Year in Review: Damon Stapleton of The Monkeys

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 this edition, Damon Stapleton, Chief Creative Officer at The Monkeys shares his impressions of the year that was, and why it was the right time for change.

2021 was…

Back to front, upside down and straight ahead.

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

Leaving a great agency in great shape and starting a new one in the middle of a pandemic.

Why was 2021 the right time for you to make the decision to leave DDB and join The Monkeys? 

I had been with DDB for seven years and was very proud of what the agency had achieved. Over 20 Agency of the Year titles across the Group. But, I have certain ideas about where advertising is going, and if there was ever a chance for me to put it all to the test, this was an opportunity I would never get again.

How did 2021 impact on the way in which you approach/ view creative?

I am not sure it has. A good idea is a good idea. Maybe what it has done has made me realise just how many other things come way ahead of advertising. So you better be good for anybody to notice what you are doing.

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

I think I watched every documentary on Netflix, Apple, Neon, Disney and walked around my neighbourhood and watched thousands of people walk their dogs. In fact if you looked in the dogs eyes you could see them saying please no, not another walk. 

2021 saw much disruption within the industry, what do you think the creative agency of the future looks like – how does this speak to The Monkeys business model?

It feels like ad agencies have barely changed in 50 years. We think today that brands are made up of every touchpoint, interaction and experience. Therefore you need an agency that can apply brand and creative thinking across all of those. That’s us.

Who did great things – creatively speaking – in 2021?

I think some of the latest Apple work is great. It reminds us that talking about the product experience can make your brand stand out. More importantly it’s something the consumer can understand. Lately, brand advertising has become incredibly esoteric. This is a growing problem. 

What do you think were the biggest lessons brands learned in 2021?

Tell the truth. Be relevant. Be interesting. Whether people have a lot of time or very little I don’t think those things change.

How will they carry these through to 2022 and beyond? 

Like I said, I don’t think recipe will change. However, I do think the conversation more so will be how you do this, where you do this, and most importantly how you join the dots.

When can we expect to see new creative from The Monkeys Aotearoa

We have a turn of phrase in South Africa. ‘Just now.’

In 2022 I’m looking forward to…

Seeing whole faces again. 

Quick fire 10

  • Favourite local campaign: WWF’s WHALE TALE – public art in our city that helps to save our most precious wildlife. Let’s hope these turn up as NFTs to auction off as well.  
  • Least favourite campaign: Electric Kiwi – A singalong that even has them following through with a rejection ad. Good on them!
  • Creative I wished I worked on in 2021: Iceland’s piss-take of Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse launch:


  • News story of the year: The vaccine. 
  • The most underreported news event/story of the year: Maybe, I wish these first two were underreported. The launch of the Metaverse and the billionaire space race. And, I still want to know what really happened with that ship getting stuck in the Suez Canal. What really happened there? A couple of mid-strength beers. My favourite one however was the Belgian farmer who moved a stone and accidentally redrew Belgium’s border with France.
  • Changemaker of 2021: Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci. The husband and wife team that are the brains behind the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Most impactful brand of 2021: According to Forbes Netflix had the biggest value percent gain last year. But, not if you look at its share price today. I guess impact can be relative.
  • A learning from lockdown: Haircuts and pants are overrated.
  • 2021 trend I won’t miss in 2022: Party Bears.
  • Most awkward video meeting moment: Every day on a video meeting with me is awkward. It’s a skill I have developed over many years.

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

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