‘Prolific disruptor’: Founders farewell Naked

Naked – the strategy agency which burst onto the Australian scene in the early 2000s and became infamous for stunts such as the girl-with-the jacket and Steal Banksy – is no more, with the agency being folded into creative outfit BMF.

Despite Naked’s disappearance from the Australian scene, founding partner and former CEO, Mat Baxter, told Mumbrella the agency leaves behind a unique and meaningful legacy.

Baxter, now global CEO at Initiative, was a founding partner of the local operation in 2004 and departed in 2009, not long after the Witchery jacket stunt unravelled.

Baxter: ‘Sad’ to see Naked disappear

“Naked leaves behind a unique and very meaningful legacy in our industry,” Baxter told Mumbrella. “It was a prolific disruptor, and it pioneered communications planning, forcing the major networks to catch up and become much more focused on their craft.”

He also noted its ongoing impact on local media agencies.

“I credit Naked with proving that media agencies have a radical creative streak too. So I’m sad to see Naked disappear from the Australian market. But its spirit lives on in the amazing talent in nurtured over the years, who are now leading agencies and businesses all over the country.

“Take a bow Naked, because you made a very real and enduring difference for all of us. Thank you.”

Mike Wilson, former founder and chairman, noted even the monumental fuck-ups had a role to play.

Wilson: Naked was a blast 

“I want to pay tribute to all the ‘brilliant misfits’ that made Naked so special, both here and overseas. The thinking was always of the highest standard, and from that era I have many colleagues, clients and associates with whom I continue to work. The work was always interesting, even the monumental fuck-ups. Most importantly, though, was the establishment of the great, deep friendships which will endure for a lifetime. It was a blast,” the now CEO of Havas Media said.

Adam Ferrier, who now heads up creative and media agency Thinkerbell, but was a founder and global head of strategy at Naked until 2013, is confident it has paved the way for a new kind of agency.

Ferrier is confident there can be another Naked

“Having strategy and thinking at the core of the business rather than output was, and still is, a really interesting proposition. I’m sure a Naked 2.0 will pop up somewhere soon,” he told Mumbrella.

The agency was also described as a “ferociously bold brand” which struck fear into the hearts of its more traditional competitors. Others noted it was sad to see it stray from its original proposition and point of difference in recent years.

Tim Kirby, Naked’s outgoing managing director and so far the only victim of the merger with BMF, said he too loved being a part of the agency.

“I’ve learnt from the best, worked with the best, and hopefully played a role in developing some of the future’s best,” he said.

“I’m proud of our outstanding people, thankful to our wonderful clients, and delighted with the work we’ve made together. I think some of Naked’s entrepreneurial and challenging DNA always stays with those who have worked here, so now I’m excited about using that in the next stage in my career.”

Naked launched in the UK in 2000 and quickly shook up the agency landscape. It came to Australia four years later and positioned itself as a media-neutral agency which ensured marketers got a better return on investment.

Naked is no more

The company became Australian-owned when the then-Photon Group acquired it, but by 2015 there were signs of change as the Enero Group looked to “realign cost-bases” and “stabilise revenue”. It also flagged its intentions to the transition Naked from being “thinkers” to “makers”. 

By 2017, the group had closed Naked’s operations in the UK after also folding the US outfit into another of the group’s companies. At the time, however, the holding group backed the Australian operation and said it continued to perform well.

It will now be folded into Enero Group’s BMF, with the loss of the Naked name.


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