72andSunny one year on: ‘It’s quite hard to hit home runs in the first nine months’

One year ago, global full-service independent agency 72andSunny opened its doors Down Under with the ambitions of creating a truly Australian brand. Mumbrella's Abigail Dawson speaks to partner and managing director across Asia Pacific, Chris Kay, as he shares the agency's intention to prove its worth.

One year ago, the news that global agency 72andSunny had added a fourth international location was announced, with the independent agency opening its first Australian office in Sydney.

At the time, 72andSunny had offices in New York, Los Angeles and Amsterdam, and had worked with a diverse range of global brands including Instagram, Adidas, Smirnoff, Google, Samsung and Ikea.

72andSunny’s Australian team

When the agency announced its plans to launch Down Under, it was understood Chris Kay, former managing director and head of brand management for the agency in Los Angeles, would return to Australia to run the local outpost.

Before opening its doors in Sydney’s Woolloomooloo, the creative shop had already secured a suite of clients including Google, eBay, Dropbox and Sea Shepherd.

Mollie Hill, former strategy director for The Monkeys, was amongst its first hires. Executive creative director Johnny Tan now leads the creative team across both Sydney and Singapore.

Speaking to Mumbrella about the agency’s first nine months in Australia, Kay says: “it’s quite hard to just hit home runs in the first nine months”, adding that the agency is now focused on proving its worth in the Australian market.

The managing director of the Asia Pacific operations says 72andSunny has a distinctive brand globally, but the objective was to ensure the Australian agency made its own stamp on the industry and wasn’t just a global agency with an Australian office.

“Obviously starting a businesses is hard,” Kay says, acknowledging how lucky the Australian operation is to have global support from clients who needed help across the Asia Pacific regions.

The next step, which Kay identifies as a key focus for the year ahead, is to “show locally that [the agency] can make it work.

In order to be its own agency with its own flavour, the managing director, who joined 72andSunny LA five years ago, says the global independent had to “listen”.

“We didn’t want to come and teach, we’re a learning organisation, we didn’t want to be the agency that came here and told people what to do and that posture has been pretty helpful for us.

“We’ve learned a lot along the way from current clients, potential clients and partners, we wanted to do some good work in the market and we’re just getting there now.

“It takes time to do that, it takes time to find the client, to find the brief, to find your opportunity.”

Kay: “The country matches who we are”

The APAC managing director says on a global scale, the agency had always tried to decide what its APAC presence was going to be, but from a “personality perspective” Australia was the perfect fit.

“We’d always tried to work out what our APAC presence was going to be and opening in Australia just makes sense because from a personality perspective, the country matches who we are as an optimistic and positive brand, so the first thing was to just be true to our brand and turn up here and see what we could do in market.

“So yes, Sydney is different and Sydney should be different, because 72andSunny needs to mould for where it lives versus just transplant from where it’s from.”

Four months after making new hires to its Sydney office, including the appointment of a new creative director Pia Chaudhuri, who previously worked at PR agency One Green Bean, the agency released its first work for eBay.

Reflecting on last year, Kay says the focus was always on finding good talent and scaling the business so it could produce great creative and meaningful work.

“We were only here for eight months of 2017 and that was to find good talent, to find partners, and we’ve got that, so we’ve just got to see what happens when those things come together.

“[Talent] really is at the core of our offering, so trying to find the right people who can help us with the right problems and can help us get to great solutions, it’s just hard.

“That’s not a knock on the market here. It just takes time to find talent, and talent that works with a culture. It takes time to find clients that understand that culture and see the benefit of it,” Kay says.

Just last month the agency partnered with The Australian Film, Television and Radio School to launch a creative entrepreneurship training program, which will see the agency offer places on its quarterly internship program, leading to the employment of one AFTERS graduate per year.

Speaking of the partnership, Kay says the agency “wants to make a commitment to the next generation of makers in this country”.

“Also selfishly it allows us to get a generation of makers who make in a really modern way into our business,” he adds.

Despite culture being one of the most important foundations of the agency, Kay says it can’t just be created instead, it has to grow.

“If you create a culture it feels false. I think if you let it grow it feels right and I hope that we’ve done the latter.”

Just last month, the agency, which has great international experience with telecommunications company Samsung, landed a huge Australian client when it was added to Optus’ creative roster.

A few weeks later 72andSunny had launched its first work for the company with a “cultural statement” urging Australians to “Get Splashy”.

Just days after being appointed the Optus creative roster, 72andSunny won the creative account for jeweller, Paspaley Retail.

With 72andSunny already beginning to deliver creative work for big brands, Kay says the agency has “a great foundation to move forward”.

Looking past this year, the leader of the APAC market for the global independent says the agency has no “crazy expansion plans” or intentions to open in Melbourne “like everybody else”, adding: “we can get on a plane.”

“72andSunny doesn’t have crazy expansion plans, I think we all will think about growth if it allows us to do great things, not just another dot on a map or more people in a company

The agency also professed it wouldn’t open any other arms to the business or acquire any PR agencies.

“I think it’s less about more arms to a company and more about different talent in the company.

“I don’t think 72andSunny will ever open a 72andSunny PR or 72andSunny design, but if we have those skills in the building, does it allow us to think more fluidly? Most definitely we will do that. I think you have to do that in the modern world specifically in Australia.”


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