a campaign that’s about stories.”

And she says that this will hopefully encourage Kiwis—especially those in the younger demographic groups—to start talking about important subjects that are traditionally considered taboo.

“There’s a fairly big social norm that we’re trying to break down in terms of the stoic Kiwi culture. We don’t talk about death, depression or drinking problems. It’s about cracking that nut and getting to the core of what is an emotional connection with someone.”

Davies admits that challenging these perceptions might lead to complaints from some members of the community, but he doesn’t necessarily see this as a bad thing.

“Complaints are a good thing, because it means people are sitting up and paying attention to what we’re doing,” he says.

And this is certainly true of a brand that was previously getting very little cut-through with pictures of familial picnic scenes.

Not just a gong

While there’s no shortage of advertising competitions in the industry, Joyce says that this win means much more than just another gong on the mantelpiece.

“This one comes alive for us and the client,” she says.

Other competitions award creative ideas that already exist, but this competition allows them to come to fruition for the client—and in doing so showcases how creativity (and the right budget of course) can help to lift a brand’s reach and effectiveness.   

“I hope [the NZME Advertising Challenge]continues for many years,” says Joyce. 

Asked whether it would return next year, King says that it definitely will and that she expects it to be even bigger.

And Mossaidis says Ogilvy’s Wellington branch will certainly consider putting forward new ideas by the time the NZME calls for entries next year. 

  • Disclosure of interest: NZME covered Damien Venuto’s flights to Wellington.

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