Clear vision leads Beacon success for PHD Aotearoa

PHD Aotearoa made waves at the recent Beacon Awards, winning a sweep of awards for campaigns that pushed the boundaries of creativity, innovation, and effectiveness in the advertising industry. We chat with PHD Aotearoa’s GM Planning James Davidson about what went in to making these entries shine.

Among winning a haul of metal at the 2023 Beacon Awards, in taking out a gold for ‘Skinny: Get the Skinny’ and a silver for IAG’s ‘Too busy for insurance’ in the Sustained Success category, PHD Aotearoa demonstrated its ability to not only conceive innovative ideas but also effectively maintain its success over time.

According to Davidson, this success can be attributed to fostering positive working relationships with clients like Skinny and State, as well as maintaining a shared and well-defined vision among all stakeholders.

“It was super clear to everyone what the brand was about, what the campaigns need to do. So, each opportunity that came up, there was a really clear filter as to why it could work or why it wouldn’t,” he explains. “It’s the ones that have that really consistent platform that tend to be the most effective.”

The IAG/State team.

The Beacon judges said they “couldn’t help but award this campaign [Skinny] with a golden stamp of approval, recognising its robust and imaginative approach in a challenging market”.

They also praised “the campaign’s masterful juggling act of media and creative strategies, which propelled it to the forefront and impressed the panel with its distinct value proposition”.

In line with their focus on effectiveness, PHD also secured a gold award in the highly coveted Most Effective category for its outstanding collaboration with Spark/Skinny.

This campaign got the nation quite literally talking, by encouraging everyday New Zealanders to call an 0800 number to record a radio ad and have the chance to hear their voices on the airwaves.

To pull off such a seemingly outlandish scheme with a limited budget required some serious creativity from all involved, especially the media team who found innovative new ways of getting the radio scripts in front of the right people at the right time.

James Davidson.

Davidson says with this campaign it was important to be “really, really deliberate” with everything the media team did as “the creative itself wasn’t going to tick any creative best practice boxes”.

As the creative was made up of simple posters with a large amount of text, it was vital they were placed in locations where people had time to stop and read them. This included barbershop mirrors, takeaway coffee cups, and even outside an exotic dance club.

“Everything was about what are times when people have a bit more time, and working closely with Colenso BBDO to ensure the script was absolutely talking to that audience through those few people.”

Davidson says this strategy meant breaking a few rules from a media planning perspective.

“We were trying to reach as few people as possible at times, so we could be as specific as we could with the message. We really had to fight that balance all the way through.”

He adds that underneath everything recognised in the awards entry, there was a “hardworking broadcast radio layer”.

“All of the fun Out of Home placements were basically to create scripts so we could then push into broadcast radio. Radio still reaches a lot of people every single day. It’s a channel that our competitors don’t use so much. It’s a way that we can talk about what our brand’s personality is. We can get endorsement from real people talking about Skinny and why they love it. And I think it just hit at the right time.”

For this campaign the judges were impressed “with its remarkable blend of creative and media strategies. With extraordinary results, a wow factor, and a seamless connection between incremental growth and the overall entry, it stands out as a shining example of innovation and excellence”.

PHD also took out a gold in the Consumer Services category for IAG’s ‘Mistake Report’, which was built around giving people information about when common mistakes happen, such as losing or breaking your glasses, which according to the report most frequently happens on a Saturday.

Recognising that insurance isn’t the most glamorous topic to tackle, PHD set about making sure this campaign captured people’s attention in a way that didn’t disrupt their lives but added to them.

The key was “talking to them about things like insurance, or being a bit safer, but not in a preachy kind of way, but in a way that people think, ‘oh, that’s actually quite interesting’,” says Davidson.

“It gets them to lean in a little bit more, knowing that people are too busy for insurance and for almost everything in their lives. [Thinking about] what can we do to be a bit more additive to their life is always beneficial.”

Here, the judges praised the campaign for delivering “impressive results through effective use of data and a well-executed strategy. The integration across touchpoints, innovative use of platforms, and clear KPIs demonstrate its strong performance in achieving objectives”.

Reflecting on the agency’s Beacon success, Davidson says the process of submitting an award entry is hugely beneficial and allows a broader perspective of the work.

“Sometimes when you are in the midst of it, you don’t realise how great it really is. Seeing how [the team]are always finding ways to push the boundaries, find new and interesting ways to do things, really challenge conventions, but be really deliberate in what you do – that’s something I’m really proud of, how all of that’s come together.”

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