The agency’s promise of ‘Measured Magic’ has sure delivered in 2022. Why Thinkerbell is Campaign Brief Australian Agency of the Year
Producing awarded work on a wide range of clients, winning 25 new pieces of business, hiring over 60 staff and opening up a new agency in Auckland, the agency’s promise of ‘Measured Magic’ has sure delivered in 2022. After only five years in business Thinkerbell is Campaign Brief’s 2022 Australian Agency of the Year. Campaign Brief’s Australian Agency of the Year was first awarded in 1987 to The Campaign Palace Sydney and recent winners have been The Monkeys (2021, 2017, 2015), Special (2020), BMF Sydney (2019), DDB Sydney (2018) and Clemenger BBDO Melbourne (2016).
For the second year running, Thinkerbell was ranked both #1 creatively in Australia and globally on BestAds, and won 30 awards across five projects and nine award shows, including LIA, New York Festivals, AWARD, Clio, Caples, Spikes Asia, Webbys and Adstars.
Says Thinkerbell co-founder and national chief creative tinker Jim Ingram: “When we first started Thinkerbell, awards and industry recognition weren’t necessarily on our radars. We were more focused on making sure we kept the electricity on from day one! However, once we started to build the agency and have the right structures and people in place, we could start to stretch our legs more and make the kind of work we knew we were capable of, whilst still delivering what our clients expected from us – namely ‘Doing Nothing Does Harm’ for Our Watch, and the Vegemite ‘Mitey Battle’ during the Ashes. These were definite moments where we knew our model could also deliver award-winning work and we allowed ourselves to keep pushing into this space.”
Adds co-founder and executive creative tinker Ben Couzens: “In all honesty, there’s a real buzz that can’t be denied when our agency wins, not for a piece of work, but for our whole agency approach. So, the Agency of the Year wins became the real icing on the cake for us (we got our very first one as AdNews Creative Agency of the Year in just our second year and it was an unbelievable moment).”
From there, the agency has consistently been awarded and recognised for its total agency approach, most recently taking out Mumbrella Creative AOY, PR AOY and Full Service AOY in the same year – and then going back-to-back on Full Service again this year.
“From a creative recognition perspective, being named in the top five for a few years in Campaign Brief has been a huge motivator for us, so this year, being crowned Campaign Brief AOY is an absolute milestone for Thinkerbell and will become part of our story forever. From zero to CB AOY in just five short years is just unbelievable for us and something we’re fucking proud of.”
2022 was a huge year of growth for Thinkerbell, allowing some significant hires and promotions to form a strong leadership and development team. The agency welcomed 60 new people; the total staff number is now over 150 across Thinkerbell North (Sydney), South (Melbourne) and East (Auckland).
This included Swedish creative agency maverick Jerker Fagerström. He took the reins of Thinkerbell North (Sydney) in the newly created role of Managing Partner.
Thinkerbell co-founder and CEO Margie Reid believes Fagerström joining a strong leadership team in the North will be a huge driving force as the Sydney office continues to grow from strength to strength. Says Reid: “We have no doubt that the North’s growth will be a huge factor in Thinkerbell’s success over the next few years.”
In July, Keir Vaughan was appointed the agency’s new Head Craft Tinker to focus on the quality of its overall product.
Says Reid: “We always looked forward to the agency growing to a size that allowed us to bring in specific roles like a Head of Craft — roles that help us create the highest standard of work we possibly can. Keir’s influence on the total care for craft and delivery across the agency has had an immediate impact. He also dresses weirdly, which is cool.
“Building out our C.O.P Shop (Culture Operations People), Fiona Bradshaw was appointed in the role of Operations, to allow Emma O’Leary to continue her work with Culture and People in order to focus on the wellbeing of Thnkerbell’s people and the quality of the overall product.”
Another major hire was Hannah Nickels as Head of Paid & Owned Media. “Hannah has been instrumental in us continuing to grow our media offering through the agency”, says Reid. “She’s been a pivotal person in helping us create our measured media magic across clients like FlyBuys, The Salvation Army and The Reject Shop, but also in helping create a strong media understanding within the entire agency.”
