Kia ora New Zealand - Colenso BBDO design AdNews October Edition

By AdNews | 9 October 2018
Early concept sketch

This is from the October issue of AdNews Magazine. To see it in-print first, and to support AdNews, see here. 

The creative contingent of adland is at the beating heart of the industry. To fully embrace this, and with a mission to create awesome and inspiring covers, each month AdNews hand–picks an agency to work its magic. The cover of the year is then voted for by readers.

To reflect this issue's investigative feature on New Zealand, we called on Auckland-based Colenso BBDO to take on the challenge. Editor Pippa Chambers spoke with the agency's creative director Mike Davison, as well as senior lecturer at Auckland University of Technology, Dr Dean Mahuta.

What were your initial thoughts on the New Zealand brief at hand?

Mike: The initial reaction to the brief was one of excitement – who doesn’t want to design the cover of a magazine? Trepidation - was the last idea I had the last good one? Pressure – don’t mess this up; we wouldn’t want any negativity on the blogs. And fear – representing a nation through a magazine cover design is a daunting challenge. How do you define communication in an image?

Post first brief chat, what went through your mind and what were the next steps you took as a team?

Mike: As with most briefs, the first thought is how do we reframe it to land on the real problem. To understand a problem and communicate a solution, you have to overlay a cultural context. So that’s what we did. We casted a lean team to discover past, present and future ways of communicating. New Zealand has a fantastic history and heritage; by exploring that fearlessly and thoroughly, we landed on a beautiful idea. We then put the brief out to the creative department with the challenge to create an iconic image that represented New Zealand marketing. We told them not to mess it up.

The one idea to rule them all – how did you know you'd landed on the best concept?

Mike: We let the cat out of the bag. Like most creative teams, we’re a curious bunch. As the research learnings were shared with a wider group, we decided to run a competition throughout the company to design the cover. The entries started flying in, and we put them to the test. The result was unanimous. The pūtātara concept shone through. This idea was the favourite because it calls on our oldest form of communication – one that’s been heard here for over 800 years.

Dean: The pūtātara reflects a relationship between Māori and Pākehā, demonstrating a contrast of traditional forms of announcements/calling people's attention to news and modernity. It’s also an incredibly beautiful object, which makes for great imagery.

AdNews October 2018 Cover

Why this idea?

Mike: This idea alludes to a uniquely New Zealand form of announcement – a great metaphor for New Zealand advertising. You could say it’s New Zealand’s original communications amplifier.

Dean: The most widely known shell trumpet is the pūtātara, also called the pūmoana, and is made using the conch or triton shell. The triton shell is not native to Aotearoa, and therefore are considered quite rare as they are only used when they wash up on the shore of the North Island of New Zealand.

Although shell trumpets are common throughout the Pacific, few combine the use of shell and wood as seen in the pūtātara, where the point of the conch is cut and a carved wooded mouthpiece is bound to the end. This coming together of wood and shell mirrors the relationship between two atua Māori (Māori gods), Tāne, god of the forest, and Tangaroa, god of the oceans.

Used before the arrival of a procession, the pūtātara can be heard from long distances, and in many cases, each trumpet’s sound is unique where the identity of the group can be known just by its call. History also tells us that the call of the pūtātara has been used to transmit actual messages, however, it was more commonly used to give a signalling call or a call to attention before an announcement.

What were the biggest hurdles to making this a reality?

Mike: Cultural consideration obviously. As a Pākehā dominated industry, we’re needing the expertise of Maori more and more when dealing with anything to do with their beautiful culture. There is a vast and unique set of concepts, meanings, and protocols that I love but don’t have a proper grasp of. Dr Dean Mahuta has been helping us recently on a project for Spark, launching Kupu, an app that translates imagery into Te Reo Maori. So we asked him again to help us navigate our way to creating this image.

Tell us about the shoot. Who shot this and how did it come together?

Mike: After some investigation, we found a pūtātara owned by Inia Maxwell, a Rotorua based Film & TV Cultural advisor. So we needed to find a photographer down that way we could trust to nail a beautiful and evocative image. We commissioned Graeme Murray, an amazing photographer with a ton of experience and obvious passion for iconic, beautifully lit imagery. We wanted to present the pūtātara in a way that gave a nod to the modern context we were putting it in. Using water as a shiny background seemed to be a dynamic way to add interest and movement to the shot.

Any challenges?

Mike: Juggling a remote shoot with the rest of the daily workload.

Dean: Making sure we hit the right amount of information re: Māori knowledge, that would complement the contemporary imagery and copy.

Best bit about the process/any funny stories etc?

Mike & Dean: As a Kiwi company for Kiwi clients, we’re constantly learning new things about how to best communicate with our people. Sometimes we use technology. Other times it’s a print ad. I remember once we even built a treehouse. The reality is that it’s the simple stuff, like the pūtātara, that cuts through best.

And, of course, seeing the image come through on my phone from Graeme on a Saturday morning was fantastic.

Mike Davison – Creative Director – Colenso BBDO
Dr Dean Mahuta – Senior Lecturer – Auckland University of Technology
Graeme Murray – Photographer (
Inia Maxwell – Cultural Advisor
Andy Robilliard – Creative Services Director – Colenso BBDO
Joe Carter – Communications Director – Colenso BBDO


Best, E. 1976. Games and Pastimes of the Māori. Wellington: A. R. Shearer Government Printer.

Flintoff, B. 2004. Taonga Puoro: Singing Treasures. The musical instruments of the Māori. Nelson: Craig Potton Publishing.

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