Special Group has become the first Kiwi advertising company to be named global creative agency of the year by influential media magazine Campaign, taking home two of the sector’s most prestigious awards. 

The Auckland-based advertising and media group received the accolade in London overnight, breaking a long-term trend of the top award going to major agencies in the United States, UK, or Europe. 

Special was named global creative agency of the year and independent agency of the year by the London-based advertising industry bible. Campaign had previously named Special as the best agency in the Asia-Pacific region. 

The NZ company beat high-level competition from around the world, including Mother in London, and The Brooklyn Brothers in the US. American giant Weiden+Kennedy won the award last year for its work with Nike and athlete Colin Kaepernick. 

Agencies were judged on creative performance and their industry impact.  

Tony Bradbourne, co-founder and chief executive of Special Group, said the recognition from the UK-based magazine was a significant moment for the NZ advertising industry. 

“This is the best of the best going head-to-head, and we were up against some pretty staggering competition. For a New Zealand agency to beat the best in the world really does turn the marketing world on its head,” Bradbourne told BusinessDesk.  

“New Zealand agencies are operating at an extremely high level,” he added. “We can only do that with great teams, and the people running our agencies are world-class.” 

Special defied the pandemic to record one of its most successful years in 2020. The group grew across the Tasman, and opened a new operation in the United States, securing Uber Eats as its first client. The company orchestrated a coveted Super Bowl ad for the meal delivery giant in January. 

Bradbourne said covid provided an unlikely boost to the company, changing the mindset of international clients about video meetings and remote interactions.  

“Unexpected positives came from it. All of a sudden, it didn’t matter whether you were in Madison Avenue or London.” 

The ad agency has gone from strength to strength this year. Special’s Melbourne team recently won the account for ANZ Bank, continuing the momentum for its Australian operation. The group has also launched a PR division and has plans for further international growth. 

“We’re looking further afield for expansion,” Bradbourne said. “Whether that’s London or Wellington.”