Smooth sailing for Motion Sickness as young agency takes industry by storm

Motion Sickness, founded in a Dunedin student flat in 2013, is already making waves in the industry and has taken out multiple accolades at the 2023 Axis Awards for its work with Fire and Emergency New Zealand, DB Breweries and Karangahape Road Business Association. Here we delve into the agency’s winning campaigns and explore how it lives up to its motto of being an advertising agency for the new age.

Enjoying a fairly quick rise to the top, Motion Sickness’s recognition at the 2023 Axis Awards serves as a testament to the potential of younger agencies to disrupt and challenge the status quo in the industry.

Taking home a raft of awards at the 2023 Axis Awards for its campaign with Fire and Emergency, as well as recognition for the work with DB Breweries and Karangahape Business Association, Executive Creative Director & Founder Sam Stuchbury says it’s been a fast-paced ride and one that is far from over.

“After our first big win at Axis a few years ago, an ECD from another agency said poetically ‘Welcome to the colosseum’, then disappeared into the night. A shock, but I loved it – it felt like we’d arrived. But we’re not fighters, we prefer to cut shapes.”

Stuchbury says while their peers often talk about how “savage” the industry can be, this has not been the agency’s experience.

The Motion Sickness team celebrate at the 2023 Axis Awards.

“Most within the industry have been really supportive of Motion Sickness and our journey, we’re really grateful. 

“To now be sharing stages with the likes of Colenso, FCB and Special means a lot. We’re in good company, flying the flag for Aotearoa on a global level.”

Motion Sickness’s hero work on the night was undoubtedly the pieces with Fire and Emergency and Stuchbury says winning them as a client marked an important, though slightly intimidating milestone with a “hat tip to FCB for a run of amazing work”.

“‘You’re Cooked’ was one of the more challenging projects we have ever done,” he says.

Museum of Fires Past – Teddy.

Creative Director Jordan Stent says the campaign was a real “labour of love” and one that, to do well, relied on the client’s recognition that calculated risk was needed to get the desired results in the target demographic.

“Creative fell out of conversations naturally – partly research, mostly autobiographical. But in true spirit of the campaign, our team got so deep in the sauce I’m not sure we fully appreciated the bite:chew ratio.”

The You’re Cooked-Book.

Filmed using intoxicated revellers during a busy night in Britomart, the You’re Cooked – The Test Kitchen Activation campaign, was a risk that paid off, earning the agency Gold and Bronze in the PR and Brand Experience & Activation – Integrated Campaign category. 

“Producing a functioning ‘Cooked-Book’ was one thing, choreographing talent was a whole different ball game. In the words of W.C. Fields –  never work with children and animals and pissed punters. But trials, tribulations and celebrations aside, the risk has gotta pay off.”

And according to Fire and Emergency research in the past three months, the campaign is shifting the dial around cooking while under the influence.

“When you’re dealing with an audience that historically has been impossible to reach, campaign success tastes better than any late-night kebab ever could,” Stent says.

“Museum of Fires Past was crafted to the nth degree. The project features a series of artefacts retrieved from actual New Zealand house fires, and ultimately reinforcing the importance of smoke alarms. Each item was carefully recreated by fire experts and props designers to accurately resemble the devastation of fire, with the survivors’ true stories etched into plaques.”

Stuchbury attributes some of their success to much of the agency taking a non-traditional path to get to where they are today, meaning they approach work “without the conventional ‘ad-land’ DNA or ingrained reference points”.

Museum of Fires Past – Shoe.

“At the core of it, we’re bringing fresh perspectives to the table, and look to scrap those pre-conceived notions of what it means to be a ‘creative’.

“We’re an ambitious bunch, fighting tooth and nail to make the best work in the world, right here in New Zealand. Big ambitions, but paired with the belief there is no substitute for hard mahi. Don’t take ourselves too seriously and let the work do the talking.”

Head of Strategy, Hilary Ngan Kee, says the recognition the agency has received over the past year is encouraging.

“We’re a team of 20, so per capita I reckon we’re doing well! Awards are a good time, but to be honest they’re just the cherry on top. The main thing we look for is work that shifts the dial and makes stuff happen, and award metal is a nice full-stop.”

Read more in our Axis 2023 series, here.

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