Ida Axling
Apr 25, 2022

New Zealand agency Special on why the UK is key to its global expansion

Tony Bradbourne, founder of Special, tells Campaign why the time is right to launch an office in the 'tough and competitive' London market.

Jennifer Black and Tony Bradbourne.
Jennifer Black and Tony Bradbourne.

Special is backing its new London outpost with “everything we’ve got”, according to Tony Bradbourne, Special’s founder, chief executive and chief creative officer in New Zealand.

The New Zealand agency officially launched Special London, led by partner and chief executive Jennifer Black, previously of Havas London, last week.

In an interview with Campaign, Bradbourne said the agency was “here for the long term”, but he declined to put a figure on how much it was spending on creating the new branch.

He added: “We’re going to provide Jen and the others who come on board with as much talent and resource as they’ll take.”

Bradbourne stated that the time was right to expand into Europe after the shop had built up momentum through work that had been “recognised around the world”.

The agency was named Campaign’s Global Creative Agency of the Year and Global Independent Agency of the Year in 2021.

He added: “The London market is one of the most talented, it has such an incredible track record of doing the world’s absolute best work.

“It’s a very tough and competitive market and we hope to humbly add something to it. Lots of my favourite work ever has originated from London.”

Bradbourne further noted that London was the “epicentre of the world when it comes to creative talent”.

“The ability to work with someone like Jennifer Black and the other people we will be announcing is something that gets us excited,” he continued.

“We’ve also got clients even in little New Zealand whose major markets are Australia and North America and Europe, so we want to partner with these clients into a European presence.”

Internationally, Special’s clients include UberEats, Virgin, Smirnoff and Red Bull. Its creative work includes UberEats’ 2022 Super Bowl spot, created by Special US, which featured Gwyneth Paltrow eating her own vagina-scented candle.

“Ambitious clients who want a proper partnership”

Looking at its plans for the UK, Black said the agency was not targeting clients in specific sectors.

She added: “What we’re looking for is ambitious clients who want a proper partnership, where you’re getting around the problem together.”

Asked which agencies Special considered to be its competitors in the UK, Black said it would be up against agencies that are “creative at the heart”, and mentioned Uncommon Creative Studio, Droga5 (which was founded in New York and expanded in London), Lucky Generals and Pablo.

The UK ad agency scene has recently seen a wave of homegrown start-ups, including Uncommon, New Commercial Arts, Wonderhood Studios and Neverland.

Special describes itself as being “born in New Zealand in 2007” on its company website, “born to make the world’s most creative and effective ideas to help brands prosper” and “born to break down the silos between advertising agencies and design companies to deliver seamless thinking from shelf to screen”.

The independent agency is owned by the founders and other shareholders. In addition to London and two offices in Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, it also has offices in Sydney and Melbourne in Australia and Los Angeles.

Bradbourne said that while he would “never say never”, there were currently no plans to open any more offices.

“We think what we've got now is a pretty perfect network that covers Asia Pacific, North America and now crucially Europe,” he detailed.

“In those six offices we're already working in 12 territories across the world so there is no need for us to have more physical offices.

“We can operate almost anywhere with the talent and reach we've got now, which is why London is so important to us.”


Campaign UK

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