Tony Singleton departs Arnold Furnace, teams up with Richard Carr to launch agency Mr. Wolf

Carr and Singleton

Carr and Singleton

Former JWT general manager Richard Carr has teamed up with former Arnold Furnace MD Tony Singleton to launch creative agency Mr. Wolf, an agency they say will help underdog brands take on the big guys.

Carr left JWT in January and was replaced by client services director Jenny Willits while Singleton only left Arnold Furnace at the end of last month, however is contracting with the agency to assist in managing significant clients.

Speaking to Mumbrella, the duo explained the new agency is strategy-led and focussed on creating challenger brands to well-established brands.

“We spent some time talking to clients about what makes a difference and all of them were coming back with a similar point of view. For brand experts it’s amazing how many agency brands don’t take their own medicine. We tried to work out what our niche was and where we would be best placed to help a specific group of clients,” said Singleton.

“That’s where we came to the underdogs idea, when we sat down and talked about which clients we most enjoyed working with we both found we were talking about these brands that have to struggle a little, they don’t have the biggest budget and they aren’t necessarily going to win by using lazy tactics and we thought that’s an interesting idea. You can impact their business in a way you can’t on bigger brands.”

Carr added: “They’re the type of clients that need to take some risk and do some interesting stuff otherwise they’re not going to win. They tend to be fleeter of foot and you can talk to the decision makers a little more. That was the heart of targeting a specific audience.”

The pair conducted research to identify three issues for underdog brand owners:

  1. The need to take risks without the luxury of budgets that allow for failure
  2. Being able to afford the right brains – and enough of them – to think about their business
  3. Finding creative partners who were willing to commit to their business as much as they do.

To help the underdog brands tackle these issues, Mr. Wolf has sought to differentiate itself from other agencies from its positioning through to how the company is set up.

“We’ve set ourselves up slightly different to make sure we can help underdogs turn the table on the big guys. We have a crowd-sourcing model for creative and digital, putting strategy first, trying to help them take risk but take risk out of it,” explained Singleton.

“We always wanted to ensure we had a more entrepreneurial model and having worked at big agencies we know how you claim you’re interested in performance remuneration but you’re handcuffed by how far you can go with that and when you’re independent we can actually truly live that,” said Carr.

The pair said they are talking to a ‘number of clients’ but declined to say who until contracts are in place.

The agency currently has four people, including Carr and Singleton, working in-house whilst also able to draw on the crowd-sourcing model.

“For a business like ours we can’t do pure crowd sourcing because there are a number of issues around continuity and confidentiality,” explained Carr.

“Our model is we’ve got a crowd we’re slowly building up of creatives, producers and even some account people who are known, and tried and tested by us. The way it’s working, we will use them for creative initiation, so ideation of ideas but we will actually curate the work in-house. We’ve got some joint ventures in place with a couple of pure creative teams that we will be working very closely with to see the idea, craft it and see it through to execution.

“It’s exciting and it’s been a challenge but now we’re in a position that we’re trialling it and it’s working really well.”

Carr explained the “crowd” or pool is filled with a variety of people from traditional creatives to creative technologists, producers, developers and web mobile experts.

“Depending on the nature of the brief and where we get to that’s how we’ll invite people in the crowd to participate,” he said.

Singleton said: “The point of it is so clients don’t pay for carrying lots and lots of the right brains in your business so your overheads are quite high and clients end up paying that in fees. The point of this model is to make sure no one is paying unproductive overheads or we’re reducing overheads for our clients.”

“We want to stay agile and we enjoy working with different people,” added Carr.

The agency is working with several pure-play creative groups, however they declined to say who.

On his decision to leave Arnold Furnace, Singleton said he still has “a lot of affection for the agency”.

“Havas treated me very well and when I said I wanted to do something were very kind and supporting me strongly,” he said. ” You just get to the point of wanting to try something a little different.”

“Officially I left at the end of last month but I’m actually contracting back to Arnold Furnace, as a measure how friendly and amicable the relationship is. There’s a few clients that particularly wanted me to stay in touch.

“Clearly this is my new venture, at the moment it works for Mr. Wolf and it seems to work for the clients and Arnold Furnace.”

Anthony Gregorio, group CEO at Havas Worldwide Australia, said: “First and foremost Tony’s a friend and a fantastic colleague of over a decade. It’s great to see him doing something on his own and we wish him all the best.

“What’s even better is, on some clients we’ll continue to work together. We’re officially Mr. Wolf’s first client.”

On the search for Singleton’s replacement, Gregorio explained they are focussed on finding someone to replace the head of planning role, with Gregorio set to oversee the agency as caretaker MD in the short term.

“Tony’s going to consult back on certain clients, but as his business grows I can’t rely on having complete access to all of his time,” he said.

“I’m going to caretake it for a little while,” he continued. “It’s good because it means I can get a little closer to the business short term.”

Miranda Ward


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