New Zealand is a remote Island on the other side of the world, with lots of sheep and a lot less people. But what it lacks in manpower it seems to make up for in creativity. Funnily enough, New Zealand with a population of just 5 million people, manages to punch severely above its weight in the creative rankings at advertising festivals. For example: NZ has won 31 yellow pencils at the prestigious D&AD festival – a competition that is famously difficult to win. Germany, with a population sixteen times bigger, has won 44. And last year at Cannes, New Zealand won 1.8 lions per million people of population. Whereas the most successful nation at the festival – the USA – won just 0,7 lions per million people of population.
Being a kiwi myself, I thought I would try to hypothesize as to why a remote island in the south pacific has somehow managed to put itself on advertising’s creative map. Who knows, maybe we can all benefit a little from this island mentality?
To start with, NZ society has always been rather progressive. It was the first country in the world to give woman the vote for example. Conservative clients are the biggest killers of ideas and New Zealand just might have fewer of them?
The size of the country also means its media budgets reflect that. Therefore, agencies must make their ideas work harder to get attention, and that means disruptive thinking is not only encouraged but necessary. And because budgets are smaller, creatives are used to finding innovative ways to solve problems. Kiwis are renowned for this – it’s called “the No. 8 wire mentality” which is the notion that farmers can use a length of fence wire to fix any misbehaving machine. This cultural problem-solving mentality seems to also be helpful in producing great advertising.
Then there is the fact that because NZ has less people it also has less layers of complexity and hierarchy on the client side. That means ideas are usually presented to the people who make the decisions. From my experience, this is probably the most important factor for getting brave innovative work approved.
These are just guesses, but maybe there is some truth as to why a remote country like New Zealand has found its share of creative success or maybe there’s just something in the water?
This article was first published as part of the W&V “Innovationsradar” in the W&V issue 02/2023.