Justin Drape and Michael Canning launch Exceptional ALIEN Studio as John Fundingsland joins the team

Justin Drape, co-founder of The Monkeys, and veteran creative Michael Canning, have launched Exceptional ALIEN Studio – creative spaces based in Sydney and Los Angeles that aim to connect the global community with ‘exceptional’ talent.

Exceptional ALIEN, which launched early in 2021, is a platform that celebrates and shares the travel of creators, and the new studios will further these connections by bringing together diverse talent, perspectives and skills.

Shots from the new studio

Exceptional ALIEN Studio will access strategic, creative and production experts and thought leaders, and invites them to collaborate in projects that are tailored for businesses and brands.

Drape said the aim of Exceptional ALIEN Studio is to “do things differently”.

“We have both come from creative agency backgrounds, and then removed ourselves from that, which was necessary to actually see what’s possible and recalibrate what we can do creatively,” Drape told Mumbrella.

“Meeting these exceptional entrepreneurs and storytellers from around the world made us realise that we can use our backgrounds in strategic brand storytelling to really join the dots and make things truly unique. You have to have a circuit breaker moment in order to do that because when you’re in the same groove, in the same place, it’s just not possible to think different.”

Canning told Mumbrella: “This is a model of collaboration that we always wished existed.

“The experience of having creative backgrounds and having the opportunity to live and work in different places around the world is a real privilege, but as part of that, you get to see how different perspectives from people can really add to a creative outcome.”

Drape added: “In the structure of a typical ad agency, you work within four walls and go into particular habits. We realised we could access creators and talent in any part of the world and work on projects together quite seamlessly.”

The Studio has already worked with foundation clients including South African Tourism, Tourism New Zealand and Atout France.

South African Tourism’s hub-head for Australasia, Mosilo Sofonia, said the privilege is mutual: “It have been a privilege to collaborate with a truly innovative disruptor such as Exceptional ALIEN, to tell our stories, and feature as its first long-haul destination campaign.”

Justin Drape and Michael Canning (Photo: Derek Henderson)

The Exceptional ALIEN app launched in January of this year, and Drape said it’s been a huge learning curve.

“It’s been really good for us to see what the global audience wants when it comes to travel, and being able to connect to some of the most inspiring places around the world. We’re really excited about the continued evolution of that.”

Canning added: “The app is really designed to bring a new level of interactivity to travel stories and lenses on destinations that we share. We look at it as essentially replicating the feeling and recommendations you get if you ask a friend about a place that they’ve traveled to, but then we make it actionable through our platform. It’s all about building trust I suppose.”

Creators who have used Exceptional ALIEN to tell their stories

John Fundingsland has joined the team as chief business officer, after 12 years serving in various business developments, partnerships and product marketing roles at Google.

Drape said he’s known Fundingsland for a number of years, and is excited to have him on board.

“He brings a lot of learnings and insights that are going to help us grow globally, and we’re really excited about that,” he said.

“He sees the potential of what Exceptional ALIEN can be, and he’s really excited about being on the journey with us, because ultimately, we’re pushing the way people connect to travel, creativity and culture forward.”

The Studio has an international network of producers, editors, designers and storytellers, and plans to collaborate with advertising and media agencies soon.


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