Whybin\TBWA ECDs Dave Bowman and Matty Burton quit to be partners in Special Group

Burton, Evans, Bowman and Cade Hede

Burton, Evans, Bowman and Heyde

The recently launched Australian office of The Special Group has pulled off one of the biggest talent coups for an independent in recent years, poaching Whybin\TBWA executive creative directors Dave Bowman and Matty Burton, Mumbrella can reveal.

Bowman and Burton join as founding creative partners and are taking an equity stake in the startup which came to Australia from New Zealand under the leadership of former Campaign Palace and Happy Soldiers boss Lindsey Evans in June.

The duo are among the most highly regarded and awarded creatives in Australia, and have worked together for almost 20 years at agencies including Droga5 in New York, Saatchi & Saatchi in New Zealand and for the last four years as the creative force behind the turnaround of Whybin\TBWA over the last four years as joint-ECDs under CEO Paul Bradbury.

They told Mumbrella they were enticed by the prospect of joining another startup agency, with Burton adding: “We have worked at many start-ups over our career; either at the bottom, in the middle or helping to lead the charge. Places like Whybin Lawrence TBWA, Host, The Glue Society, Droga5 New York and Droga5 Australia. We’ve been watching and learning the whole time and our entire careers have been in anticipation of this moment.

“We will fail at times. We will succeed at others. But it will be the journey that we are most looking forward to.”

The duo have picked up more than 40 Cannes Lions in their careers, including 11 Gold, two Titanium and one Grand Prix and have won six Yellow Pencils and one Black Pencil at D&AD.

Their recent work includes working on accounts including the multi-award winning NRMA Insurance work, David Jones, Lion Nathan and Tourism New Zealand. It was the pair’s second stint with Whybin\TBWA having worked with the agency from 1998 to 2004.

“I’ve been a big fan of the guys behind Special Group since we first worked together in New Zealand a decade ago. So, to now have the chance to become a part of their fiercely independent and agile creative offering is incredibly exciting,” said Bowman.

“Particularly at this point in time when the landscape is changing so quickly and radically, agility and a flexible structure will prove to be a valuable asset. Special Group also share the same entrepreneurial spirit that we do and that many of the most interesting clients and brands do too. We can’t wait to get stuck in.”

The Special Group announced its Sydney office in early June, with Evans, who returned from a stint in London as TBWA\UK group president, as CEO. Its founding clients include Red Bull Australia, Paspaley, Marcs, Ecostore and Adoption Awareness.

On the appointment Evans said: “Matty and Dave have monster talent. Everyone knows that – after all, more than 40 Cannes Lions and 15 Gold Effie effectiveness awards is more than luck.

“What many may not know and what I believe makes them truly unique is how extraordinary talent comes from two such incredibly wonderful human beings. I’ve known them as friends for a long time. I’ve admired their work for even longer. And, finally, I can love them as partners.”

Special Group creative director and partner Tony Bradbourne said the appointment marks an exciting opportunity for Australian marketers and CMOs.

He said: “Matty and Dave are truly world class talent. They have a brilliant track record of creative and effectiveness success. Together with Lindsey and Cade they form an incredible new offering in the market that I know Marketing Directors and CMOs will find refreshing and compelling.

“This is a brilliant leadership team – very smart, very experienced, huge international experience & very nice at the same time. Everyone is motivated by the same thing – creating brilliant work that drives phenomenal success for our partner clients.

“This is a combination of proven world class strategic and creative talent that hasn’t been available until now. And the beauty of Special’s model is that clients get to work directly with this senior talent. It’s been the formula behind our multiple Gold effectiveness awards, Media Best in Shows, and Grand Prix. It’s an exciting opportunity for Australian Marketers and CMOs to explore.”

Whybin/TBWA CEO Paul Bradbury has wished the duo well in the start up.

He said: “Everyone at Whybin/TBWA Group Australia and New Zealand wishes Matty and Dave all the very best as they pursue their dream by doing a start up with Special. They have been great partners, great friends and we have all achieved a lot together.  They will continue to lead our creative department for the next 3 months to ensure a quality transition for our clients and for our new Executive Creative Director (s).”

Whybin/TBWA are understood to be looking for replacements for the pairing, who have also been helping with briefs in the Asia Pacific region for other TBWA offices.

An official start date has yet to be confirmed for the pair.

Miranda Ward


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