LBB’s Rachael Delahunty talks agency BS, award wins and the future of ANZ with Phil McDonald, CEO of Y&R Group ANZ
*Ok, so not THAT McDonald! But we couldn’t help it.
After an incredible year, not least being named the Most Awarded Network in Australasia at Cannes Lions, Y&R ANZ has come out the other side with a cabinet full of trophies and a boosted creative reputation.
Phil McDonald, CEO of Y&R Group ANZ, chats to LBB’s Rachael Delahunty about getting competitive with creative, the value of awards, and how ANZ doesn’t bother with politics and BS.
LBB> ANZ has seen a surge in award wins across the major ad festivals. Do you think this is because the work is getting better or is creativity coming out of ANZ getting better traction?
PM> We are a competitive bunch down here and when we see other agencies doing world class work it spurs us on to do the same. In the last two years we have seen some very good work come from both sides of the Tasman and half a dozen agencies leading the way. So it is less about juries taking note of the region, more about a higher volume of better work being created across the board.
LBB> Do you think there has been a positive global shift in the perception of advertising in ANZ?
PM> Within the world of advertising, wins at the major award shows definitely drive creative perceptions of a region or an agency network, but that’s not enough to drive real success in your business. You have to be making work that is not just award winning, but that is also for big brands, solving important problems for clients. There are some great campaigns from various agencies that have won well at award shows but that are for major banks, global fast food brands and breweries. The ANZ region has had a good year in this respect and I think that’s what really drives your creative reputation.
PM> Our regional management team spend a lot of time on the quality of our work and to be honest we have had some big discussions around what constitutes great work over the last year or so. It’s a big focus for us, so to see our agencies doing so well over the last couple of years is no real surprise. Our Aussie agencies drove much of our success last year, but no doubt it was NZ’s year this year. The body of work over the last two years meant that we knew a great year like this was coming.
PM> For Y&R in ANZ that was a nice headline for us and I know it was the same for the global network, so ANDYs was great for us. But we have to be careful that we don’t treat individual award success as the be all and end all. We have to have a consistent pipeline of work across our entire client base and all of our offices. Work that is being produced all year-round on big, important briefs.
GPY&R collect the two highest awards at the ANDYs
LBB> What have you learned from such a successful year?
PM> Over the last 12 to 18 months at Y&R we have become very good across all our offices at creating work that generates its own momentum and energy across any channel. We have worked out a way of creating ideas that get traction quickly and that get into the culture of our markets and drive real success for our clients’ brands. It’s extremely gratifying to see that work be so successful at driving business for our clients, but it’s the crafting of that work that has helped it win at the global award shows.
LBB> How did you celebrate this year’s success or reward the teams that made it happen?
PM> Our global network was particularly good at recognising the success of our region. Lots of kudos was afforded to the teams that were so successful and lots of award shows around the world were attended to bask in the so-called glory of it all. Not only that, but plenty of opportunities are opening up for the teams that were responsible for creating the work. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there weren’t a few drinks had in different corners of the world to celebrate our success.
LBB> What differentiates ANZ from the rest of the world?
PM> To be honest I don’t think our region has anything special. It’s really about the great, individual agencies within the region that drive the success. These agencies are the ones that constantly present smart, creative ideas to their clients and then get them made. At Y&R we really collaborate well and use the talents across our offices to make our work better. Josh Moore and the NZ team are very involved in the work of our Aussie agencies and vice versa. Maybe it’s this collaboration and lack of politics and BS that makes the work better. Is that unique to ANZ? Maybe.
Josh Moore CEO & CCO Y&R NZ
LBB> Do audiences in ANZ differ?
PM> I don’t think there are that many differences to markets like the US and Britain. Consumers here are experiencing the same trends when it comes to media and technology and the like. It’s harder to reach them, they are more and more apathetic to traditional advertising and creative ideas. It’s why we have to constantly push to give something, in order get something, with our creative ideas. I don’t think this is any different to other developed markets
LBB> Why should rising talent want to work in ANZ?
PM> Well for one don’t come here if you think it is going to be any easier. We work hard, we move quickly and we have clients under great pressure to get results from their marketing spend. Yes you might get some great work up, but so is everyone else. I’d say in many respects it’s harder down here – I’m not selling it very well am I?
LBB> How does the work differ between Australia and New Zealand?
PM> For the main it is pretty similar, but I will say that the agencies in NZ are a little more nimble in general. They also have a quality production industry that is great value, so there is high craft and finish on their ideas for a smaller investment.
LBB> Are there any conflicting needs between the two countries?
PM> At Y&R we work very collaboratively across all the offices. We are helping each other, pushing the work harder, and moving seamlessly across our business. Our clients like the fact they can use the talent across our group in ANZ. We are running our offices as one – so to answer the question, the offices can definitely be run the same way.
GPY&R’s Brisbane Office
LBB> What do you see for the future of advertising and creativity in ANZ?
PM> It’s getting much harder to be successful. Good isn’t good enough. The agencies that keep challenging themselves and that can offer creative thinking to clients in more aspects of their business will continue to be successful. This won’t be focused or limited to a given city, it’s about the agency and their willingness to succeed.
PM> It’s obviously good. There are more global brands coming into the region, and more global retailers, and therefore more investment in marketing is required. The industry is not without challenges, but it is in good shape. As an industry we are pretty good at spotting problems and thinking that what we do isn’t valued as a whole, but really the good agencies are incredibly well valued by clients and this puts them in great shape to dominate.
LBB> What is your favourite ad from ANZ of all time, any why?
PM> I started my career at George Patts, and the Patts DNA still runs thick through our agency today so I’ll get nostalgic here and say VB. It’s an old George Patts ad from 40 years ago and a modern day version of it is still running today. It goes to show when a brand gets into the culture of a place in a powerful way it can endure and operate in any medium it chooses.
LBB> What work or campaign are you most proud of, and why?
PM> I’m pretty proud of the fact that I work with our NZ team – the McWhopper campaign they produced for Burger King was inspired. They were relentless in getting it done and they built a trusted relationship with their client. I’m pretty proud to say the agency I work at did that campaign.