The overseas influences and the opportunities of television brought a new creative spirit to advertising. In the US in the 1950s and 1960s advertisers began presenting the image of products rather than the benefits, which led to more sophisticated and witty advertisements.
This spirit entered New Zealand in the 1970s, partly through international ownership of advertising companies. The old firm Dobbs-Wiggins-McCann-Erikson and the newcomer Ogilvy and Mather already had international connections. Colenso, started in 1969 by five people who had been working for Charles Haines, teamed up with Clemenger in Australia and BBDO in New York. Colenso was highly successful and by the 1980s was the highest-earning agency. They became known for their popular advertisements including the Crunchie bar train hold-up commercial, the ‘Hugo’ Kentucky Fried Chicken ad with its catchy jingle, and infamous National Party advertisements in 1975 with Hanna-Barbera animations.
The London-based Saatchi & Saatchi arrived in 1985 when it took over the Campaign agency. Three years later it also took over leading local firm Mackay King. By the 1990s Saatchi & Saatchi was earning more than Colenso. Colenso eventually (in 1998) merged with HKM, another high-flying firm of the late 1980s, into the Clemenger stable.
In the 2000s another big international agency, OMD, established itself in New Zealand and quickly began to win awards for its ads.
These ‘hot shot’ agencies brought a new culture. They worked very long hours, and would lock themselves in a hotel to work on a campaign. They were known for their office high jinks, practical jokes and flamboyant personalities. Work was secured with competitive ‘pitches,’ and they encouraged clients to change agencies.
Success in a new medium
Tony Williams had always aspired to achieve success making feature films. He was the director of photography for the 1950s New Zealand-made film Runaway. But fame and fortune were hard to win in the New Zealand film industry. However, Williams achieved distinction in making the celebrated Crunchie commercial, the Toyota ‘bugger’ ad, and the famous ‘Dear John’ ad for BASF audio tapes, which won international awards and was the commercial of the decade for the 1980s.
Advertising firms worked closely with the local film industry, which was also emerging in the 1970s. Film-makers such as Tony Williams and Roger Donaldson turned their hands to clever advertisements. Bob Harvey of MacHarman Ayer Advertising employed graphic artists like Dick Frizzell.
Increasingly, advertising agencies moved to Auckland, following their markets. Even in the early 1970s, 44 of the 90 agencies were there. Auckland agencies concentrated on fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), while Wellington firms worked for service industries like banking.
The new culture spelled the end of the old firms. In 1985 J. Inglis Wright, Charles Haines and Ilott Advertising were still among the top five (along with Colenso and Saatchi & Saatchi); but by the mid 1990s all three had been swallowed up by international firms.