Kiwi hustle, global muscle

TBWA Group NZ CEO Catherine Harris and CCO Shane Bradnick share their thoughts on partnership, the benefits of being part of a global collective and how the NZ agency has grown.

A lot of global agency brands disappeared in NZ in 2019, how have you managed to turn TBWA around?

SHANE BRADNICK: 2019 was a year of significant change from a global network perspective in New Zealand. Ogilvy, Y&R, JWT and Assignment have all disappeared. TBWA, however, has gone from strength to strength.

Locally, our success is built on the strength of our relationships with our clients, our people and in particular the energy of our senior leadership team. The partnership Catherine and I have running the business is key to this and we have a real alignment of values when it comes to how we operate, how we partner with our clients and the work we produce. Creativity is at the heart of this. No strategic or business decision is made without knowing how creative will improve the outcome.

How did you get momentum back into the agency?

CATHERINE HARRIS: We spent a lot of time with our clients, our teams, talent outside the industry and of course on the work. New Zealand allows for a really dynamic approach to business which we wanted to reflect. We also visited offices around the world including TBWAChiatDay New York and their CEO Rob Schwartz. Rob, like Shane, is one of those rare creative people who is fascinated by all aspects of a business. He moved from CCO to CEO and has driven huge growth for ChiatDay.

When Rob took over in NY, he introduced the mantra of ‘New York HustleGlobal Muscle’. This really resonated with us and we’ve adopted our own version here – ‘Kiwi HustleGlobal Muscle’. We have all the backing of the Global TBWA Collective, but it’s the unique creativity and ingenuity of Kiwis that makes New Zealand advertising great, and it’s what we encourage daily in our own agency.

The team, left to right: general manager, Kate Heatley; executive creative director, Guy Roberts; chief creative officer, Shane Bradnick; chief executive officer, Catherine Harris; head of strategy and planning, Matt Kingston; Eleven managing director, Angelina Farry.

Do you find being part of a global brand helps or hinders in New Zealand?

CATHERINE HARRIS: There’s a myth in New Zealand that multinational agencies pay large network overheads and get nothing in return. That just isn’t the case here. One of the keys to TBWA’s global success as a network
is the way it gives offices like ours the backing to innovate in a way that’s true to market and our Kiwi culture, it’s all about support, inspiration, investment and collaboration – not control.

Our collective is hugely supportive of local initiatives and the more entrepreneurial you can be, the better. It enables us to share learnings with great minds from all over the world – all the doors are open. Basically, as long as what we’re doing is working, they supply the global muscle for our Kiwi hustle.

So what’s so special about being a Pirate?

SHANE BRADNICK: Steve Jobs once said: “It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy” and this is something TBWA embraces globally. It’s best exemplified through our disruption strategy, it’s how we think and apply ourselves to solve client problems. We challenge ourselves to be different, to break conventions and it really comes from the top down. It attracts brilliant talent who can hustle like no one else. People are encouraged to be themselves and offer the skills that make them unique and brilliant – true pirates thrive here.

Agencies, local or global are asked how they add value, how does TBWA?

CATHERINE HARRIS: Our mission is to always deliver an unfair share of the future for our client partners and we do this using TBWA’s Disruption methodology. It’s about partnering with our clients in a way that gives us an ability to produce industry leading work that builds well defined brands.

It’s a way of thinking and acting and it’s the way we look at our clients’ businesses to find new opportunities. It’s a way of defining how brands and businesses should behave and it’s how we add value every day. There is no set style at TBWA. We pride ourselves on avoiding a house style.

How has this come to life in your work?

SHANE BRADNICK: To further build out disruption and our experience offering, we also needed to shift what we make and how we make it. Last year we launched TBWA MAKE to focus on experience production, working closely with Wiktor Skoog, our creative technologist. Wiktor is our creative products director for New Zealand and Australia. He’s ex Grey London and is a hybrid creative, maker, thinker and producer.

Through TBWAMAKE we created Mr Humfreez for ANZ. A smart device in sheep’s clothing, Mr Humfreez uses the power of nature to educate Kiwis about the humidity and dampness issues that impact their homes, their lives and their environment as part of ANZ’s Healthy Homes initiative.

TBWAMAKE teams are currently working on everything from developing TV shows, games, tech products and experiences to voice controlled appliances, wearables and clothing.

What tools does being part of a global network give you access to?

SHANE BRADNICK: Beyond the global talent we tap into routinely, we have access to a TBWAWorldwide cultural insights studio called Backslash. Backslash uses nearly

300 strategists, planners and creatives from around the world to report on emerging trends and culture shifts as they happen – we call them our culture spotters and they feed their observations into our L.A hub where they bring the stories to life. Every day a new custom video is created and distributed to the TBWA global collective to help us identify emerging cultural trends.

How can a NZ agency work successfully back into the global agency?

CATHERINE HARRIS: If you do well and experiment successfully in any market, you quickly become a global centre of excellence for TBWA. In some ways this is nothing unusual, New Zealand has often led the world when it comes to the work we produce.

TBWANew Zealand is currently a centre of excellence for experience design and is leading a new product offering currently being trialed. The great appeal of being in this part of the world is it’s exciting, dynamic and when you get it right it attracts additional network investment.

What does 2020 and beyond look like for TBWA?

SHANE BRADNICK: We’re only at the beginning of the TBWANew Zealand journey and 2020 is going to be another big year of making, growing and learning. There’s a lot of exciting work in the pipeline and awesome people joining our team. Our current philosophy is really simple – make stuff people love, with people we like.

For more information, visit tbwa.co.nz or contact Catherine on [email protected]

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