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Year in Review 2021: Kelly-Ann Maxwell of Ogilvy Network NZ

Each year, StopPress asks players in the local industry for their reflections on the year that was. Brought to you by NZME, we’re shaking things up a bit by chatting to some of the biggest change makers of 2021. Those individuals who’ve made brave moves, impactful work and ultimately disrupted the market – because what was 2021 without a little disruption!


In June of last year Kelly-Ann Maxwell took up the reins as CEO of Ogilvy Network NZ. Several months in, KAM shares with us her impressions of 2021 as she looks ahead in 2022.

2021 has been…

One to remember! Or forget. So much good happened last year, but also so much crap. Thankfully, as time has lost all meaning over the last two years, in three months’ time it’ll be the same crazy blur that 2020 has become. 

A personal achievement I’m most proud of in 2021…

Launched an agency network – bringing four different business together during multiple Covid level changes; found my style mojo again and didn’t end up killing any family members over the lockdowns. All this has resulted in me being a well-turned-out agency leader who isn’t in prison. Im pretty proud of that. 

Earlier in 2021 you said ‘It’s about time this industry got a kick up the arse’, did you and Ogilvy manage to do any kicking or was this being done by Covid?

Covid has some big boots, but we have absolutely been kicking arse. We have actively driven the group forward with transparency, integrity and ensured we had some fun along the way. By being honest about who we are and aren’t, we have welcomed some incredible new clients, and talent are actively choosing to work with us. Not to mention by being connected to a true global network, our NZ team are now working closely with not just Australia but across the world in LA, London, New York, Hong Kong, Bali, Vietnam, Chicago, Madrid… it goes on. We feel very privileged to be part of such an incredible organisation that truly does what it says. The foundations have been laid, the arse-kicking  continues.

What were some of Ogilvy’s biggest achievements in 2021?

We only launched the NZ Ogilvy Network six months ago and it was all up from there. In that short period, I think the biggest achievement has been bringing the agency teams together to add power to what being part of the global Ogilvy network brings. We have brought many new client partnerships into the family, launched Ogilvy PR, won a few awards, grown our awesome talent by no less than 20 percent across the group, connected to colleagues all over the world and delivered some beautiful creative and innovative work along the way. No mean feat for the team managing it through lockdowns.

How did you stay creatively inspired/ motivated during the lockdowns of 2021?

I got dressed for work every day. Pitch-ready dressed. I delved back into my London wardrobe and added more colour to my clothing every day. I ended up finding a beautiful group of wahine on Instagram that were all using fashion to stay creative, inspired and sharing positive energy during  the lockdowns. These are amazing women from all walks of life just trying to keep their heads above the water while also creating and sharing something beautiful. They continue to inspire me to keep on keeping on. 

With the introduction of several other new market players in 2021, how is Ogilvy setting itself apart?

The industry is big enough for all of us to enjoy a slice of the pie. Ogilvy Network NZ driving the global  framework of Borderless Creativity enables us to bring the best talent or capability to the table to ensure diversity of thought and ultimately an interesting creative solution. Clients and talent are responding to our no-nonsense approach and being unapologetically who we are: high energy, driving growth and positive impact for our clients as well as trying to bring back some of the joy this industry has lost from taking itself too seriously.  

Who did great things in 2021?

Anyone who managed to get a campaign out, launch a product or even get talent into their business from abroad, did great things considering the barriers! A lot of creative thinking had to be done by everyone in the industry last year in order to succeed or even stay afloat. 

Creatively speaking, what do you think were the biggest lessons brands learned in 2021?

Brands knew it before, but with consumers now more community-orientated post-Covid and more demanding on brands to take responsibility for their impact on the world, it’s even more important that brands are using data to identify and then personally communicate with their consumers directly. Consumers are now more purpose-driven than ever before and expect the brands they buy from to be a force for good and making a societal impact in an authentic way. The days of brands woke-washing is gone for good.

In 2022 I’m looking forward to…

More change. I love change so I’m just looking forward to the next curveball that lands, positive or not, that drives the world forward again. From a personal perspective I have a wardrobe full of colour and I’m focused, so am ready to ride! From a business perspective, we have a flexible attitude, a resilient  mindset and a team of incredible talent. We are set up to take on the world and have a blast doing it. 

Quick fire 10

  1. Favourite local campaign: Contact Energy’s ‘Its good to be home’. Brave messaging considering the lockdown climate but beautifully shot and great to prove to my drawing-mad son that art can change the world we live in. Literally.
  2. Least favourite campaign: Cheeky question. But anything that plays too safe or you have no idea how the campaign relates to the brand, product or even the consumer themselves. White noise marketing is wasted opportunity.
  3. Creative I wished I worked on in 2021: I loved Google’s US Black-owned Friday campaign which reimagines Black Friday and encourages consumers to support Black-owned businesses. I loved not just the concept to drive economic equality and the integration of technology to enable in-video purchase, but also it was shot by Daps, the music is contemporary and overall it shows black culture with a positive lens – something America doesn’t always do!  
  4. News story of the year: I think the mental health in sport discussions spurred by Simone Biles withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics came at a time when mental health was already front and centre of people’s minds from the pandemic. Having your heroes say they are struggling gives power to those who don’t feel they have a voice. 
  5. The most underreported news event/story of the year: The number of suicides in NZ during this pandemic as a result of under-funded mental health support.
  6. Changemaker of 2021: In my personal realm, Julia Arnott-Neenee. Julia is making a huge impact by advocating and amplifying Pasifika voices in tech and making sure her own voice is driving meaningful change. She was recently appointed to the Digital Council for Aotearoa NZ. Know her name. She will lead this country one day.
  7. Most impactful brand of 2021: [Insert big pharma brand here] I jest but let’s be honest, they have made and continue to make a huge impact, thankfully! 
  8. A learning from lockdown: There’s no such thing as normal anymore and I for one I’m up for it! Also some people are community-minded and some people aren’t. There is no between. 
  9. 2021 trend I won’t miss in 2022: In fashion, the Y2K resurgence – low-cut denim, Juicy tracksuits, exposed thongs… just stop it! In culture, the media-worshipping billionaires going to space while the world faces economic uncertainty! 
  10. Most awkward video meeting moment: No amount of threats, notes on the door or bribery stops a child disturbing you in a meeting when they have something “urgent” to tell you resulting in too many awkward moments to talk about. 

For more Year in Review 2021 brought to you by NZME, click here.

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