Brittney Rigby
Feb 15, 2024

Looking back, looking forward: TBWA's Paul Bradbury

In a fresh series, APAC adland CEOs share their hopes and fears for the year ahead and reflect on 2023. This week, we chat with Paul Bradbury, CEO of TBWA Australia and New Zealand.

Looking back, looking forward: TBWA's Paul Bradbury

From winning the market’s biggest and most hotly-contested pitch to the perfect day on the slopes: 2023 was a big year for TBWA’s Australia and New Zealand CEO Paul Bradbury. With a roster of prominent clients under their belt, a part in a bespoke agency offering to one of Australia's largest accounts and a leadership bench that reflects amongst the best in class of Australia and New Zealand's marcomms industry, there's a lot to look back on, and more importantly, look forward to. 

‌Here, as part of Campaign Asia-Pacific’s 'Looking back, looking forward' series featuring chief executives across APAC’s adland, Bradbury reveals his hopes and fears for the year ahead, and the shiniest and prickliest parts of 2023, both personally and professionally.

‌2023: Best and worst

‌When Bradbury thinks of his favourite day of 2023, he thinks of white snow and zero phones. He was on a family skiing trip in Hakuba, Japan, enjoying his kids’ company.

‌“No screens, no fighting. Just big, fun, epic adventures together,” he says. “Spending quality time with my young family is always hard to beat, it puts everything else into sharp perspective.”

‌Professionally, he unsurprisingly can’t go past winning the Telstra pitch. The CMO of Australia’s biggest telco, Brent Smart, went to market for a new creative agency 12 months after stepping into the role. After a shoot out with incumbent agency The Monkeys, TBWA won.

‌But there was a twist—the bespoke agency, called +61 after the Australian country code, also includes Omnicom stablemate OMD, Telstra’s existing media agency, and Bear Meets Eagle on Fire (BMEOF)—widely regarded as one of the country’s hottest independent creative shops. Smart had previously worked with BMEOF when he was CMO at the insurance firm IAG.

By servicing Telstra’s media and creative accounts, Campaign Asia-Pacific understands that +61 is now home to Australia's single biggest advertising account. Bradbury says the model, which isn't a standard one-client agency built, will “achieve a new level of creative and media integration." 

He's excited about the future-facing possibilities of working with the best talent from three agencies at the top of their game.  

‌“Successfully pitching on Telstra with Bear Meets Eagle on Fire and OMD was an incredible achievement for everyone involved,” Bradbury says, his first comments since +61 was revealed.

‌“I’m excited for the creative opportunity in partnering with one of the most ambitious and influential brands in Australia, as well as the unique professional opportunity in building a new agency model in +61, fusing the creative firepower of an independent together with the integrated capabilities of TBWA and OMD.”

But while a big pitch win can change an agency’s fame and fortunes, pitching was also the toughest part of Bradbury’s year. Most challenging in 2023, he says, was “re-pitching relationships that were contractually obligated to go to market”, which is “always difficult as the incumbent.”

‌Plus, no agency was immune to tumultuous macroeconomic conditions. As chief executive, Bradbury led an agency and its clients through a cost-of-living crisis impacting the region.

‌“Keeping the energy and positivity high throughout last year was a challenge. Rising interest rates and cost of living pressures hit many of our large retail clients hard, reflected in declining spend and creative budgets.”

‌But TBWA ended 2023 “nicely in front,” he says.

‌Personally, the trickiest part of the last 12 months was attempting to “keep my kids off screens” and keep up with their “zoomer” speak.

‌“I intend to lift my ‘drip’ in 2024,” he jokes.

‌2024: Hopes and fears

‌As the working year begins, Bradbury is most enthusiastic about the work: he says the campaigns in the pipeline across TBWA’s AUNZ offices in Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland will live up to its promise as the Disruption Company. The focus is on work that is distinct, effective, and part of culture.

Or, as Bradbury puts it, “different shaped ideas”, which include “innovative customer experiences.”

‌Last year, that work included Winnie the Pooh: The Deforested Edition for toilet paper brand Who Gives A Crap via Eleven and TBWA's Melbourne shop, which put a spotlight on the fact that one million trees are destroyed every day to make traditional toilet paper.

‘Winnie-The-Pooh: The Deforested Edition’ is a first-of-its-kind reimagining of the iconic children’s book, to highlight the impact of deforestation across the globe

Auto-Translate for tyre and auto business Mycar allowed people to translate car terminology into simple language.

And 'Good Tings', a campaign for New Zealand telcom providers 2degrees, taught young people the 10 ‘tings’ they need to know about owning a mobile.

Scrufizzer - Good Tings - Music Video from TBWA New Zealand on Vimeo.

‌However, 2024 isn’t shaping up to be an easier year than the last when it comes to the reserves of energy and positivity Bradbury will need. He points to ongoing economic and global tensions, and the upcoming US Presidential and UK General elections.

‌“In times of uncertainty, people seek connection, so I think there is a big opportunity for brands across the region and the world to offer a ray of hope, comedy or happiness,” Bradbury notes.

“Humour is one of the most effective tools in a brand’s marketing arsenal. We saw a resurgence of this at Cannes in 2023 with 52% of Film category winners being intentionally funny, and now humour will be recognised within its own category. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing more of it in 2024.”

‌When asked what he’s most looking forward to personally, he references his early mornings, “every one of my 5am workday wake ups”.

‌“Exercise, followed by jumping in the ocean, followed by coffee before the family wakes up and the intensity of the working day begins,” Bradbury says. “Simple, but so good.”

Campaign Asia

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