“Advertising is an old industry and there has often been the perception from bigger brands that they want to go with the tried and tested companies that have been around for years,” says Sam Stuchbury. “But that’s not always the case. Clients are starting to give more start-ups a chance. It’s one of the things I love most about New Zealand—its openness to new things.”
Sam is the founder of Motion Sickness, a now Auckland-based creative agency “for the new age” that was first established in his student flat in Dunedin. “There were two reasons I started the business,” the 27-year-old entrepreneur tells me. “Firstly, I was coming to the end of university and I didn’t really want to work for anybody else. And also I’ve always been a creative person, and saw a gap in the market for an agency that does things a little differently by using content and digital to their advantage.”
It’s an approach that has seen the firm secure gigs with esteemed national and overseas brands such as Blunt Umbrellas, Les Mills and Jim Beam. The Motion Sickness team includes two directors: Sam’s professional and personal partner Hilary Ngan Kee, along with best friend Alex McManus. “Looking back at those days of working, hungover, in a student flat, I certainly didn’t expect it to grow into what is now,” admits Sam. “I never did a business plan or had lofty goals, I just went with my gut and did what felt right.”
It seems that the intuitive streak has been a big part of the agency’s charm.
“You have to be nimble and responsive,” continues Sam. “The fact that we didn’t have pre-planned routes allowed us to weave our way through and find a niche that works for us. I think a lot of young entrepreneurs begin being convinced by an idea before it’s even been tested.”
Sam’s talents have been recognised well beyond the advertising industry having recently been named in the prestigious Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list of the brightest ‘young innovators and disruptors’ across the Asia-Pacific region. Along with Hilary, he’ll be attending the Forbes summit in July in Hong Kong.
Motion Sickness Studio
“I was nominated by somebody, I’m not sure who, probably a client,” says the creative director. “Forbes then selects a shortlist of 2,000 who are sent questions about the business and strategies and philosophies and choose the final list from there.”
What are your philosophies?
“Aside from trusting your gut, the big philosophy for me is honesty, doing something that you enjoy, because no matter how hard you try you are not going to be successful in the early days and the business will take over your life. So if you’re just in it for the money then you’ll get bored. We love filming the videos, creating campaigns and meeting all the variety of people. That carried us along and kept us interested.”
I ask Sam if he’s the kind of person that puts a lot of pressure on himself, and wonders where to go next having achieved so much so soon.
“My girlfriend keeps saying that I’ve peaked too early! It’s been five years since I started Motion Sickness, it has been an amazing journey and I’ve learnt a lot. But I certainly don’t see it as the last thing I’ll do and I’m excited about achieving more. So there is pressure, you’re always going to be judged on your most recent work so you have to make sure the quality is always there.”
The company prides itself on doing things “without the bullshit”, “without the red tape” and its desire to “just get things done”. “We bridge the gap between an agency and a production company,” says Sam. “The same people coming up with the strategy are the same people holding the camera and putting the ads on social media so it’s not disjointed because everyone is on the same page. That comes down to having such a multi-skilled team.”
The team is one that’s also keen to take on young, hungry creatives as Sam believes there is “much underutilised talent in New Zealand”. They’re also looking to further tap into international market, having the day of the interview just shot with a New York brand.
“It all comes back to doing what feels right,” Sam says. “We’ve had clients approach us, but we’ve not thought that they were the right fit, so it’s just a case of sticking to your guns. On a personal level, there is no real distinction between my work and my lifestyle and I enjoy that. I rarely wake up and dread work, it’s simply part of my life and I embrace that flexibility. Though, sometimes I still don’t look forward to Mondays!”