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Idealog's Most Innovative in Media/Marketing: Special Group

Idealog's Most Innovative in Media/Marketing: Special Group

The winner of Idealog's Most Innovative Companies in Media/Marketing is Special Group. By anyone’s standards, the last year has been a good one for the creative agency Special Group. Named New Zealand Agency of the Year by Campaign Brief, AUS/NZ Mobile Agency of the Year by Campaign Asia and Asia Pacific’s Most Effective Independent Agency by the global Effies index – all in the last 12 months alone – it’s a great tenth year, whichever way you look at it.

But the accolades are the culmination of a lot of hard work. Founded in 2008 with the ambition of “connecting brands and people by positively transforming the lives of both”, Special Group’s mobile-focused business model has seen the company carve itself a special place in this hemisphere’s marketing landscape over the last decade and work alongside some of the country’s most ambitious clients, brands and marketers.

“In an ever-expanding and fragmenting media landscape, the way brands connect with people has to change constantly to keep pace,” says Michael Redwood, partner and managing director of Special, “and therefore, so does the approach, output and shape of marketing companies.”

“Special Group’s business model is unique, breaking down the traditional barriers between advertising, design agencies, digital agencies and strategic consultancies, enabling business solutions to be truly unblinkered.”

It’s this open-eyed approach that has seen the ambitious creative company create some of New Zealand’s most high profile and effective campaigns for such outfits as Smirnoff, Unitec, Red Bull, New World and ecostore, not to mention Iggy Pop’s Kiwi live-chat do-over of ‘The Passenger’ for Orcon.



In 2015, the group was responsible for 2degrees’ ‘Play the Bridge’ campaign, which let people turn Auckland’s Harbour Bridge into their very own interactive music and light show, all via mobile phone. Using 2km of LED lights, the massive six-week technical and logistical innovation that engaged hundreds of thousands of Aucklanders.

Such big thinking has its challenges of course, and it follows that the group has made a habit of pursuing only the most ambitious of clients.

“Special’s innovative model and approach has required more forward-thinking clients and marketers,” says Redwood, “Clients who search for better ways of connecting people with their brands.

“So, the major challenge over the past ten years has been to find these innovators on the brand side. But the business results this innovative thinking has generated has been incredibly rewarding.”

That could be an understatement: Special’s profit has grown by over 100 percent in the last 12 months, with 12 new clients added in 2018 alone.

Not content to simply ‘get the job done’, Special knows that when strategically harnessed, creative originality – in whatever form – delivers exponentially greater impact and value for clients.

“The Special innovation team pulls together multiple disciplines across the entire company,” says Redwood. “Strategic, communications, design and mobile teams come together to focus on business challenges and opportunities as one.

“This equality has consistently meant that no single traditional discipline dominates or blinkers the team from a more innovative and effective solution.”

And it’s the bringing together of these usually separate disciplines into one holistic force – not to mention a steadfast commitment to new approaches – that has seen Special Group emerge as one of Asia Pacific’s most innovative creative companies. 

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