Breaking every rule of traditional advertising, crafting memorably viral moments, creating not just cultural events but contributing to culture itself, breaking every rule of sponsorship and taking Australian creativity global. Special Group is undeniably the most ambitious agency in the country and Campaign Brief’s Australian Agency of the Year.
In a year of redundancies, conservative budgets, plateauing and undoubted fear of the unknown, the agency – which is recognised across the globe for its famous ‘Tonight I’ll Be Eating’ campaigns for Uber Eats – sunk its teeth in deeper and accelerated even faster to create open and brave ideas. The boldness paid dividends, Special Group remained at the forefront of the industry, penetrating beyond traditional advertising, breaking the rules of sports sponsorship (again), taking Australian brands global, dominating headlines internationally and bringing home more than 50 awards from every corner of the world.
And not only from Australia ~ Special Group has also been awarded Campaign Brief New Zealand Agency of the Year.
Special Group Australia’s clever work has driven outstanding results and profound value for its diverse portfolio of clients, which includes Bonds, CUB, Tourism New Zealand, Uber Eats, Red Bull, Mutti, Afterpay, Kayo and Harris Farm.
According to Special Group Australia’s partner and chief creative officer, Julian Schreiber, being crowned Campaign Brief’s Agency of the Year is a testament to the agency’s ambition.
He adds his team has the ambition to not be defined by size, country, shape or budget: “We strive to be our own limits. We proudly grow and shrink almost every week depending on the creative tasks moving through the agency. We try the best we can to let the creative ambition shape and define us.”
Cade Heyde, founding partner, added: “We’ve long believed that if we kept our heads down, maintained a relentless focus on our values, our culture and our people, and treated our own business with the focus we give to our clients, that we could create an environment that gives everyone the opportunity to create the best work of their careers.”
2020 was an enviable year of growth for the Special Group as it not only grew its Sydney business but extended its remit and simultaneously opened an office in both Melbourne and Los Angeles. The creative company impressively won nine new pieces of business, seven of them during a global lockdown, hired 12 new full-time employees, managed a 95 percent retention rate and grew revenue by over 60 percent.
But to Tom Martin, CCO and partner at Special Group Australia, 2020 was the year the agency’s portfolio of work really stood out.
“2020 was not an easy year. Any and every piece of work we’ve managed to make has been through the lens of adapting and powering through a global pandemic. We’ve had to change our ways of working by constantly bolstering our culture and communications. We’re not just proud of the work, we’re indebted to the people behind it.”
Despite the triumphs and challenges of COVID-19, Special Group made work that worked hard and travelled far, creating integrated campaigns for clients large and small.
Some of the highlights include successfully completing a global project that ran for 365 consecutive days until mid 2020, on behalf of Tourism New Zealand, in partnership with Special Group New Zealand. The awarded ‘Good Morning World’ campaign went on to win awards all around the world as well as taking home the world’s highest Global Effie. The independent creative company also launched Disney+ into the local market by creating an app to show there’s a little bit of Disney in all of us. Plus, the agency created a new life philosophy inspired by beer for Carlton Dry, made a different media hack for everyday of the Australian Open, showed nowhere is safe from footy for Kayo, and much, much more.
A stand out for Special Group, which attracted fame after launching a series of successful campaigns for Uber Eats, was transporting the ‘Tonight I’ll Be Eating’ to North America by creating a ‘Star Wars versus Star Trek’ viral campaign; and introduced team Van Byles in an Uber Eats campaign starring Olympic gold medalist Simone Byles and Queer Eye star Jona-than Van Ness.
The agency also managed impressive branding and design projects for Harris Farm, Zambrero, Yalumba and Margra.
When probed on his highlights for the year, Schreiber said: “This is a landmark year for us, we opened two offices in both Melbourne and LA. In terms of the work, it is hard to move past Mark & Patrick for Uber Eats. It is the first piece of work we’ve ever made while simultaneously opening a new office overseas. It’s also the next stage of a three year journey for a brand we’re lucky enough to keep doing great work.”
Winning CB Agency of the Year was the result of both challenges and triumphs, says Schreiber. “This has been a year that has tested us, but simultaneously levelled the playing field so our strengths could be recognised. Beyond the larger world issues, this will always be a year that defined the path of our agency.”
It is because of this that Special Group’s creative output for 2020 feels different, Martin adds. “Collaboration has been a weapon of ours, this year more than others. We are constantly working on projects that cannot be made by a creative agency alone. We need close collaborators in every field of creation. The client, media, production and well beyond. It has allowed us to not just be labelled by the work of a small or independent agency, but a creative organisation, with all the freedom and variety that entails.”
The rest you can read in the latest issue of Campaign Brief, which includes the annual CB Agency Hot+Cold Charts, out now.