AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – Max McKeon has been Creative Director at Colenso BBDO out of Auckland, New Zealand and he’s achieved a lot of success there. Recently, the agency won Gold at the 2020 Webby Award for the campaign “I’m Drinking It for You” on behalf of DB Export Extra Low Carb beer. This is after it won the Grand Prix in Music at the 2019 Spikes Asia. In an exclusive interview with adobo magazine, Max shared a few insights on campaigns and ads that work.

“In advertising, I don’t think any format is ever truly tired, it’s just waiting to be done well,” Max responded when asked if there are any formats or gimmicks that should be avoided. “If it’s done well, and born of the concept rather than for the sake of it being the latest fad, it’s suddenly fresh again.”

I'm Drinking It For You

“For example, most people would consider a music-led execution quite familiar, but work like ‘Mom Song’ and ‘Dumb Ways To Die’ prove that isn’t the case,” he says while citing previous award-winning work. “With the DB Export work, ‘I’m Drinking It For You,’ a love ballad was really the only choice that delivered perfectly on the tribute-based concept and would allow the campaign to infiltrate New Zealand culture the way it did.”

Paying tribute to the Colenso BBDO team behind the campaign, Max said, “Thanks to the talents of Thom and Beth (creative team) and Damien Shatford (director), the format and delivery couldn’t have been better, and it seems to have been embraced by NZ with the warm fanfare I like to reserve for my youngest (child).”

When asked how a creative agency can falling into the trap of a gimmick, Max has a few insights. “If the way you’re bringing a concept to life is born of it being on trend or using the latest tech for the sake of it, that’s a fair sign it’s a gimmick. The execution should be born of the concept. The delivery will seem smarter if it has that level of logic,” he stated.

“Take ‘space’ for example. I can’t tell you how many brands have sent their product to space with no other reason other than it sounds cool, or that it represents the final frontier,” said Max on a gimmick he’s tired of. “Sure, if your concept is based on a whiskey that takes 100 years to mature and you’re trialling it for when we might all live in space, then that makes sense. However, if space just sounds kind of cool, then rethink it.”

“The last thing you need is Elon (Musk)’s Starlink crashing into a bucket of chicken wings someone decided to send up there as a publicity stunt. That said, even Tesla sent a car to space. So maybe they deserve it,” he declared.

Agency work means meeting new clients all the time, sometimes in a short amount of time. “My CCO, who will remain nameless because Levi dislikes when I call him out, always says ‘A bird in the hand is worth two stones with one bird,’” Max shared. “I like to think this is his way of highlighting how important it is to be clear. To that end, a clear conversation around the client and agency’s ambitions is the best place to start a project.”

“Everyone typically wants the same thing — agencies just want to make famous work that works, clients just want work that works and makes their product or brand famous,” he said. “Being clear from the outset about what you hope to achieve allows you to refer back to this objective throughout the process.”

“It sounds overly-simplistic, but I’ve found that it’s the process where everyone usually gets lost,” Max said. “’Tide Ad’ was an example of where the objective was set right from the start and everyone was held to it. The brief before the brief was to ‘hack the Super Bowl’ and it was a measure that meant the agency couldn’t deliver anything that wasn’t ambitious and the client had to make choices that pushed the work further. So get together, talk about what your client wants, agree on something ambitious, and hold yourself and everyone else accountable to that. After all, clients don’t want to waste their money and you don’t want to waste your time.”

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