Thinkerbell spreads wings to New Zealand

Already well-established across the ditch in Melbourne and Sydney, the independent agency is bringing its unique ‘Thinker & Tinker’ model to Aotearoa’s shores. We asked the team how they plan to disrupt the New Zealand market, and why now?

With five years under its belt and a 150+ strong team, and with many of its Australian clients also having a Kiwi base, Group CEO Margie Reid and Chief Thinker Adam Ferrier saw an opportunity to enter the New Zealand market and introduce Kiwis to its unique work philosophy and ‘Measured Magic’. 

Measured Magic is Thinkerbell’s underlying philosophy and approach to creative work, based on the combination of marketing sciences and hardcore creativity which is applied across everything they do. 

“It felt like within the New Zealand market it was a good moment to bring something fresh, a different approach to the old linear agency models. We’ve all come from those agency models and it’s quite frustrating for clients to deal with,” says Managing Director and Co-Founder Luke Farmer. “The thing about our model is that it is unique with both the Thinker and Tinker combination, as well as the collapsing of the various silos that exist within agencies.”

This model is based on pairing a strategic brain with a creative heart for a more efficient, and most importantly enjoyable process for all involved.

Chief Thinker and Co-Founder Amy Frengley says this combination, and having both parties present at the table from the very beginning, is the key to how Thinkerbell delivers its results.

“From strategy to creative, to production, to earned and owned media – the whole nine yards. The Thinker & Tinker piece is really critical  because you’ve got two people working hand in glove, right the way through any piece of business.

“You’ve got a Thinker who is essentially a ‘suity type’ with a strategic brain on them, and a Tinker who is a creative. The two of them work collaboratively and together in every meeting and work their way through the process. That’s the duo that drive every account.”

With all three co-founders coming from more traditional agency backgrounds, they have seen first-hand how this coming together of two brains makes “the magic happen”.

From the client’s perspective this “reduces the frustration of working with an agency partner,” says Chief Tinker and Co-Founder, Regan Grafton, as everyone can make sure they are on the same page from the start “so there’s nothing lost in translation”.

“It is not only clearly a more effective and more efficient way to work,” adds Amy, “but it’s also just a more pleasurable way to work. And because clients enjoy that, there is less complexity and the whole thing just feels more collegial. It’s the way you want it to be and it’s the way the client seems to want to work.”

The model also means that clients are paired with the same senior people they meet when they first make their   enquiries, something  often not the case in other agencies.

Thinkerbell, a recent winner of Campaign Brief Agency of the Year in Australia,  also works under a “squad-based model” so clients can also draw from resources across the ditch as well.

“The squad allows allows you to get more from the business without the client feeling stretched,” Luke says.

Over the next year or so the Thinkerbell Aotearoa team are getting ready to become “an active part of the New Zealand landscape,” says Luke.

“We want to see work that gets out there and makes meaningful change, that helps achieve results across the board and various sectors, not just one dimensional. We like to play across disciplines and earned is a huge part of what we offer, so taking a fresh approach to the market is key.”

And despite shaky economic forecasts for 2023, Amy says the Thinkerbell Aotearoa team is well equipped to face whatever the future holds.

“It’s no secret that this year looks like there’s going to be new financial pressures, and certainly the business landscape is already feeling that. Marketing budgets are down and the implication of that of course is that CMOs are going to have a fair amount of pressure and expectation on them in terms of their ability to deliver in that climate.

“We want to make sure that we work with [clients] collaboratively to solve their business challenges with creative work that’s backed by marketing science and that actually gets real results.”

She says it’s important they recognise the “temperature and climate” they are launching in but believes they are ready and well-geared to “counteract some of the issues and pressures that CMOs are facing. The time has never been more right in many ways”.

Regan agrees. “It gives the marketers the confidence to have those real conversations with key stakeholders, because everything’s backed up and measured.”

As for the future, there is the optimism and excitement in the air that comes with being in a sort of start-up state.

“There is something exciting about the start-up mentality and the challenging mentality,” he adds.

“I think it’s exciting to be part of something that’s going to hopefully make a big impact on the New Zealand marketing and advertising scene.”

For Amy, it’s about having the backing, and being powered by a “really stellar agency”.

“This is the reason it has grown so fast and been so successful. There are some super smart people part of this crew, and we’re just chuffed to be a part of that and to be able to replicate that here. 

“We’re real champions for what this model can do, not only in terms of what we can do for our clients, but also what we can do for our staff and our people.” 

This article was originally published in the March/April 2023 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

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About Bernadette Basagre

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles, The Register and Idealog. To get in touch with her, email [email protected].

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