Advertising Agency of the Year


Thinkerbell has consistently driven the Australian advertising scene forward by believing in a combination of marketing science and hardcore creativity. Now in its fifth year, the agency has swelled its ranks to more than 150 staff across its three offices in Melbourne, Sydney and New Zealand.

This year was Thinkerbell's biggest and most successful year ever with it producing innovative, exciting and engaging work for the likes of XXXX, QT Hotels and more. Its “Postcodes of Origin” campaign for XXXX was an absolute slam dunk, igniting Queenslanders’ passion for the brand during the State of Origin by sacrificing the XXXX logo on the players’ iconic maroon sleeves and replacing it with the postcodes of their junior rugby clubs. To hammer home the point, XXXX boldly changed its beer cans’ packaging, swapping branding for numbers. All told, 30 million special edition cans were released.

This kind of creativity comes from Thinkerbell’s revolutionary Thinker/Tinker model where each client relationship has a Thinker — a “suity/strategy type” — and Tinker a “creative/production type” who fronts the business, doing away with unnecessary layers of account service and ensuring it solves client problems faster. It's a way of working that has already delivered huge results and, frankly, we can’t see it stopping any time soon.

Best Digital Services

Resolution Digital Australia

Resolution Digital turned 10 this year and has grown to become one of Australia’s largest full-service digital agencies. Now owned by Omnicom, the agency’s expertise has never been more important than it is at the moment with the digital rulebook being ripped up in front of marketers’ eyes thanks to changes to the Privacy Act, third-party cookies and even analytics software.

Resolution understands that its clients are constantly challenged to deliver best-in-class experiences, adopt new technologies and methodologies, and improve outcomes without breaking the bank. The agency also speaks out publicly and openly about the things that matter most in the market from the importance of a privacy-first future to transparency in digital practice.

Those clients have rewarded Resolution, too. In 2023 it welcomed 32 new clients and retained 99 per cent of its client base. It continues to service Australia’s leading brands across all aspects of digital creative, design, optimisation, measurement and media. Resolution Digital’s mission is delivering remarkable results — something it is certainly managing and then some.

Branding, Design & CX Agency of the Year


Momentum has been everything for Principals over the last 12 months. Despite being more than 28 years old and proudly independent, the agency is not resting on its laurels at all. The agency gained 32 new clients and has seen impressive revenue growth.

That business success is made all the more remarkable by the fact that Principals operates without retainers. Almost three-quarters of its revenue has come from repeat clients over the last year, ensuring that the business truly lives up to its “You’re only ever as good as your last project” mantra.

All this success has been made possible by a bold investment in pioneering new brand services — as well as the salaries and training to get these off the ground. Principals became the first Australian agency to offer semiotics as a functional branding tool. Its AlphaLab design experience arm was also the first in Australia to fuse strategy, research, human-centred design and technology to create next-gen customer experience. Brands as varied as NAB, State Library Victoria and Melbourne Business School have taken advantage of that expertise.

It has also delivered distinctive and brave brands for organisations as diverse as Stockland, Insignia Financial and luxury brand Kennedy. Plus, Principals’ Good Ideas Foundation delivered $160,000 worth of pro bono work for clients including the Biodiversity Council. 

Direct Response/ Performance Agency of the Year


Jaywing’s 2023 has been a year to remember. Despite the industry talking about a decline in marketing budgets, the agency has won more work than ever, extending into bigger brands including Myer, New Balance, Perpetual, CashRewards, a2 Milk, Bupa, Cartology, Crocs and My Republic.

It attributes this business success to its fluid approach to resolving client solutions and a new positioning that sees it take a fresh approach to the work it produces. For example, Jaywing is leveraging AI to maximise its business efficiency, without looking like everyone else. It has also found new ways to unlock the potential of its clients with diversified channel mixes and a refreshed look at how it manages data, insights and measurement.

This fresh new approach in challenging times has seen its revenue and client base jump. It has also renewed its focus on its organisational goals and staff development with new training and development initiatives and workplace diversity. All that work has paid off too, with it opening a new office in Melbourne and a strategically increased headcount to maintain profitability and effective client servicing.

