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Showcasing NZ talent: Kiwi Ad Agency named best in the world

Campaign, the world’s most prestigious advertising title, has named New Zealand advertising agency Special Group “Global Creative Agency of the Year” and “Global Independent Agency of the Year.”

It is the first time ever that a New Zealand advertising agency has achieved the accolade, showcasing the strength of New Zealand owned creativity. The four finalists Special Group knocked out of the running included BBH (Singapore), adam&eveDDB (London), The Brooklyn Brothers (US) and Mother (London).

Last year the title went to American advertising agency Weiden+Kennedy; known for their provocative work with Nike and controversial endorsement of Colin Kaepernick.

Special Group Co Founder and CEO Tony Bradbourne says to win a global award of this prestige, against some of the biggest advertising agencies in the world, is definitley worth celebrating.

“I’m proud of what this says about Kiwi creativity,” he says.

“For too long we have been dominated by international conglomerates, and now we’ve been able to unanimously prove that New Zealand creativity shines on the world stage – alongside other creative industries like film and our music.”

Starting in Auckland, Special Group has since expanded into Sydney, Melbourne, and Los Angeles. The agency employs 160 staff across all four offices and has furthered its offering to include media and PR, on top of advertising and design.

Bradbourne says New Zealand has worked in partnership with a bunch of incredible people in Australia who have been the backbone of Special’s international expansion.

“The office in Australia may only be seven years old, but it is already rivalling the agencies which have been around for closer to seventy years.”

Across the ditch, Julian Schreiber CCO/Partner Special Group Australia says the team are very proud of the win.

“At heart, all of us together are really just a group of likeminded people trying to make great work,” he says.

“Work is only possible because of the incredible collaborators we have both client side and in production. We feel very lucky to know them.”

The Campaign Agency of the Year awards are judged by a panel of leading marketing and industry experts, who this year, were impressed with Special Group’s ability to deliver outstanding campaigns while in the midst of a pandemic.

In their summation, Campaign commented, “Creative highlights include the agency’s first foray into Super Bowl commercials uniting the stars of Wayne’s World (Mike Myers and Dana Carvey) with Cardi B for Uber Eats “Tonight I’ll Be Eating” platform, running a global Tourism New Zealand campaign in 12 markets featuring a different Kiwi saying “Good Morning World” every day for an entire year; encouraging oversees New Zealanders to “meddle” in their own election with the help of some cheeky Russians for Every Kiwi Vote Counts; and being appointed the lead brand agency for Optus Australia – one of the biggest corporates and most coveted advertising accounts in Australasia.”

Campaign also acknowledged Special Group opening two new offices, one in Melbourne and one in Los Angeles, as well as winning 40 new pieces of business including Uber Eats in North America and Canada.

For Bradbourne, he has always believed in taking the best of Australasian creative thinking to the world stage. He says Special was the first agency to open an office in Australia, which everyone thought would crash and burn. But with a lot of hard work, brilliant partners and great clients, they soon gained momentum.

“We have some exceptional agencies and marketing brains here in New Zealand. And there has been a lot of famous work from here in the past decade,” he says.

“Winning a Grand Prix at Cannes in our first year with only nine staff made me truly believe that you can achieve anything from here, no matter what your size.”

As part of its mission to cultivate creativity, the agency has invested significant time and resources in developing Auckland talent – they sponsored innovation showcase Semi Permanent and helped give away all event tickets for free; offered pro-bono services to Kiwi entrepreneurs starting out during the coronavirus crisis with the Special Startup Programme; and are the only New Zealand agency to pay back the COVID-19 government wage subsidy.

“In many ways Covid-19 helped us,” he says. “We’ve been able to connect with clients across the globe because everyone now lives in the same places – Zoom, Teams, and Whatsapp.

“It’s not about where you are geographically based, it’s about how good your thinking and ideas are. And it appears that if you’re after the best advertising ideas in the world, you don’t need to look further afield than New Zealand.”

For Campaign to recognise Special’s work, has left the team both humbled and ambitious to go even further. Bradbourne is especially proud of achieving this goal as an independent agency and changing the perception that independents cant handle big business.

“Now we can say that the “Best Creative Agency in New Zealand’ is an independent – and that same agency has been judged the “Best Creative Agency in the World.”  An agency that was born right here in New Zealand. And that’s pretty special.”

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