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5 Minutes With… Andy Fackrell

Advertising Agency
Auckland, New Zealand
ECD, DDB Group New Zealand

After nearly nine years in Amsterdam, Andy Fackrell was finally enticed back to his native New Zealand – and he’s definitely wasted no time in making waves. In the 18 months he’s been with DDB, he’s helmed the agency through projects for Sky TV, McDonald’s, VW and more. LBB’s Editor Gabrielle Lott spoke to Fackrell about his return so far and what’s in store for the future. 

LBB> So you’ve been back in New Zealand for just under a year and a half now – what was it about DDB New Zealand that made you leave Europe and return?

AF> I was used to working on really long campaigns. Things like World Cup campaigns would see me involved for up to four years, so the speed of the work here really appealed. There are a lot of processes with clients in Europe and I felt the need to get back and do a lot of work quickly. I thought in New Zealand it would be a bit faster, with more immediate results and fewer processes. Thankfully that’s exactly the case – it’s become very freeing for me to come back and work here. 

LBB> You were quoted somewhere as saying that a lot of people in New Zealand use their gut instinct for work, as opposed to Europe…can you expand on that?

AF> I think people here are much more trusting of their initial feelings. They’re also quite open, as opposed to being quite guarded. In Europe, people will come out of a meeting and have to wait a week to even receive a response, by which point all of the emotion has gone from the work. Instead, people here seem to be very emotive and just say whether they like an idea straight up. You have to be careful what you present here because clients are likely to buy it straight away – which is good, but you’ve got to be careful.

LBB> Since you’ve been at DDB, you’ve already created some fantastic work for McDonald’s – one of my favourites from the Olympics was definitely the ‘Staying Up’ commercial you created. There’s also the Instant Kiwi and VW Beetle – the clients seem to be very trusting of you and the agency and allow you real freedom…

AF> That’s completely the case. McDonald’s is a great agenda and was a huge opportunity – it was the big, emotive piece of the year. I think it really stands up to Proctor and Gamble and a lot of other sentimental ads that popped up around that time and they really allowed us the freedom to express something a bit different for McDonald’s. The work for VW Beetle was an interesting case. We just wanted to give away five new Beetles throughout the year, which isn’t really a life and death scenario for a brand if it works or not, so they gave us the freedom to come up with something else. The idea is a good idea, but it’s an idea based on iconic shapes. It encapsulates all of the Volkswagen values. The campaign was everything but TV, which sometimes forces you to think more creatively. 

Also, I think not having the budgets that can be available in Europe can be an advantage down here because we really have to be more creative and express ourselves differently. There’s a lot of work great work from agencies here that isn’t focused on a big TV ad. I think some of the more successful work coming out of New Zealand, such as the driving dogs for Mini, aren’t based on big production values. And the difference is that we don't have the facility to be able to afford the Ringan Ledwidges and the Danny Kleinmans to come down and shoot on our budgets, so you have to be smarter and think outside of TV. 

However, saying that, TV is still such an important part of the landscape here and clients still rely on it. I think that’s where the big challenge lies. You have to juggle budgets and directors here – sometimes in the region it seems like we’ve got more scripts than directors. 

LBB> Another thing you said in the past is that New Zealand advertising feels like a bit of a fish bowl and that you see your work more often than you would elsewhere. Does that increase your awareness of what you’re doing or make you more proud?

AF> Both, really. It’s like anyone that sees their own ads – they just cringe. If it’s good you cringe at the mistakes you feel you’ve made. There’s a spot I really like that we made for Sky – because it’s Sky and they have free media, they do run it an awful lot, and so I’m glad that, as with the best New Zealand work, it’s understated. It has a lot of repeat viewings, as opposed to work in the States or Europe, where you have got to be more aggressive and hit hard. I have seen that Sky ad more than anything I’ve seen in my career, so I’m glad that we pulled back and recognised the need for some restraint. 

Sometimes advertising is designed for award shows and first time impact. The client doesn't always consider that consumers are going to see an advert 10-20 times. They often research what reaction it’ll conjure up after only one viewing. I always find it amazing when research for an ad consists of screening the ad once and then asking for people’s response – that can create quite shallow work. I think in Australia and New Zealand work does get a lot of repeat viewing, which means you can create bigger messages, but it’s probably best if they’re a little more restrained. That way you don't end up infuriating the viewers. The industry here is really quite laidback in its approach to making work. 

LBB> You have won a huge amount of awards – how important are they to you and DDB New Zealand?

AF> Globally they’re obviously important for the network. 

LBB> In that sense, do you feel they’re more important now that you’re at an agency in New Zealand?