Emerging Agency of the Year

Today The Brave

It’s safe to say that Today The Brave hasn’t simply emerged — it has burst onto the scene. Eight months in, the agency has won 12 new clients, including the likes of News Corp, Hoyts, Mecca and Zambrero.

The agency has hired 16 new people — a decision it has “agonised” over and is “immensely proud of”. This growth has also seen the agency launch new capabilities in corporate and consumer PR and a media service to complement its core creative offering. It now works with clients to build, elevate and boost their reputation across the sustainability, QSR, travel and financial services sectors.

Today The Brave’s media offering runs from targeted and engaging cross-channel paid, content and social activation as well as data-driven performance marketing. Its TTB Ventures arm also gives the agency a chance to put its money where its mouth is.

It has invested in Cronulla Brewery, Maybe Sammy Cocktails, Samuel & Stone lab-grown diamonds and the fastgrowing Golf Space franchise to back the brands it has invested in to help them grow. Today The Brave said there was “no chance in hell” it would win this hotly contested category but, looking back over the past eight months its level of success has been impressive, to say the least. Who knows what the next 12 months will hold?

Experiential/ Promotional Agency of the Year


Amplify’s mission is simple — to pioneer brand experience and put creativity at its core.

However, while the mission is straightforward, the agency operates in a challenging and fragmented world. As such, it has evolved its capabilities and innovated its offering to create campaigns that push clients' expectations of experiential marketing forward. To build out those capabilities, it has grown its team by 35 per cent year-over-year. It has added huge new clients, including Apple, Nike, Netflix and Disney, helping to amplify (geddit?) their gargantuan brand presences.

However, it hasn’t forgotten its existing clients — none of whom are small-time, either. This year, the agency has produced pioneering experience-first campaigns for existing clients including Google, Levi’s and Canva. This body of work and diversity of clients is a reflection of the “innovative thinking and creativity” that the agency seeks to engender within its walls. However, in 2023, the agency took it a step further — pioneering worldbuilding globally.

Amplify describes worldbuilding as the “most powerful tool in the modern marketer’s playbook” and something that gives them the ability to “rethink and reappraise brand building in culture”. That innovative approach has led to financial success as the company has grown its revenue year-over-year again. There is certainly plenty more to come from this talented team.

Independent Agency
Fewer Than 50 Employees


WiredCo. may have been shortlisted for an armful of awards last year, but this year they've gone fully (in the words of Kylie) Padam!

The agency's a firm believer in mateship and using digital to move people. This year, the results of their strong beliefs were clear - they were able to deliver 18 per cent growth and achieve 95 per cent client satisfaction.

They were also able to help Pizza Hut win its biggest sales month ever. Tasked with helping Pizza Hut boost sales around State Of Origin, it launched the hugely successful "Sauce Of Origin" campaign. It was a resounding success, boosting talkability by 40 per cent and beating all other sales months by five per cent.

Despite a cost-of-living crisis, WiredCo. has stood true to its values and has given 94 per cent of its team pay rises as well as investing $500,000 in team culture development and wellbeing.

Independent Agency
More Than 50 Employees


Howatson+Company entered the Australian advertising scene with a bang just over two years ago with a simple mission - to positively influence people and culture the world ovetr.

To say it has lived up to its mission is an understatement. Over that time it has more than doubled its revenue growth and added 66 staff during the judging period — or adding a new starter on average every four working days. But its retention rate still stands at a very impressive 88 per cent. It has also sought to make a positive impact on the marketplace.

It has been carbon neutral from day one and remains the only Australian agency to be Climate Active certified. It has also invested $400,000 in supporting parents and has 60 per cent female leadership.

Of course, the work has been stellar. It has won Cannes Lions, Spikes and B&T Awards by producing incredible work for all manner of clients — a result of its “No House Style” approach to work. For example, its AI-enabled work for Maurice Blackburn Lawyers gave a voice to the voiceless and a face to the faceless seeking asylum in Australia. However, at the same time, its work for Belong, Matilda Bay and TK Maxx demonstrated a levity and a playfulness that few agencies have the scope and the guts to pull off.