Other notable hires included Amy Frengly, Luke Farmer and Regan Grafton as the core partnership team driving growth into New Zealand. Frengly (Chief Strategy Thinker), Farmer (Managing Director) and Grafton (Chief Creative Tinker) are all co-founders of TKB NZ and responsible for embracing a Thinkerbell model that suits the needs of New Zealand clients as the agency continues to grow the business.
Jaime Morgan also stepped up to the role of Managing Director of Thinkerbell South. Says Reid: “How deserved, given her contribution to driving the South. She was really instrumental in helping us grow and become who we are.”
Reid admits the founding leadership team works hard to balance and test one another: “With the founding ownership of the business shared between Adam (Ferrier), Jim (Ingram), Cuz (Ben Couzens) and myself, you can imagine the varying personalities (and therefore opinions) that come with our different dynamics. So we work hard as a foursome to complement and challenge each other at the same time.”
The leadership team connects daily across general workflow, but meets fortnightly to discuss and develop the business at a macro level.
“Oh, Adam, Jim, Cuz and myself also do marriage counselling (thanks to Nick Cummins from Electrogusto for this suggestion on day one), which helps us maintain a healthy relationship as we grow.”
Thinkerbell co-founder and consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier says the agency doesn’t leave culture to chance: “It’s born out of our ‘measured magic’ ethos. We’ve been very conscious of the culture we wanted to create since day one — case in point is one of our very first hires was Emma O’Leary as Agency C.O.P (Head of Culture, Operations and People) before we even had any people, or operations!”
Ferrier believes culture should be creative, curious and progressive, and says the agency has actively avoided the old tropes of advertising agencies such as pool tables and foosball.
Says Ferrier: “We prefer chess boards, claw machines and pedicures. It’s all about reimagining what’s possible, one of the things we do like to promote this is we give all people an extra week off a year if they promise to expand their mind in some way.”
Along with crossing the Tasman to open its doors in Auckland, last year Thinkerbell also moved into a huge new Sydney office and took another floor in Melbourne.
Quizzed on how the leadership team scales up whilst maintaining a world class level of creativity, Ferrier points to the agency model.
“The foundation of Thinkerbell is built on the premise of ‘marketing sciences meets hardcore creativity,’’ he explains. “However, that’s a bit of a mouthful so we’ve shortened it to ‘measured magic’. Measured Magic is our company promise. It drives everything from our name ‘Thinkerbell’, and logo (Tinkerbell’s wings atop of Rodin’s The Thinker). There are three ways we ensure we’re delivering on Measured Magic, wherever we are: we employ a Thinker/Tinker model throughout the agency; the 4 Leaf Clover: this is our operating system, the way we structure workflow through the agency, and our Little Green Book and Studio Pink: these two work hand in glove to help us get stuff done.”
Ferrier adds the agency employs a unique structure model: “We’ve taken nearly all the marketing communications disciplines and mixed them together — hence we do high end strategy, but we are also a creative shop, we plan and buy media, and we have a thriving earned media business.”
The structure, it would prove, is paying off. Billing $54.6m last year, the agency won 25 new clients including: Barilla, Crystalbrook Coll-ection, Children’s Cancer Foundation, Art Gallery NSW, Coles express, tic:toc (home loans), Sheet Society, Menulog, Eftpos, Fight Food Waste, Gawk Outdoor, Flybuys, Investment NSW, Veritas Health, Support The Girls, Koala, Mental Health Australia, Destination NSW, Spacex, Miro, SPC, Country Road Group, The Reject Shop, Jetstar and No Timid Souls.
According to Ferrier, clients are now seeking out agencies that have ideas that come to life throughout the entire organisation, and are able to creatively flex up, down and around in order to do what’s needed to ‘win’.
