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Sizing up The Monkeys Melbourne creative contenders

Ahead of their impending Melbourne launch, The Monkeys have a monumental decision to make: who will lead the creative charge? Mumbrella's Abigail Dawson assesses the potential candidates.

With the investment of its new parent company Accenture, The Monkeys is launching a sister agency in the Melbourne market.

Leveraging on its brand of creativity, The Monkeys announced a succession of clients wins – CrownBet, Australia Post and Holden Equinox – before even landing an office space or a head creative.

Accenture’s Michael Buckley, The Monkeys: Mark Green, Scott Nowell and Justin Drape

As far as being a successful agency, the saying goes you have to have an airline, a car and a beer account. So far The Monkeys can tick two of those three boxes thanks to Holden and Qantas.

With roots in two cities, the agency would find itself with a greater chance at snatching the latter, and along with it, an opportunity to bring back the great Aussie beer ad.

The Monkeys has already lured away two ex-Clemenger Melbourne staffers, former MD Paul McMillan and planning director Michael Derepas, into the positions of CEO and head of strategy, pitting the two agencies as direct competitors.

But if The Monkeys is to keep up its streak of groundbreaking campaigns, its new creative leader will be the key.

The agency has been aggressive and successful so far in its product, talent and new business acquisitions, but which ad land legend will continue The Monkeys’ brand of big ideas and prodigious advertising into the Melbourne market?

The eligible suitors

Grant Rutherford is currently the creative director at The Monkeys in Sydney

If it was based on the whispers of adland, The Monkeys’ Sydney creative director, Grant Rutherford would be first in line for the role.

The creative hotshot has roots in the Victorian city, having worked for Clemenger BBDO Melbourne as a creative director, plus stints at DDB Melbourne and Y&R.

In 2010, Rutherford commemorated his late daughter Chloe by starting The Snowdome Foundation, a charity dedicated to helping Australians in the fight against blood cancers.

He was lured back to the industry in 2013, but this time it was Sydney that called his name.

Rutherford left Chloe’s family in Melbourne for a job in Sydney when then the CEO of Publicis Joe Pollard hired him as chief creative officer. The creative left the Publicis role last September to join The Monkeys.

Pollard is now the chief marketing officer and group media executive at Telstra, which is also now a client of The Monkeys.

Having ties in Melbourne would be a huge draw for Rutherford, giving him an opportunity to return home to be with his family.

Rutherford’s extensive creative history includes co-creating Carlton Draught’s Big Ad, Meat and Livestock Australia’s ‘The Greatest Meat On Earth’ and Black Swan’s Supermarket.

Having ties to CUB’s Carlton Draught’s most iconic ad is a huge strength for the agency, bringing Rutherford back to Melbourne – where the account is held – would prove a threat to the current account holder, Clemenger, who won the business just one year after George Patterson and Partners launched the brilliant Big Ad in 2005.

With The Monkeys winning Holden’s SUV Equinox and landing its first car brand, Rutherford’s automotive experience working on Toyota during his time at Publicis Mojo would be a massive asset to the fledgling Melbourne office.

Just last week The Monkeys released its first work for its Melbourne client Crownbet, with Rutherford appearing on the credits reel as the creative director.

It is quite possible the creative has already begun his new role.

Ant Keogh recently departed Clemenger Melbourne as chief creative officer

Ant Keogh, one of Australia’s most celebrated creatives and the former chief creative officer at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne was behind some of Australia’s most awarded ads. Keogh has collaborated with Rutherford along the way, making him Rutherford’s perfect Melbourne counterpart should The Monkeys’ Sydney creative director decline an offer to move south and return home.

Keogh has worked on campaigns including Big Ad, Carlton Draught Flashbeer, Four’N Twenty Magic Salad Plate, Cottons Tampons, BCFing Expert, Art of Mind Control and most recently Meet Graham, The Boys and Hungerithm.

Again, the creative has strong ties to the sought-after beer account, working on the brand for more than 10 years. Securing Keogh as a creative would be a huge foot in the door for the agency and its missing puzzle piece, CUB.

His extensive resume, reputation with clients and creative technique, which gels well with The Monkeys creative flare, are just a couple of the reasons why Keogh is a front runner in the race of eligible contenders.

Keogh brings ‘star power’ to the table, making The Monkeys Melbourne an attractive offer to clients.

If The Monkeys Melbourne are serious about challenging the ultimate king of Melbourne – Clemenger BBDO – taking someone who knows the market, and their biggest competitor, makes sense.

Despite being vocal about taking time to pursue “personal projects” after having held the ECD crown at Clemenger for over 10 years, Keogh is the probable external candidate.

Although Keogh would be an ideal choice for The Monkeys’ Melbourne shop, his desire to pursue his own projects makes him hard to tie down immediately.

An alternative possibility for the creative is to join The Monkeys brand once Rutherford has already taken the creative charge. Being good friends with Rutherford would mean the pair would make a dynamic duo should Keogh decide to take a creative role later down the track.

rebecca carrasco

Rebecca Carrasco was previously Facebook’s creative shop lead

Offering The Monkeys strength in other channels, Facebook’s Rebecca Carrasco is another potential candidate.

After leading Facebook’s creative shop until October last year, Carrasco has been conquering a “full time personal project”.

Finishing her personal project next month, Carrasco would be an expert in aiding The Monkeys’ social media expansion.

Carrasco, much like Keogh and Rutherford, has also held a creative role at Clemenger BBDO, this time in Sydney.

In 2011, she joined the Sydney agency as creative director where she held the position for four-and-a-half years, working on clients including Mars Pet, MLC, Visa, Pepsi, Campbell’s, Toshiba and Smiths.

After many years of Facebook poaching adland’s talent, reclaiming one of their own from the social media behemoth would bolster the digital know-how of The Monkeys Melbourne.

A different choice for the agency, the Facebook creative would bring skills to The Monkeys Melbourne enabling the enrichment of other avenues such as social media.

Despite being from Sydney, Carrasco is no stranger to relocating, having worked across both Sydney and New Zealand.

The Monkeys and Melbourne – will it be a winning combination?

After selling the business for a price tag of $63m in May, every decision The Monkeys make, particularly this hire, is being closely examined by the market to see how true to its own well-established brand it remains.

Chasing the opportunity to work on the big Aussie brands rooted in Melbourne and extend its client roster, adland will be watching with curiosity to see if the Melbourne shop will be like its Sydney sister, or if it is the start of Accenture’s labelling on its new buy.

With all Clemenger DNA so far, there is a possibility The Monkeys Melbourne will have more of a Clemenger voice than its own.

With retaining talent a prominent issue in adland, finding the right creative to lead the charge will help set the tone, culture and expectations of The Monkeys Melbourne.

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