AF> I think New Zealand is conscious of being quite a small country trying to punch above its weight and be recognised. To receive awards from an overseas show is true recognition for the industry. We’re so removed from the rest of the business. 

Awards should take care of themselves if people are watching and talking about an ad. It shouldn’t and it doesn't dictate the work that we’re creating. Like I said, you can write an ad for an award show or research group, but the reality is, that’s not how they appear in the landscape. Production values and depth are needed so it can really sustain repeat viewing. Overall, awards are important to me - I doubt there is anyone out there that doesn't feel pride when they receive one. Everyone likes validation for what they do in their lives. I don't think that’s why we do it, but it’s a bonus and clients like them more than ever right now. 

LBB> How do you find and source creative talent at DDB New Zealand?

AF> You definitely don’t get the drop ins! You know you can’t pop to London and say ‘how do you fancy working in Amsterdam?’ – it’s a bit of a journey for anyone getting here. You have to plan it. It’s a little tricky because it really has to be the right time of life for people to make the trip here because it's so far to come. We keep a keen lookout on young talent. I guess I’ll use Cannes as an opportunity to look for people. Skype’s also a great thing in this instance. But we get books coming through from head-hunters and people like that, so it’s pretty normal. We just don't get the drop-ins and casual meetings that you can have in Europe or the States. We’re also always on the look out for people outside the industry – that’s always been important to me. You know, a fashion designer could come in and give you a different look at things. Typically, ad school talent is good but they’ve already been processed into a way of thinking, so it can be great to get a different thought process – that’s when interesting stuff can really happen. 

LBB> And how did you come to work in advertising? 

AF> Well I moved to England when I was two, was then raised in Adelaide and moved to Wellington in my teens. I’m a Kiwi for sure now, with a certified passport and an All Blacks shirt! I actually went to visit an advertising agency during a vocational day at school, but I’ve absolutely no idea why. I was really into drawing, so I thought visualising would be a pretty cool job. It all started from there really. I had no idea what a writer did or what the general processes were. That led me to design school and then I landed a job at Saatchi’s Wellington. I was able to draw but didn't really have any idea how to make money out of that. At design school there was an advertising component. It turned out that I wasn't a very good illustrator but better at ideas. 

LBB> What is it about advertising that you love? Or maybe you don't love?

AF> When I left 180 Amsterdam, I kind of felt that was maybe it for me. I took a couple of months off, tried to make a documentary – and although I enjoyed that self-sufficiency, I missed the energy of the people around me and the urgency of the business. You’re forever moving and meeting new people. I like that. It keeps you young.

LBB> Talk to me about Westpac – it’s a bank brand, but they seem to be allowing you to have a lot of fun, which has already produced some great commercials. They’re a relatively new client aren’t they?

AF> We won the account last year. The first thing was just to give them a stake in the ground and a campaign thought, which was ‘start asking’. We gave them a solid launch ad and idea, and we’ve been able to branch off into category ads, for example the mortgage ad where the old flatmates turned up together – that’s probably my favourite so far. They’re allowing us to not have to fall back to the obligatory bank manager shot at the end of a spot. It’s just been pure entertainment. They’re a fantastic client. They’re as surprised as anyone that people are enjoying this kind of advertising so much. 

LBB> You are famous for your S.I.R.E. work and you’re now working with another charity, Y.W.C.A. Can you tell us about the campaign?

AF> Y.W.C.A. wanted to have an issue to talk about. We had a few things that we could have spoken about, but the issue we went with was that of equal pay. In the campaign the fact we used is that women are paid 10% less than men, but in reality it’s much worst, around 18 per cent in some sectors. Two teams worked on it and got really passionate – I think it produced some really great work. It really turned it on its head, by charging men more rather than paying women less. Gay marriage has just been approved in New Zealand, which shows there’s really an opportunity for change here. I really love how open-minded this country’s people are. 

LBB> What does 2013 hold for DDB New Zealand?

AF> Some of the other clients will draw our attention to bigger brand work, such as Sky TV. Steinlager is set to be big this year, as are Volkswagen, McDonald’s – we’ve got some great brands here, so there’s always something good to do for these guys. 

We’ll be trying to get stuff more visible on a global scale. The power of a good idea is incredible. For example, the latest Dove idea with the person drawing those women – that had everyone talking about it in one day, even my mother! When my mother sees something, even if it’s from Brazil, she’ll say, “did you do that?” I guess we have to use that as a yardstick. The driving dogs campaign, instantly people think ‘driving dogs? That’s ridiculous…’ Ideas have got to be simple, but so powerful that they resonate before they've even been made – that’s what we’re trying to install down here, so hopefully that works out! 

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