Couzens says brands are requesting more transparency and connectivity with the right people in their agencies. “The age of the ‘ta-dah!’ agency is dead (that’s okay, we much prefer ‘abracadabra’ instead). Clients having a closer direct connection with their creative minds, or production firepower just makes getting to, and executing solutions so much more seamless.”
Looking ahead, Ingram is excited to crack something that’s globally, undeniably gold standard: “We’re very proud of the work we’re creating now, but I feel we’re right on the cusp of creating something that’s really a shift in culture, that is recognised on the world stage, and will leave a lasting legacy. No mean feat, but I feel we’re close.”
Adds Ferrier: “We like cracking category challenges and applying that thinking to the brands within that category. Within our suite of clients, several brands are within categories facing strong headwinds. That’s where the action is. Further to this we look forward to Thinkerbell Sao Paulo, New York and Cape Town opening their doors.”
The work in 2022:
XXXX – Postcodes
XXXX, the QRL’s longest-running partner and one of Queensland’s most iconic beer brands, took its partnership with the Maroons up a level during State of Origin II and III, in an initiative via Thinkerbell. Game Two and Three sacrificed XXXX’s most prized and recognisable sponsorship asset: the gold ‘XXXX’ logo, worn on the sleeve of every Maroons player, and was replaced by the real heroes of the state: the Queensland communities.
NRMA Insurance – Ramp Rater
In a world first, NRMA Insurance and Thinkerbell worked with Google Maps to help make it easier for boat owners to get on the water during summer. The development of ‘Ramp Rater’, in collaboration with Google Australia, brings coverage of boat ramps to Google Street View and 360˚ and enables boat owners to pre-prepare and ultimately navigate their way safely down the boat ramp. Working with a Street View Trusted Professional, Thinkerbell added detailed new imagery to Google Maps, clearly visualising the boat ramp for drivers. In addition to this, the agency was able to stamp the ramp photographs with an NRMA Insurance rating of difficulty, helping boat owners know what they were in for before getting to a specific ramp.
Furphy – What The Truck
To celebrate the launch of a new Furphy Crisp Lager, Thinkerbell created an unbelievable installation of a very stuck beer truck in a Sydney CBD laneway. The Furphy truck, which was wedged upright on Little Hunter Street, garnered significant social media attention. Furphy and Thinkerbell worked with installation artist James Dive and Scoundrel Projects to bring to life the impossible set-up.
CGU Insurance – Tall Poppy
CGU Insurance and Thinkerbell collaborated with The Jim Henson Company, an innovator in the field of puppetry and producer of projects like Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, to develop the next phase of the insurance provider’s ‘Insuring Ambition’ brand platform. The short film, Tall Poppy, tackled Australia’s negative cultural phenomenon of cutting down successful people, businesses and entrepreneurs – commonly referred to as tall poppy syndrome. American puppeteer, director and producer Brian Henson (Muppet Treasure Island, Muppet Christmas Carol, Farscape) directed the film, a tale of ‘tall’ Poppy and her journey to hold onto and share her ambitious spirit. The film, produced in California, USA, was released in Australia on 20 February 2022. As part of the film’s national rollout, an ambitious media approach, developed by Initiative, saw a five-minute version of the film run in full during the ad break of primetime current affairs show 60 Minutes on Nine.
Menulog – Wendell Sailor
During game two of State of Origin, Menulog released a series of ads via Thinkerbell showcasing footy legend Big Dell, aka Wendell Sailor, doing mundane things at home. After receiving feedback from footy fans during game one that the frequency of the new campaign launch featuring global superstar Katy Perry disrupted their Origin viewing experience, Menulog wanted to have a bit of fun and take things in another direction for game two, via a series of deadpan ad spots playing throughout the match. Sailor was on full display through a series of everyday activities, including brushing his teeth, reading ‘King of the Wing’ and having a snooze. The feedback was instant online, with many singing the praises of Menulog’s reaction.
