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Year in Review: Brad Collett of Stanley St

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


First up is Brad Collett, who made the bold move to leave his comfy office at DDB Aotearoa after six years as Creative Director. The current Executive Creative Director at Stanley St shares why this past year was the right time to step into a new agency and role, as well as learnings from creative storytelling in 2021.

2021 has been… 

Wild. Hard. Funny. Awkward. And sometimes even surreal. While it’s been a challenging year, the industry has just gotten on with it and made the most of a shitty situation. Did I miss the office? Hell yes. Did I rearrange my background every time I zoomed, like in The White Lotus? No. Should I have? Probably. Did I over-index watching Neon, Netflix and the rest? Yes.

A personal achievement I’m most proud of this year…

Kia ora e te StopPress whānau, i timata ahau i taku haerenga ki te ako i te reo Māori.

After a 6 year run at DDB you moved to an ECD role at Stanley St, why was 2021 the right time for this?

2021 felt like a reset for the industry. But for me, it was less about the year and more about the opportunity to step into an ECD role, build a new team and change things up. 

Stanley St itself was going through a significant change, and joining at a time with new talent and having the opportunity to leave your mark is a creative’s dream.

And why was Stanley St the right move for you?

Being New Zealand’s biggest independent, Stanley St has given me the freedom to help shape an agency that is focused on combining data and creativity. Their diverse culture also resonated with me as I want to create an environment for the creatives and wider agency that is inclusive and supportive. My philosophy, a ‘No Dickhead’ policy.

2021 saw high volumes of movings and shakings within the country’s ad agency industry – especially in the creative space – why do you think this was?

World events seem to give rise to a level of tension and change within creative spaces. I believe the first rumblings of change started in 2020 and really kicked in, in 2021. It’s a bit like a chain reaction and those sitting on the precipice of change sometimes just need a gentle nudge. I blame Damon.

What was the biggest challenge, creatively speaking, in navigating client relationships during the uncertain times of 2021?

Not being in the same room and having a good hui. Nothing can substitute a good client working session, where we’re all standing in a tiny room, putting up and pulling down ideas on a wall while hunting down more blu-tack. These moments are a chance to connect and collaborate, to bring out the magic and build relationships.

How was creative advertising different in 2021?

The idea still needed to stay true to the brand – but it was the journey to produce the work, from ideating to the end result that threw up the biggest challenges. The creatives had to double down on being creative. They needed to write great scripts where talent stood one-metre apart, all with bad haircuts, wearing masks, while offering directional feedback via a 13” MacBook Pro screen, on dial-up. The Rebel Sport ‘Get Christmas Fit’ campaign was a great example of this.

What have been the biggest lessons brands have learned in 2021 about engaging customers?

It was a reminder for brands to understand their customers’ emotional needs. This was tough for so many being locked away from loved ones, isolated in homes with no certainty when we would be out. Brands needed to be authentic and empathetic without being patronising and blatant about pushing their message.

How will they carry these through to 2022 and beyond?

Covid will have a long tail, so we need to remember the financial and emotional effect it’s had on everyone. As an industry, we need to appreciate that client budgets have been under massive pressure and uncertainty through these times. We can’t expect a return to what we have known, there’s a need to rethink how we bring our storytelling to life. 

In 2022 I’m looking forward to…

Having the whole creative team back together in the department. But more than that, coming into the agency every day and feeling that buzz and energy of everyone being back and working together. The ease of a face-to-face meeting, watercooler chats, summer BBQs, Friday drinks, and knowing the 150 rockstars in the Waitapu Group have your back.

Quick Fire 10

  1. Favourite Stanley St campaign you’ve worked on: This is a tough one. But I’m calling out KFC Lolli-Popcorn Chicken. It was a great collaboration between us and KFC. It was concepted, presented, approved, shot, recorded and dispatched in a week. 
  2. Least favourite local campaign: The Electric Kiwi song isn’t my vibe. But their offering is – who doesn’t love the free hour of power? I’d actually love a crack at writing a new song. Call me, 0272278109.
  3. Biggest move within NZ Adland in 2021: Billy McQueen going full time. Yus!
  4. Most unexpected client move of 2021: ASB. Let’s hope they keep Ben! 
  5. The most underreported news event/story of the year: The impact the lockdown has had on our mental health. 
  6. Change maker of 2021: Ads on Pause advertising. They’re a new media opportunity for pun headlines.
  7. Most impactful brand of 2021: #WeThe15. Getting this movement on the global stage during the Olympics was powerful. Bring on more of this kind of thinking in 2022.
  8. A learning from lockdown: I’m not a very good primary school teacher to my five- and seven-year-olds. Respect for all teachers.
  9. 2021 trend I won’t miss in 2022: Squid Game memes. RIP.
  10. Most awkward video meeting moment: Crashing The Monkeys weekly creative WIP via zoom, when my new intern team ‘accidentally’ gave me the code.

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

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