Media Agency of the Year


Over the past year, Wavemaker has retained more clients than ever before and won two of the country’s largest advertisers in L'Oréal and Audible. The clients it has retained are far from incidental, either consisting of Mitsubishi, Henkel, Allianz, Mondelez and the South Australian Government.

All told, Peter Vogel’s team defended some $150 million of client billings while continuing to grow this year. However, it isn’t only about the money with the GroupM-owned agency. The agency has diversified its areas of expertise, embracing influencer and creator marketing, redefining the role of media agencies in the sector and winning awards in the process.

The agency’s offices also work with different not-for-profit organisations — Kids Helpline, Whitelion, Kindness Factory and the Black Dog Institute. The company is also actively involved in digital sustainability and the Responsible Investment Framework. These initiatives mean that Wavemaker is helping to make the change it wants to see a reality. Plus, it initiated GroupM’s Disability Action Plan with the holding company later adopting it.

The agency also submitted the plan to the Australian Human Rights Commission to make it available to organisations nationally. Combining exceptional work for the likes of Colgate with its “Sound of a Smile” campaign, exceptional business results and industry-leading agency culture and initiatives, there are few, if any, agencies across adland making waves like Wavemaker.

NSW Agency of the Year

The Monkeys, part of Accenture Song

Few agency offices can claim to have anything like the impact of The Monkeys’ Sydney digs. Its “First Digital Nation” campaign for the Pacific island of Tuvalu reached more than two billion people around the world, saw a loss and damage fund established for the nation at COP27 and saw the nation’s digital sovereignty recognised by 10 nations.

But there’s more. Its “Un-Australian” campaign for Australian Lamb earned coverage in nearly 1000 different media outlets and was viewed by just under half of Australia’s population. In amongst it all, the agency popped out brilliant work for Amazon Prime, Canadian Club, Telstra, Qantas and The Uluru Statement.

The Monkeys also offers its Sydney staffers almost unparalleled benefits. It offers 18 weeks of leave to both primary and secondary carers, paid leave and free counselling for assisted reproductive treatment, additional paid carer’s leave and more. It also offers five-year internships for First Nations students and five days paid leave for staff to participate in Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander cultural activities.

As a result, it has an 84 per cent staff retention rate — well above the industry average. And it has managed to scoop a bunch of awards including Silver and Bronze Cannes Lions, Spikes and Effies. Let’s hope The Monkeys’ other offices don’t get too jealous.

PR Agency of the Year


Thinkerbell’s second gong of the night is for the PR agency category. We’ve already covered its work for XXXX and its innovative Thinker/Tinker approach to strategy, planning and creativity but its stand-out PR work this year was for hotel chain QT.

Coming off the back of COVID, the agency created Curious Currencies — a promotion idea that was as unorthodox as the hotel chain itself — which saw guests invited to pay for their stay using an item of personal value. Curious Currencies was introduced into Australia and New Zealand with a tactical media relations program that involved traditional PR and engagement with influencers to submit their own entries.

The agency also worked with tourism boards to leverage their channels. The results were impressive, to say the least. From $10,000 in media spend, Thinkerbell recouped more than a million bucks in earned media coverage, gained more than 600 submissions and had 100 per cent positive consumer sentiment.

But the work continued with exceptional and eye-catching activations for BINGE, NRMA and a delightfully tongue-in-cheek campaign for Vegemite targeting the late Queen Elizabeth. It even managed to shoehorn a Furphy Truck between two city buildings to launch the brand’s new Furphy Crisp beer.

Production Company of the Year


Revolver is one of Australia’s most successful production companies — a fact it attributes firstly to its representation of some of the world’s best directors both at home and abroad. This year, the agency added four huge names to its roster — Jeff Low, Isaiah Seret, Aaron Stoller and Fiona McGee.

Its work for NRMA this year was a real standout. It sought to breathe fresh meaning and resonance into its ‘Help’ positioning and open up more imaginative and differentiated worlds of storytelling. The campaign films were directed by Steve Rogers and required serious production effort from Revolver to create the fire and water necessary for the stories. Using water pipes, audio tech and CGI, the team managed to turn a challenge into magic with a “complex and unseen” system.

