Campaign Brief Q&A: A maverick agency with a passion for creating different shaped ideas is what separates Emotive from the rest

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Campaign Brief Q&A: A maverick agency with a passion for creating different shaped ideas is what separates Emotive from the rest

Emotive’s senior creative team sits down with Campaign Brief to chat about the importance of agency snacks, the agency’s quest to bring more creativity to Coogee and how its unique structure makes Emotive such a special place to work.


(Pictured top left to right: Kat Topp, Creative Director; Paul Sharp, Creative Director; Zane Pearson, Creative Director / Director). Pictured bottom left to right: James Pash, Creative Director; Tiara Valder, Creative Director and Rupert Taylor, Creative Director.)

Campaign Brief: What made you want to work at Emotive?

Rupert Taylor: ‘The snacks maketh the agency’ – so said some industry legend who died riddled with gout but rich and happy. Is it true? At my first agency job, I was amazed by the amount of free snacks on offer. We’re talking iced vovos, tim tams, the finest unleavened bread. If you were broke, it was entirely possible to not starve. In the years since, belts have been tightened, and the quality of agency snacks have gone into steep decline. In one network office where I worked, all I found in the kitchen was a packet of dry water crackers and a half bottle of vinegar. At Emotive, the snacks are abundant. But I like to think they represent more than a sugary interruption to workflow. Take the jar of snakes – purple and green and yellow and red. All the colours of the rainbow, they represent the colourful array of personalities in the building. Then you have cookies – jam-packed with dense chocolate. To me these are like a creative review, stuffed with ideas and insights. The fine coffee embodies the sophisticated yet broadly appealing aesthetics on offer. And the cheese in the fridge. Imagine the mind that first came up with cheese? We’re talking serious ambition. Like the way the people at Emotive hurl their brains at every brief. So, to answer the question ‘what made you want to work at Emotive?’ I answer you: the snacks. The snacks and everything they say about the place.

CB: As an agency, you’ve always stuck close to the beach. What’s the story there?

Paul Sharp: “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, oh I do like to be beside the sea…”  Well, there’s no brass bands playing “Tiddly-om-pom-pom” thankfully, but Coogee is slap bang in the centre of the Eastern beaches, making it conveniently close to so many of our homes (IG: myrathernicecommute) sweet! But no, that’s not it… is it? Never! It’s about a mindset. Creativity’s a fickle bastard, so whatever you can do to roll out the red carpet i.e. pretty coastline rather than hoards and high rises, is a smart place to start.

It’s also a blank canvas. No one ever accused Coogee of being a bastion of creativity, which creates a unique opportunity for us to flex our own and make a positive impact on the area; to be part of the place rather than some self-imposed, aloof adjunct. It’s why we launched The Alfreda Street Project in partnership with local icon The Beast Magazine with the aim of becoming a beacon of creativity in the area, certainly inspiring and hopefully attracting more creativity and creative businesses “…beside the seaside, beside the sea!”

CB: You’ve come a long way from leading the charge on branded content – has digital killed the video star?

Tiara Valder: I say no. I think what Emotive has done really well has thrown out the rule book and made audience-centric ideas that can live anywhere. I’m not a big fan of rules, and it was something that drew me to Emotive in the first place. They’re maverick and hungry, they’ve kept that integral energy that they had from the get-go, even as they’ve grown and evolved. They’ve always had a passion for different shaped ideas, and there’s a collective energy to hunt for the right medium to bring them alive. Like whiskey in a goon bag for a client who doesn’t obey the rules. Hello Goonlivet. Or a new Getty image library to celebrate postpartum mums because the representation out there is depressing and two dimensional.  Hello Embodied for Modibodi. Emotive is not a traditional agency, never followed the rules, and you can take that thinking anywhere you go. Digital. Video. Goonbag. Getty images. Outer space. The upside down.

CB: You have an end-to-end production department within the agency – how does that work?

Zane Pearson: The end-to-end production is what first drew me to Emotive, along with the easy commute and SJ’s winning smile, back when it was just six people operating out of the back of a dinky shop in Clovelly. Right from the beginning, the ambition was to have a full-blown production company working within the agency that would punch above its weight and be designed to push ideas and budgets further than anyone else could. As a director who also liked writing that was really exciting to me (and still is).

Agencies often go through the whole creative and script writing process without any production or director collaboration, it’s a bit nuts really. What makes Emotive so special is the overlap between disciplines. In some cases the creatives are directors and vice versa, and even when they’re not, the creative team (and clients) can talk with directors or producers about how an idea can come to life by just walking over to our desks or picking up the phone day or night (which isn’t always great to be honest, but that’s what airplane mode is for right?).

We’ve grown a lot since those early days and now have a shiny-ish office (thankfully still by the beach), a team of producers, a deep bench of directing talent (both in-house and external), and awesome editors (not to mention genuine edit suites with doors), but the ambition and philosophy has remained the same.

CB: The purpose of the agency is to create ideas that change how people feel – about brands, places, or whatever the brief requires. How important is emotional intelligence to that approach?

Kat Topp: As a highly emotive creature myself (not ashamed to tear up over anything… old people walking old dogs gets me every time) I wear my heart on my sleeve, collar, cuffs, shoelaces and hat with most briefs I work on. Caring deeply for the work, and for each other, is why I find this job so fulfilling. As Maya Angelou so beautifully put it, ‘people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’. Emotional intelligence is at the heart of everything we do, insight and curiosity into the human condition are the foundation of being able to create ideas that change the way people feel about brands – our recent ‘Pride starts with yaaaaaaas’ activation for Optus Sydney WorldPride is a brilliant example of this, and both a life and career highlight. Feeling safe and inspired to bring your whole self (and all the feels) to work is what makes Emotive such a special place.

CB: Emotive always seems to be announcing new hires. How big do you want to be?

James Pash: Emotive has definitely grown in the 2+ years I’ve been here. But from day dot there has always been a magic number which, like a more muscular Gandalf, our Founder and CEO SJ has consistently said you shall not pass (disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting he is, or has ever been, an immortal wizard).

70 people is that number which, apart from being ten times as lucky as seven, is a way to ensure we strike the right balance of bringing in the best people, without compromising the culture that’s been so carefully built. Just as importantly, it doesn’t compromise your ability to know everybody’s name, or what makes them tick – in both the optimal way of working and timebomb sense of the word.

This also ensures that, when someone walks in thinking the agency is a new Coogee restaurant, you can immediately tell they’re not a colleague, instead calmly but assertively pointing them in the direction of an actual eatery (true story – I would love to know what kind of food they thought a restaurant called Emotive would serve).