‘To make sh*t happen, you need to excite people’: A few things I learned at Naked

Communications agency, Naked Australia, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Here, Thinkerbell co-founder, Adam Ferrier, shares the lessons he learned during his time there.

Warning: Explicit language ahead!

After Wednesday’s sessions at Mumbrella360, we are hosting a get together to celebrate Naked Australia’s 20 year anniversary.  Have a look at the alum of Naked for a bunch of talented motherfuckers. Pauly Grant is one of the top dogs of Publicis APAC, John Halpin is running Group M in NZ, Imogen Hewitt is running Spark, Rob Perkins and Lach Hall founded two of the most exciting businesses in the world (OMG Yes! And Vacation, respectively), Ian Perrin loves doing Speed, Zoe Scaman has a global voice of influence, and just about every in-house creative agency has a Naked person at the helm.

The impact of Naked goes far beyond the relatively small company it always was.  Globally, and locally, Naked punched way beyond its weight and helped the careers of most those who went there.  Here are the three things I learnt over my nine years there:

  1.     The brand drives the business: Naked knew that ‘everything communicates’ and everything the business does is the brand. From invoicing, to staff uniforms, the product, the packaging, it’s all brand led. The deeper into the company the brand runs, the more value you’ll create.  Naked both practiced and preached this, and people who have been there get it. Unfortunately so many in the industry still think ‘brand’ is ‘ads’. Designing brands from the inside out is now common language, those at Naked got a head start.

  1.     People pay for thinking: Thinking about a problem, call it strategy or creative, doesn’t really matter. If businesses are going to pay an agency or consultancy money, they want them to think about the problem first, not what they are going to make. Further, thinking for organisations is never one person’s thoughts. Thinking is a collective activity – involving many people coming to a decision together. In order for good thinking to happen within corporations they need a process to allow the thinking to flow. Smart people, with smart structural processes and products that unlock an organisation’s creativity and brand value are in higher demand than ever.  Thinking is not ‘ta da’.
  1.     Energy is everything: To make shit happen you need to excite people and help them believe change is possible, they’ll be famous, or they’ll smash their KPI’s.  Creating a sense of energy about yourself, your department, or your agency is fundamental – no matter who you are and what the challenge is.  People want to be excited and live in hope.  I loved Naked’s ability to create energy wherever it went.  Other agencies hated us, but also liked working with us as we made stuff happen. Our clients loved throwing us into the mix to make their existing agencies lift.  We were like a little bomb of energy that would explode and radiate change. Occasionally it would explode at the wrong time and all hell would break loose but I guess that was all a part of it.

Mike Wilson called me up once and said ‘Adam I’ve got an interesting one for you’, and dragged me out of Saatchi & Saatchi. I remember meeting Mat Baxter for the first time thinking, ‘Oh my fucking God.’  My flat mate at the time, Pauly Grant, was our office manager and first employee. Then we won Coke media planning (thanks Stacy Knox and Emma Wilson). Three months after starting, Imo and Halpin joined and bla bla bla.  When we sold the agency in 2008, it all turned to shit soon after. We all learned from that experience, too – especially how not to do it.  Anyway, it was a wonderful ride, all documented by Mumbrella who treated our agency in the same way a kitten treats a newly caught mouse.  

Come along on Wednesday at the Beresford if you’re insanely bored and looking for something to do. Jon Wilkin’s will be live streamed, and John Harlow will be there in spirit, getting up to mischief. 


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