Airtasker – Get more Done Done Done
Airtasker launched a brand campaign that showed the ease in which people can get things done using its new platform. Taking inspiration from Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, the brand campaign ‘The Joy of Done’ invited consumers to ‘Get more Dooone Done Done’ with Airtasker. The idea was borne from the insight that people feel a little moment of joy when they complete a set of tasks that they know they need to do. No matter the occasion or moment you have, from hosting a birthday party, moving into a new home, or gardening — you can turn to Airtasker’s skilled Taskers to help you get more done.
Repco – Centenary
To celebrate 100 laps around the sun, the Repco ‘Driven by Passion for 100 Years’ campaign was filled with hidden car history. Whether it was finding Brian’s ‘94 Supra, the fabled Peter Brock Energy Polarizer, the rock that ended DJ’s Bathurst, or Brabham’s legendary engine – every asset is a game of ‘I-SPY’ for car lovers. The campaign’s celebration of car history, racing moments and pop culture was carefully crafted to remind Australia and New Zealand of Repco’s connection to auto culture. The hidden references were loaded throughout all campaign assets across TV, print, radio, social and in-store – which culminated in an interactive game – challenging enthusiasts to test their skills with an online experience.
Dan Murphy’s – Daniel Frances Murphy
Australian drinks retailer Dan Murphy’s launched a new brand direction with creative work developed by Thinkerbell. The idea retells just a few of the many moments in founder Daniel Francis Murphy’s early life that influenced and shaped the customer focused attitudes of Dan Murphy’s today. The entrepreneurial Murphy was a larger than life character. Famous for his innovative concepts and roguish behaviour, he is often credited with democratising great wine and educating Australians about the vast world of drinks beyond rum and beer.
Vegemite – Letter to the Queen
Vegemite, Australia’s most iconic spread was turning 100. Proudly returned to Australian hands in 2017 by Bega Cheese Limited, the Australian brand prepared for a celebration fit for a queen. To kick things off in style, the brand humbly requested a royal nod from her late Majesty The Queen – a 100th birthday letter to mark its special occasion. To increase the chances of Her Majesty seeing Vegemite’s request, the brand and agency also deployed a fleet of mobile digital billboards to drive around London to coincide with the Queen’s Birthday weekend in the majority of Australian states and territories.
XXXX – End of Beer
Lion released the latest expression of its Give a XXXX brand campaign for the Australian beer, XXXX, via Thinkerbell. The creative shows a dystopian future without beer to rally Australians into action to Give a XXXX about the environment. The campaign highlighted how the end of the world would lead to the end of beer, encouraging people to ‘Give a XXXX’. It compelled people to ‘live life like beer depends on it’, as beer’s survival really does depend on how we treat the planet. To highlight the brand’s latest Give a XXXX positioning, a range of out-of-home and digital executions across heartland Queensland and NSW underpinned the work.
QT Hotels – Curious Currencies
QT Hotels gave away a year’s worth of free stays in exchange for customers’ most unusual personal belongings; whether it was a stash of old love letters, a favourite pair of well-worn Levi’s or a rare Pink Floyd vinyl. Curiosities that manage to successfully impress or amuse QT’s Director of Chaos were then exchanged for a complimentary stay at a QT of choice across Australia (Sydney, Bondi, Newcastle, Canberra, Melbourne, Gold Coast or Perth) or New Zealand (Auckland, Wellington or Queenstown). Curious Currencies rolled out nationally in both markets across TV, outdoor, print, social and digital and were supported via earned and influencer partnerships.
XXXX – Budgie Smuggler
XXXX released a range of new XXXX Budgy Smugglers available in “Smugglers” and “Smugglettes”. In a bid to help keep Queenslanders safe this summer, XXXX donated 100% of its royalties from the cossies to Surf Life Saving Qld. The campaign extended across earned media, social and digital
The rest you can read in the latest issue of Campaign Brief, which includes the annual CB Agency Hot+Cold Charts, out now.
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Everyone from Thinkerbell Melbourne and Sydney offices converged in rural Victoria today for a 2 day pow wow, where the CB Agency of the Year was announced to all after dinner.
Absolutely well earned, well called accolade.
You can imagine how well they’d do in Perth.