Matt Chandler x The Australian: 8 top creative leaders on change-making ad campaigns

As advertising and marketing executives prepare to gather next week for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, creative leaders in Australia shine a spotlight on the campaigns, ideas and initiatives that they found the most effective.

From the award-winning to the change-making (and sometimes both), The Growth Agenda asked the industry to reflect on which creative concepts stand apart.

Some campaigns aim to drive social change. Others offer a dose of humour and fun in historically fraught political and economic landscapes. All chart the vast wellspring of creativity and its capacity to encourage action, capture attention and connect with audiences the world over.

Ben Miles, VP executive creative director, brand design and consulting, R/GA
The Palau Pledge, 2017, Palau Bureau of Tourism. Creative agency: Host/Havas

“The Palau Pledge is a powerful, world-first immigration initiative that created fundamental change and global impact. At its core, it’s driven by the need to make a personal and meaningful connection with every tourist that enters the country. It’s beautifully crafted for a pro-societal cause and shows the power of design. You can feel the energy and care of Seamus Higgins in the work. There’s an authenticity to it”.

Andy Fergusson, national executive creative director, Leo Burnett
‘Bring back 2011’, 2022, Oreo. Creative agency: Leo Burnett India

“Oreo launched in India in 2011, and India won the Cricket World Cup in 2011, so naturally Oreo relaunched in India to help them win the World Cup again in 2022. It’s funny, simple and strategically brilliant. Most sports sponsorship marketing boils down to slapping logos all over the stadium and TV broadcast, but Oreo managed to insert their brand into the culture and superstitions of cricket. From the first moment I saw this campaign I loved it, and wished I’d thought of it.”

Bart Pawlak, chief creative officer, 303 MullenLowe
‘Real kids don‘t bounce back’, 2002, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). Creative agency: Saatchi & Saatchi London

“When thinking about ads in terms of ‘best ever’ it’s always tempting, and easy, to reach for past cinematic epics from mega-brands such as Apple, Nike or Guinness.

“But, for me, the accolade should be reserved for those pieces of communication that, through a combination of strategy, creative idea and execution, managed to deeply move, rather than merely dazzle.

“‘Real kids don’t bounce back’ for the UKs National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) was one such example. In overcoming the problem of needing to show a subject too confronting for television, the agency created a harrowing juxtaposition between the innocence of childhood and the brutal reality of abuse. I still remember how it made me feel, more than two decades later. Which, given the normally disposable nature of advertising, is in my opinion worthy of the highest praise.”

Piero Ruzzene, creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi Australia
‘Hack Market’, 2022, Back Market. Creative agency: Marcel

“Hack Market via Marcel is my pick. Convincing consumers to choose recycled and refurbished devices over new ones is a tough call, even if the production of new devices is dumping billions of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

“Back Market, a refurbished device brand, took their near-carbon neutral message to consumers in a way that is both genius for creativity and alarming for device security – they hacked brand new iPhones in Apple stores via Airdrop with a message that told potential customers to go with a refurbished device instead of the new one they were holding.

“Simple and effective, it shows that being direct-to-consumer can still be more powerful than mass messaging. It talks to its audience right at their decision point. And it gets a trillion dollar competitor to promote its rival’s products. David and Goliath stuff.”

Justin Graham, group chief executive, M&C Saatchi Group AUNZ and global network lead, M&C Saatchi
‘Contract for Change’, 2019, Anheuser Busch. Creative agency: FCB Chicago

“The Anheuser Busch work ‘Contract for Change’, executed for one of their leading brands, Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold, is brilliant. One of my favourite campaigns recognised in the last few years. Although even calling it a campaign is drastically underselling its power.

“This is a US based campaign that evidences radical collaboration at every level. It also challenges outdated notions of beer advertising and how to best use creativity as part of the solution. There have been many cases in the past where beer advertising has talked about ingredients to drive preference, but what if the idea was about changing the ingredients? Changing the economic model? Dare I say, changing the planet. Now and well into the future.

“So what‘s it all about? Only 1 per cent of US farmland is organic. The reason? Going organic is extremely challenging for struggling family farms. Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold has taken on the mission of transforming America‘s agriculture with ’Contract for Change’; an agreement that farmers sign today that guarantees them a buyer in three years when their organic transition is complete, removing the biggest barrier. ‘Contract for Change’ was offered to all American farmers. A couple of years on and 104,000 acres are in transition today and will soon produce ingredients for Michelob and countless other brands.

“The strength of this idea comes from its ambition to go deep into the business (and planet solution) but also its ability to turn the very complex into the very simple. In terms of relevance, by nature, this will drive long-term effectiveness for the industry and its suppliers, preference for the product and inspire similar solutions for other integrated consumer industries.”

Graham Alvarez-Jarratt, strategy partner, Dentsu Creative ANZ
‘Last Performance’, 2022, Partners Life. Creative agency: Special New Zealand

“Advertising is hard enough when the product you’re selling is predicated on people contemplating their mortality. This might help explain why fewer than one-third of NZ’s population has life insurance. Another might simply be the shared Kiwi-Aussie ‘She’ll Be Right’ approach to life (and death?).

“But that’s exactly what the team at Partners Life had to do if they were to sell more life insurance policies. Perhaps the degree of difficulty involved meant that the team involved had to make some bold choices. For one, they opted to use a somewhat unorthodox spokesperson – a reanimated corpse. They did so by partnering up with NZ TV show, The Brokenwood Mysteries, a national program that routinely featured the death of a character.

“At the end of each episode, but before the credits rolled, the audience saw the recently deceased come back to life in order to intone the benefits of taking up an insurance policy before it’s too late. After all, if there is a time when people are open to a conversation about death, it’s during a program about death.

“As it becomes harder and harder to earn people’s attention, this campaign points to level of ingenuity, integration, and bravery that we may need to see more of in future.”

Tom Hoskins, creative director, BMF
‘Until then’, 2022, NRMA. Creative agency: Bear Meets Eagle On Fire

“I love everything about this work. Its simplicity, its craft, and its confidence. Tonally, it’s a tricky topic for an audience with a lot at stake. But not only does it have the brand’s role at its heart, it’s a brilliant creative reframing of what’s become an almost seasonal message, as we continue to battle and come to grips with climate change.”


Matt Chandler, executive creative director, DDB Sydney
‘Sorry, I Spent It On Myself’, 2013, Harvey Nichols. Creative agency: adam&eveDDB

“The year was 2013 and we were hitting peak Christmas ad saturation, with every UK brand trying to make their version of a heartstring-tugging John Lewis spot. And then came ‘Sorry, I Spent It On Myself’ for Harvey Nichols – the meanest Christmas ad of all time.

“The idea was simple, a collection of gifts from Harvey Nichols that would let Christmas shoppers spend less on others and more on themselves. The film is as brilliant today as it was 10 years ago; the writing is as sharp and dry as anything, the products themselves were beautifully designed collectors’ items, and it’s really the ultimate proof that doing the opposite of everyone else is the fastest way to stand out.

“It rightly did very well at Cannes in 2014 and remains one of my favourite pieces of work ever.”


First published via The Australian