Start-up Eleven wants to fill retail space - The Australian

September 22, 2008
By Lara Sinclair

THREE senior staffers from retail agency Ideaworks set up shop on their own last week, forming a new full-service retail business called Eleven Communications.The trio — former executive creative director Jonathan McCauley, former operations director John McLachlan and former head of art Ryan Fallowfield — aim to fill a gap in the market between high-end brand agencies and small, tactical marketing agencies. ‘‘We reckon there’s a pretty big gap between the big brand agencies that can come up with a great brand idea (and agencies that can) implement day-to-day brand promotional work,’’ Mr McCauley said .‘‘It gets funnelled off into a factory (staffed) by juniors. Building brands for retailers is what we specialise in because that’ s what we did at Ideaworks, but we reckon we can do it smarter. ’’

The last high-profile former Ideaworks staffer to leave the agency, co-founder Stephen Kulmar, attacked listed global advertising group WPP’ s approach to business in an aggressive parting attack, saying it forced agencies to put profits ahead of relationships.

Mr McCauley said the Eleven trio did not share the same views. ‘‘We wish Ideaworks well and we think there’ s plenty of space for both of us to exist,’’ Mr McCauley said.‘‘There are a lot of medium-sized businesses that big agencies can’t tackle properly. A key part of it is staying small. ‘‘We want to cut out a lot of the (layering) big agencies do day in and day out. ‘‘We want to employ creative people who can deal directly with clients and solve problems directly.’’

The name Eleven Communications is a reference to movie spoof This Is Spinal Tap aimed at showing the agency will ‘‘go one louder than 10’’.

Mr McCauley said there were no official clients, but the agency was already working on a number of collaborative projects with other agencies.The trio has worked on big retail brands including Westfield, BigW, Mitre 10, Supercheap Auto and its boating, camping and fishing spin-off BCF.‘‘We’ve had a lot of experience of designing brand identities,’’ Mr McCauley said.‘‘The other thing we have is a lot of experience in creating retail environments.’’

A point of difference from other start-ups will be Mr McLachlan’ s experience running the operational side of retail accounts, which typically require a high volume of fast-turnaround print, catalogue and point-of-sale work.‘‘It’s always been the holy grail for retail — high-end creative thinking combined with a ruth- lessly efficient delivery mecha- nism. And that’ s what we’ ve constructed,’’ Mr McLachlan said. Mr McCauley said the retail sector had shifted from a Wal- Mart style focus on discounting to more of a focus on creativity from the medium-sized chains.

‘‘If you look at it on a global level, five years ago, the big push was to engineer costs out of the business,’’ Mr McCauley said.‘‘People are expecting more than just low cost. They want smart value. They don’ t want to feel like they’ re shopping at a discounter any more.‘‘I think there has been a creative renaissance going on in retail overseas and we’ re starting to see a bit of it here.’’ Mr Fallowfield said Eleven wanted to take an ‘‘innovative’’ approach to retail creativity.‘‘Most creative people in this country don’ t understand retail and don’t really want to,’’ Mr Fallowfield said.‘‘But when you look around the world, people like Ikea, Tar- get and Selfridges are producing some of the most innovative work in the business. That’s the kind of work we are interested in doing in this market.’

Link to original Article in The Australian