Axis Awards Sponsor - Portfolio Recruitment

Posted 27 July 2015.

Axis Awards Sponsors - Portfolio Recruitment

​In association with AXIS Awards Sponsor - Portfolio Recruitment

Hadleigh Avrill
Hadleigh Averill

Creative and Experiential Specialist, Hadleigh Averill.

Hadleigh is one of New Zealand’s foremost experienced creatives across specialist experiential campaigns, having led international and local brands to major success in this ever expanding area of brand recognition. In New Zealand it’s a challenging area to specialise in, with smaller budgets than overseas markets and clients that don’t always understand it’s potential.

Here Hadleigh talks to us about what experiential is and where it’s heading.

In your words, what does Experiential mean and encompass in regards to a brand campaign?

In simple terms Experiential engages consumers to experience a brand directly. In doing so the goal of experiential marketing is to immerse consumers in a memorable, impactful experience or series of experiences that create emotional connections between consumer and brand which generate brand loyalty and ultimately influence purchase decisions.

In New Zealand these days, Experiential is often perceived by clients as the lesser cousin of traditional channels, because they think of it as activation or shopper marketing. These channels are forms of experiential but are often tacked on to a brand campaign instead of integrating with one or better yet, leading it. Experiential, where appropriate, has the potential to lead campaigns and is under utilised in this market. More often than not, clients opt for traditional channels such as TV, Print and Digital because they are easily measured and get good reach. It is true that experiential on its own has limited capacity to achieve reach, but if executed well the content generated from experiential can be pushed out across diverse channels to achieve similar levels of reach. Not only that, it can be pushed out and tweaked in real time, thus creating meaningful, current conversations.

It always surprises me how little experiential in conjunction with social is used when we live in the age of Real Time engagement. Everything we do is now, every consumer wants it now, comments on it now, shares it now. Everyone can see what’s going on and everyone has the opportunity to add to the conversation. So I think experiential offers a unique opportunity to create meaningful experiences for or with a small number of consumers and then used the content generated to speak to the greater whole - content that is desirable to share and talk about.

From a client perspective it really is a win win. You are either engaging a lucky consumer in a direct experience designed to make them love your brand, or you are a consumer receiving content from a friend about how great that brand is - and we’re always more likely to trust a friend over a brand telling us what we should think and feel.

You’ve worked on some major brands both here in New Zealand and globally, which has been your most successful campaign to date? Tell us about it!

Well there are different measuring sticks for success, so hard to pick one campaign. However in terms of profit increase, relative to uniqueness of idea, awards won, the relationship with the client and the impact it had on the lives of the consumers that participated, The Nikolai Organisation campaign I created for Smirnoff would have to rate up there. The campaign was executed quite some time ago now, but it is still unrivalled in terms in the depth of engagement and personalisation of experienced achieved.

In New Zealand Smirnoff had low brand equity among 18 - 29 year olds, so we were briefed to engage these young people through experiential in a way that embraced Smirnoff’s ‘Clearly Original’ positioning. Utilising Smirnoff’s Russian heritage, we created an experiential platform, an espionage style organisation led by playboy Nikolai, and set about recruiting people to be Agents. Drawn to the website, consumers were invited to create an alter ego - their agent identity - their brief - to prove their worthiness by recruiting agents, executing covert missions and submitting documentary evidence. Agents were notified of new missions by text, given a mission retrieval code and directed back online to a secure server to obtain their mission brief. Over 20,000 missions were accepted. Using actors, sets and a lot of good planning, thousands of young people were given the opportunity to explore a life they had only ever witnessed on film, facilitating a space for experiences that felt subversive but were in fact all above board. A constant dialogue was maintained between Nikolai and his Agents, both in social and directly through email. Some less covert missions saw a few thousand dollars thrown off a balcony in high street. Some missions were simply altruistic - 22,000 trees getting planted on Motuihe Island in under 4 hours. Some agents proactively created their own missions. Some went to such extraordinary lengths to prove their loyalty that they had Smirnoff’s logo tattooed on their arm. Over 30,000 items of documentary evidence were submitted as proof of mission completion. Successful mission completion elevated an agents status, increasing their chance of attending an elite agent gathering - a kick ass party! By the end of the campaign we had 15,000 Agents, 3000 of which were consistently active and 1000 of which had made it a lifestyle. That 1000 people created incredible amounts of content.

The results far exceeded expectations - not only did we revitalise Smirnoff’s brand equity by creating an exhilarating networking platform that had cult status, most importantly we massively increased profits.

For me, the campaign was an excellent example of what can be achieved with an exceptional working relationship with a client. Working side by side with Lion Nathan and Diageo at every stage of the process, we were able to create great strategy that allowed for truly unique, game changing creative. For our clients, the process was definitely a challenging one, but it paid off handsomely.

You can view this and other examples of Hadleigh’s work at

There have been some very clever integrated and experiential campaigns developed with the explosion of social media, how do you see this area of brand awareness being embraced even further in New Zealand?

Globally I think the next chapter of integrated experiential marketing, is where the entire marketing mix—from above-the-line advertising to general marketing platforms to social media engagements—gets all content from live engagements. Budweiser’s #UpForWhatever campaign is a perfect example of this - it’s Superbowl spot focused on an outrageous experience had by one individual, which was followed up by 1000 people having a live two day party in Whatever USA, during which 37000 social media posts were made which reached over 15 million people. So it’s an exciting channel with a lot of potential. Experientially lead campaigns aren’t a new idea - agencies have knocked out the odd campaign here and there in this space for years. But LIVE Experiential or what i like to call Real Time Marketing - that is the future - to create and manage the conversations and experiences people are having online and offline, LIVE.

You’ve got a lot to offer creatively. What can you bring to the table for agencies and brands who would like to offer experiential campaigns to clients?

Experience. And more specifically experience in knowing how to use experiential to achieve a broad range of objectives. Following the real time theme, I can offer concepts, strategies and management structures that result in unique real time engagement campaigns that actually change the dial.

If you’d like to connect with Hadleigh get in touch with Annie at Portfolio Recruitment