Despite its commercial success and impressive range of clients and directors, the agency is still relatively small meaning its tight and egalitarian workplace culture is not only admirable but essential. There are no “small” roles at Revolver and every team member is absolutely vital to the success of its output. The agency is also actively working to address the historical gender and cultural imbalances in its field with all of its producers given cultural capability training and its managing director, Micahel Ritchie, was appointed by Screen Australia to mentor the founder of Indigenous production company, Garuwa, over a one year period to assist the team in realising its goals.

QLD/ Other States & Territories/ NZ Agency of the Year


Special New Zealand has had another incredible year. It was ranked the Most Effective Independent Agency in the Effie Global rankings and had three campaigns ranked in WARC’s 100 Most Effective. It also took home a Cannes Lions Grand Prix, two Gold Lions, as well as a single silver and bronze and a D&AD Yellow pencil. What’s more Cannes Lions also named Special as ‘Independent Agency of the Year - Strategy’ – another first for any agency from Australasia. Chances are, you already know Special’s work.

Its “Last Performance” campaign for health insurance firm Partners Life was celebrated all over the world, despite it being a campaign addressing an almost uniquely Kiwi problem and delivered through a Kiwi TV show. Its work for Kathmandu, however, was far more lighthearted with a focus on nature and human adventure set to an incredibly funky soundtrack.

Both campaigns, while innovative and award-winning, delivered exceptional results for Special’s clients. “Last Performance” saw chronically under-insured Kiwis boost their appetite for life insurance and Kathmandu had its best summer ever off the back of Special’s campaign. Special also gives back. It also launched Special Aotea. The initiative is a culturally-led creative, strategic and business rōpū (group) within the agency that is designed to authentically represent Te Ao Māori in its people, place, the work it delivers for its clients, and the next generation — something its Aussie counterparts could learn from.

Research Agency of the Year

Fiftyfive5, part of Accenture Song

Fiftyfive5 celebrated a remarkable 13 years of consecutive growth since it opened its doors in 2010, posting another year of double-digit growth. The team has grown to 235 people, with offices in four countries. Its FY23 growth was achieved via four strategic pillars: focused business development in three sectors, defining eight big-bet global accounts to do what it does best on the world stage, unlocking recurring revenue growth in large ongoing programs of work and focusing on client retention.

All of its top 20 clients in FY22 spent in FY23, and spent more. Additionally, eight of its 10 first-year clients spent in FY23. Targeted business development added 82 new clients. It has expanded its global presence, operating in a record 45 countries, set up in London and made new hires in Singapore and New Zealand.

Large programmatic recurring revenue grew significantly, supported by investment in a Centre of Excellence to enhance its digital delivery and AI tools. At the heart of our momentum is FiftyFive’s people - the most senior team in APAC supported by best-in-class capability leads. It has a very clear talent philosophy - attract the best minds, create a culture that motivates and develops them, and provide an environment that delivers high-quality work with commercial impact.

Victorian Agency of the Year


Named ‘Global Creative Agency of the Year’ by the UK site Campaign, in a first for any single agency from New Zealand, or the southern hemisphere. Ranked the number one Most Effective Independent Agency in the World’ in Effies Global rankings, as well as having three campaigns ranked in WARC’s 100 Most Effective.

Special took home a Cannes Grand Prix, a Gold Lion, Silver and Bronze, a D&AD Yellow pencil and ‘Best in Show’ across every single one of New Zealand’s local creative, media and PR award shows. Underlining Special’s belief that effectiveness is the ultimate goal and that creativity is the best weapon to achieve it, Cannes also named Special as ‘Independent Agency of the Year - Strategy’ – another first for any Antipodean agency. Whilst New Zealand is in a recession, Special has adapted – launching Special Wellington and Special PR – which was named ‘Large PR Agency of the Year’ in just their second year.

Special has won over 18 pieces of new business and produced an exceptional body of work across all clients. BusinessDesk wrote that Special’s achievements this year crowned their move to now be recognised as ‘a global powerhouse in the creative industry’. Stoppress wrote: “There are a few agencies that stand out from the rest, delivering innovative and effective campaigns that capture the attention of audiences and win the hearts of clients. And fewer still, those who can claim to be Kiwi originals.”