As part of the WARC Rankings 2024, we spoke to the people behind some of this year’s stand-out campaigns. In this interview, Amy Pollok, Strategy Director at ColensoBBDO, and Simon Vicars, Chief Creative Officer at ColensoBBDO, share insights from Skinny’s ‘Phone It In’ campaign, which saw the telco challenger brand from New Zealand get creative in its media strategy.

Why are the WARC Rankings important to your agency?

We love that the WARC Rankings aren’t just one person’s opinion, or a subjective look at the best work in the world, but almost like a super-jury. It’s the total of all the best awards shows in the world, coming together to create the ultimate creative and effectiveness benchmarks. It’s an honour to make the list!

Tell us a bit about the background to the campaign – what was the challenge or issue you were trying to solve?

Skinny is a low-cost challenger brand in the very established NZ telco market, so lacks the scale and spend of the big three to make itself heard. We’re always looking for ways to drive home Skinny’s brand promise of keeping prices low and customers happy, and finding new people to deliver that message. Historically we’ve used faux-lebrities (everyday New Zealanders who share their names with famous people), our own customers, and Phone It In was the next evolution – recruiting the whole country to deliver Skinny’s brand message, for free!

When developing the creative approach, what was your process for generating unique insights and ideas? How did you land on the direction you took?

Having a rock-solid brand strategy makes all the difference here – Skinny is easier to ideate for because the brand voice is clear, and you know what Skinny ‘would’ or ‘wouldn’t’ do. The direction for Phone It In was incredibly organic – once we had the initial thought of getting the public to voice the campaign, it was all about turning every script and placement into a moment for the brand to shine. We wanted to find clever, cheeky ways to use media to maximise the charm of the campaign.

What was your media approach, and why did you choose to go that direction?

Phone It In lived or died in the media strategy – we needed the perfect mix of high-reach placements, so people would see and engage with the campaign, and turning up in more niche, unexpected places to ensure talkability. Crucially, every single script was custom-written for each placement to make sure that the radio ads were as unique as the situations people found themselves in recording our ads.

Skinny is a smaller sub-brand that was seeking to go mass market. How did that challenger mentality inform the direction of the campaign, even as it sought to outgrow challenger status?

Being the challenger gives us licence to be a little bit cheeky – inviting people to voice our ads (for free!), showing up on billboards outside strip clubs, on beer coasters and making the most of people’s love of the brand. It’s that cheeky challenging attitude we want to keep even as the brand grows, because it's what makes us so beloved.

Did you face any challenges or hurdles to overcome in the process of the campaign, from ideation through to execution? How did you overcome them?

Always! We must have presented this idea half a dozen times before the client bought it – but it was something we truly believed in, and in a high-trust relationship, eventually we convinced them to do it! We knew it was the perfect evolution for the brand. Then, of course, an extremely complex copywriting exercise in conjunction with media to make sure every script was place-perfect. We had a team of copywriters holed up, just going for it, to make sure we could meet media deadlines and protect the brand voice.

Could you give us a few top lessons from this work? What lessons would you apply to other work moving forward?

When you invest consistently in a brand voice, and a way of behaving, it’s really easy to tell when an idea is right for the brand, and whether it will achieve your clients' objectives and move the business forward. Then when you find the right idea and believe in it strongly, keep fighting to get it made.

Despite being a small market, New Zealand routinely is a highly-ranked country for creative and original advertising. What is the secret sauce of its creative culture?

There’s definitely the gift of less hierarchy. Less stakeholders, less red tape. We fight hard for good work and prioritise getting stuff done over ‘process.’ Colenso embodies this – we want to be a world-class creative company, who happens to be located at the bottom of the world.