Sir Elton John and Lil Nas X star in Uber Eats’ ‘Tonight I’ll Be Eating…’ ad. Photo / Supplied
Independent creative agency Special Group will open a new office in London in a first for Kiwi advertising.
Special is the first New Zealand advertising agency to launch a full-service office in the United Kingdom.
Special London will be the group’s sixth hub globally, including Auckland, Wellington, Sydney, Melbourne, and Los Angeles.
Tony Bradbourne, Special’s founder and chief executive in New Zealand, said the group’s recent success had put Special on the map in the UK.
“We’ve always had the desire and vision to build a global business, and right now, we have true momentum behind us,” Bradbourne said.
“For decades Kiwi businesses have been exporting ‘brand New Zealand’ to the world stage, but there hasn’t been a New Zealand founded advertising network to help them on that journey. It’s meant marketing teams here have had to hunt for remote creative partners in the US or the UK to grow.
“Now, Special has a world-leading team based in New Zealand to work alongside these businesses and help them scale across Australia, the United States and Europe.”
Bradbourne said the timing felt absolutely right as local brands start looking toward the future as the world opens up from its Covid hibernation.
“Kiwi companies are absolutely looking forward and planning for the future with open borders, and for the first time in a while business leaders are jumping on planes and heading back out there, and taking their brands, stories and products to the world. We have an increasing number of clients who are focused on international expansion and impact,” he said.
Where Covid-19 has rocked many businesses, Bradbourne said it had been the complete opposite for Special.
“Covid-19 has levelled the playing field for us because if everyone is sitting at the end of a Zoom call, it makes no difference for global brands if that team is in New York, Paris or Auckland or Sydney,” he said.
“They are just looking for the best strategic and creative thinking, which has meant we’ve been able to connect further and faster with ambitious clients from all around the world.”
Bradbourne said since Covid-19 hit two years ago, they’ve managed to open offices in Melbourne and Los Angeles in 2020, and later in Wellington.
“[We’ve] never had more demand for our unique talent and ideas.”
Highly accomplished Jennifer Black has been appointed partner and CEO of Special London.
Black has been managing director of Havas London for the past four years, and is also a former managing director and founder of Fabula London. She has previously worked for Mother and Fallon in England’s capital.
Black was recently named ‘Account Person of the Year’ at Campaign Magazine’s Agency of the Year awards.
“We are extremely excited to start our journey in London with such an incredible, kind and driven leader as Jen. We have a huge amount of respect and love for the strategic and creative thinking that London consistently produces. We hope to add to that in some small way, by bringing a fresh and ambitious model to clients in London,” Bradbourne said.
Black said she looked forward to bringing energy and thinking to the launch of Special London.
“I am genuinely thrilled to be joining the Special family and I’m looking forward to bringing that energy into Europe through the new London office,” she said.
Special has yet to name the London agency’s creative and strategic partners but said an announcement would be coming shortly.
Bradbourne said the London office “could easily be 20 members of staff within the first year.”
Special is somewhat unique among New Zealand’s independent agencies, exporting its model abroad rather than selling the business into one of the global networks.
Special opened its first office in Auckland in 2008, and won a Cannes Grand Prix (the Academy Awards of the advertising world) for its first major campaign, which was for Orcon and featured the ‘Godfather of Punk’ Iggy Pop.
“Quite a start for what was then just a nine person start-up,” Bradbourne said.
Six years later its Sydney office opened.
Special Group has won a slew of industry awards lately. In 2021, the agency won every industry ‘Agency of the Year’ title – Campaign Asia, B&T, Campaign Brief, AdNews and Mumbrella – across Australia and New Zealand.
Last year, it was named the best advertising agency in the world by respected industry magazine Campaign – a massive coup given the well-known global brands the title typically goes to.
The creative agency’s clients include Uber Eats, Virgin, Tourism New Zealand, Smirnoff, Kiwibank and Red Bull.
Special is behind campaigns like Tourism New Zealand’s ‘Do Something New New Zealand’ and Uber Eats’ ‘Tonight I’ll Be Eating … ‘ featuring Sir Elton John and Lil Nas X.
In February, Special’s Los Angeles hub’s ‘Uber Don’t Eats’ ad ran in the coveted Super Bowl spot, featuring Gwyneth Paltrow eating her own vagina-scented candle.
“When you stop and think about it it is pretty incredible,” Bradbourne said.