Independent creative group Special, Campaign’s Global Creative Agency of the Year and Global Independent Agency of the Year in 2021, is expanding into Europe with a London office.
The agency was founded in New Zealand in 2008 and has named Jennifer Black, managing director of Havas London, as partner and chief executive of Special London.
She joins a global team across the group’s five other international offices in Auckland, Wellington, Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles.
Black, who left Havas in January after four years, has also worked at Mother London and Fallon, and was founder and managing director of independent agency Fabula, which closed in 2017.
During her time at Havas, the agency won Asda’s advertising account after a competitive pitch in 2021. Earlier this year, Black was named Account Person of the Year at Campaign’s 2022 Agency of the Year Awards.
Black told Campaign that she is currently recruiting for a London team.
She added: “Special has shown that it has a unique blend of creativity and strategy, generously imbued with positive energy and kind and brave values all expressed while working across borders.
“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. I helped grow Havas into the creative agency that it is today and am excited to leave at this juncture and bring all that energy and thinking to launch Special."
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.
The agency also won a Global Grand Effie last year for its “Good morning world” campaign for Tourism New Zealand.
Special said in a statement that its model was designed to “break down the silos between advertising agencies and design studios” with the aim to create integrated and innovative business thinking.
It expanded into Australia with a Sydney office in 2014 and broke into the US market with a branch in Los Angeles in 2020.
Special also won several awards at Campaign Asia’s 2021 Agency of the Year Awards.
Tony Bradbourne, Special’s founder, and chief executive and chief creative officer in New Zealand, said: “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 by bringing a fresh and ambitious model to clients in London."
Xavier Rees, chief executive of Havas London, said: “I’d like to thank Jen for the significant role she played in our transformation over the past four years.
"Her development at Havas London – from managing partner in 2018, to MD and Campaign’s Account Person of the Year in 2021 – is a source of great pride and testament both to Jen, and to the culture we created as a leadership team. We’re really excited about our next chapter and wish Jen luck as she embarks on hers.”
The UK ad agency scene is already highly competitive and a wave of homegrown start-ups, including Uncommon Creative Studio, New Commercial Arts, Wonderhood Studios and Neverland, have entered the market in recent years.