To say Clemenger BBDO Melbourne cleaned up at the recent AWARD Awards would be an understatement, taking home 20 gold pencils, Best in Show and Agency of the Year. Creative directors Stephen de Wolf and Evan Roberts share their reaction to the success and whether it’s possible to reach ‘peak Graham’.

TCC: ‘Meet Graham’ has been killing it! Was that the plan and when did you know you were onto something special?

SDW & ER: Our intention for Graham was to create a road safety conversation in the real world and he definitely achieved that…far more effectively than we could’ve ever imagined.

The first indication we were onto something special was when our surgeon, road safety engineer and artist, Patricia Piccinini, all said yes to the project. They’re incredibly busy people with important day jobs, so if they could see the merit in the project, we felt like others would too.

TCC: Where is Graham now? How much life do you think he has left in him? Is it possible we could reach ‘peak Graham’?

SDW & ER: Graham has just embarked on another tour of regional Victoria. This time he’s visiting some areas he didn’t get to last time as well as some universities.

In terms of the social media impact there will no doubt be a limit to what Graham can do, but he is much more than just a pretty face – he’s also an educational tool for our future drivers and part of the school curriculum here in Victoria. So as long as humans are on the road, he will always be relevant.

TCC: How often do you think a ‘Graham’ comes around in a creative’s life?

SDW & ER: The trick is thinking it’s only the creatives that made Graham happen. Creatives come up with brilliant ideas all the time, the reason Graham was such a coup – for us anyway – was because the stars aligned across the agency and with our clients. From planning to production, all the way through to final tweaks made by our devs, everyone went to the enth degree to make sure their part was perfect. There was a bit of luck involved too, you can’t do it without some luck.

TCC: The campaign has been tipped for similar success at Cannes – what do you make of this?

SDW & ER: Nothing is a sure thing when it comes to any award show let alone Cannes. So rest assured we’ll be as nervous as everyone else.

TCC: Is there a specific brand of creativity that comes out of Australia? How would you describe it?

SDW & ER: As a country we can’t seem to shake our cliché larrikin label, but truthfully we’re much more serious than that. At our best Australian work is intelligent, brutally simple and often with a tone that can cut the bullshit.

TCC: You could say that the TAC winning Client of the Year at the AWARD Awards was the icing on the cake – what sort of journey have you been on with them? Are there any key learnings from this client/agency relationship you could share?

SDW & ER: Like we said on the night, we don’t take the responsibility of working on this account lightly and neither do the TAC team. It took a few goes at the brief to get to Graham, but the level of determination and understanding of the importance of a strong idea from all parties was galvanising and that’s what makes a great partnership.

TCC: Of all the 20 gold pencils you picked up at the AWARD Awards, which are you most pleased to win and why (not including Agency of the Year, Chairman’s Choice or Best in Show)?

SDW & ER: You’re making it very hard to give a diplomatic answer. It’s been an overwhelming result and still feels weird.

TCC: Apart from the gold pencils, what is it about Clemenger BBDO Melbourne that makes it a worthy recipient of Agency of the Year?

SDW & ER: There is no doubt that we had a very fruitful year. While Graham has taken the limelight, it was the breadth of clients recognised that we found encouraging. Everything from undies to chocolate to a department store – that tells us there is depth to the agency and our thinking.

TCC: Which AWARD Awards campaign (not your own) would have been your ‘Chairman’s Choice’?

SDW & ER: Without doubt RGA’s Through The Dark. Simple, powerful and beautifully crafted. Hats off to all involved.

TCC: There is often debate about whether creativity and effectiveness are mutually exclusive – what do you make of this given your results?

SDW & ER: In our world, creativity and effectiveness go hand in hand. Personally we believe it’s the unconventional solutions that have the biggest impact and we’ve seen this proven again and again over the years.

TCC: This has clearly been an exceptional year – what will it take to maintain and even exceed this level of success?

SDW & ER: The work is a by-product of the problems and opportunities our clients bring us. Success next year relies on the trust and bravery of our clients and of course the ongoing hard work and determination of everyone at 474 St Kilda Road.