Creative shop The Open Arms launches with BWM Dentsu and Leo Burnett creatives on board

Another independent creative shop has launched. The Open Arms is the new venture from Leo Burnett’s Jess Lilley, Otto Productions’ Jo de Fina and BWM Dentsu’s Amy Hollier.

The Open Arms offers clients ‘The Empathy Model’, an approach to creative work with a social purpose. The trio told Mumbrella that the focus on work that puts compassion first and takes the diverse background of others into account will be conveyed in every outlet of the business.

“At the heart of our logo – beautifully created by the incredible Ellen Porteus – is a Superb Fairy Wren. These birds are very community minded, working together to get the job done,” they said.

“We feel the same about joining a very diverse and talented line-up of independent creative companies in this country, some who have inspired us enormously. There’s room for us all, working independently and together. And we are happy to dig out our little patch focussing on work that helps people flourish.”

The Open Arms’ logo was made by Ellen Porteus

This year has seen the launch of creative shops from R/GA’s Craig Brooks and Joel Pearson, Red Engine SCC’s Jye Smith and Baptiste David, Big Red’s Christine Isaac, and Mediacom and Enigma’s Simon Jarosz and Jen Peace.

The trio said the advantage of operating is a small team is being able to think practically about budgets and come up with ideas that work from the get-go.

“Our combined creative and production backgrounds gives us a practical point of difference too, in that how something is made is core to our creative process from the start,” they said.

“It might seem simple, but we’ve seen many great ideas come undone, with time and money wasted, because user experience or production considerations aren’t factored in early enough. And when we say production, we mean that laterally. We have crossed a lot of disciplines in our careers—from traditional advertising to digital tech to documentary film to stadium gigs to retail to theatre. So we go broad when considering the ideal way to connect the right idea with the right people.”

“While our core team is focussed we have a brilliant network of amazing thinkers and creators to draw on for each project. But we discuss every project regularly and troubleshoot collectively, so what it really means is, you will always walk side-by-side with at least one founding partner all the way through every project.”

Hollier left BWM Dentsu in January after two-and-a-half years as executive creative director, and almost seven years as creative group head. Creative director, Lilley, left Leo Burnett in August, also after two-and-a-half years. She has also spent time at JWT and Clemenger BBDO. De Fina comes from a background in production and has spent the last eleven years with the company she founded and acted as an executive producer at, The Otto Empire.

Together, the team found that the pandemic caused them to reflect on what is really important, leading them to start The Open Arms.

“The middle of a pandemic does seem an odd time to start a business. But 2020 has been a year of reckoning in so many ways. From climate crisis to Black Lives Matter to the fear of living in the age of COVID and the blurring of lines between home and work—it has made us take stock and define what is really important to us,” they said.

“We’ve looked at how we are contributing to the world and challenged ourselves to do better. We think we can. We want to make meaningful creative work we can be proud of and that has a positive impact—from how we work through to who it helps. Plus we want to see our families. It turns out we need to rewrite the rules to make all that happen.”

The Open Arms couldn’t comment on its founding clients, because “we’d have to have some very awkward conversations”, but it does have “some really exciting projects underway”.


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