NZ Business - - CON­TENTS - BY A NNIE G R AY

In just four years, friends Sam Stuch­bury, Alex McManus and Jono De Al­wis grew dig­i­tal cre­ative agency Mo­tion Sick­ness from Dunedin stu­dent flat to Auck­land high per­former.

When 25-year-old Sam Stuch­bury and two univer­sity friends started their dig­i­tal cre­ative agency Mo­tion Sick­ness, their mantra was “Good Vibes Only”, mean­ing they did not want to start a busi­ness only to end up work­ing for peo­ple they didn’t like. They wanted to work with peo­ple they were in tune with and with whom they could build col­lab­o­ra­tive re­la­tion­ships.

It cer­tainly seems to have worked. In the past four years Sam, Alex McManus and Jono De Al­wis have taken their com­pany out from their stu­dent flat in Dunedin, up to Auck­land; they can now boast an im­pres­sive line-up of clients, an an­nual turnover of more than $1 mil­lion a year, eight full­time staff and a loyal group of more than 20,000 who fol­low their so­cial me­dia plat­forms and sub­scribe to their news­let­ter.

Sam tells NZBusi­ness that this busi­ness mantra has meant they have turned down quite a few clients. “We are quite picky who we work with some­times, we need to be­lieve in their prod­uct and we don’t just work with some­one to make some money. We don’t just take on some­thing for the pay­check.”

He thinks peo­ple do re­spect that stance. “If you are work­ing with them, you truly have to be­lieve in them. We al­ways had the vi­sion to be a busi­ness that works with ten amaz­ing brands and does great work, rather than have 50 and sac­ri­fice qual­ity.” They want to be proud of what they do. As their pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial puts it: “They're young, fresh and un­con­ven­tional in the way they work; lead­ing strate­gic mar­ket­ing cam­paigns with so­cial me­dia and dig­i­tal con­tent.”

None of the found­ing mem­bers has worked in a tra­di­tional agency “and their rather un­con­ven­tional model is see­ing them win­ning new busi­ness pitches to work with brands like Maserati, Jim Beam, Fullers, Les Mills, Stolen Rum and Col­liers In­ter­na­tional.”

Re­cently the com­pany won a gold BEST award for its anti-smok­ing cam­paign for the Manukau District Health Board. Other clients in­clude Blunt Um­brel­las, I Love Ugly and Burger Burger.

They are also see­ing more com­pa­nies ask­ing for help to launch into in­ter­na­tional mar­kets and Sam says that lead­ing with so­cial, dig­i­tal and con­tent mar­ket­ing means that they’re able to help New Zealand brands not only break into the United States, Aus­tralia or Asia, but ac­tu­ally ex­pe­ri­ence suc­cess with sales within that new mar­ket.

Their phi­los­o­phy on so­cial me­dia is to cre­ate great con­tent that not only builds aware­ness on­line but also drives on­line sales. What also makes the com­pany dif­fer­ent is that everyone in the agency is un­der 27 years old. Sam is the ma­jor­ity share­holder and the three founders have been

friends since high school. So, can that be dif­fi­cult?

There have been no fallings out and while it can be chal­leng­ing for friend­ships they are all pretty open to dia­logue and open about what they want to do.


So­cial me­dia can be some­thing of a mine­field for smaller com­pa­nies. Sam’s ex­pert ad­vice to any SME owner want­ing to gain more lever­age from so­cial me­dia is to com­mit a small bud­get to pro­mote your con­tent. He says you bat­tle away to drive or­ganic growth, but pro­mot­ing your so­cial me­dia and com­mit­ting just a few hun­dred dol­lars can give you far greater reach. SMEs need to spend the money ad­ver­tis­ing, he says.

Twit­ter is use­ful for an in­di­vid­ual’s brand, or for cus­tomer ser­vice, but in terms of cam­paigns for clients Twit­ter is quite small in terms of New Zealand users, he adds. Mo­tion Sick­ness works with clients on Face­book, Instagram and Snapchat.

Sam says there is a huge op­por­tu­nity for re­tail­ers through so­cial me­dia and cre­at­ing a sales funnel through Face­book or Instagram – not­ing that it’s not just about brand­ing.

Any­one can build up au­di­ences but a lot of it comes down to the way the story is ex­e­cuted and strong cre­ative is what will get re­sults, he says.

Asked about the fact that Face­book owns every­thing that ap­pears on its site, Sam says that the amount of data Face­book can pro­vide about your au­di­ence is hugely valu­able. And he doesn’t see Face­book go­ing any­where soon. Peo­ple for­get that Face­book and Instagram are so big in terms of num­bers and Face­book is con­stantly chang­ing and bring­ing in new fea­tures.


As to what they might have done dif­fer­ently since launch­ing the com­pany Sam says not too much, ex­cept maybe en­joyed it more in the be­gin­ning.

When they started they were wor­ry­ing about risk and whether it was go­ing to be a suc­cess. He says that part of the jour­ney should be en­joyed, you just need to be pa­tient.

What does an­noy him is to see a start-up where a prod­uct or app has been de­vel­oped and the only point ap­pears to be around mak­ing money.

“It’s im­por­tant to find some­thing you are pas­sion­ate about and that you can com­mit to.”

If you fo­cus on some­thing you are pas­sion­ate about money will be a prod­uct of that, he be­lieves.

Mo­tion Sick­ness has been self-funded and has had pos­i­tive cash­flow right from the start.

And the di­rec­tors are grate­ful for the in­dus­try sup­port they’ve re­ceived.

As a young com­pany in Dunedin, when they de­cided to move back to Auck­land (the founders are all from Auck­land) they were warned they were mov­ing to one of the most cut-throat in­dus­tries in the coun­try.

“But when we got here, everyone has been very sup­port­ive with how we were try­ing to do things dif­fer­ently,” says Sam.

The com­pany’s “very loose” ad­vi­sory board in­cludes Luke Johnston, the owner of Dunedin agency Brandaid; Valentin Ozich of menswear brand I Love Ugly; and Mimi Gil­mour, a hos­pi­tal­ity en­tre­pre­neur who is the founder and cre­ative di­rec­tor of Burger Burger.

As to what’s next, Sam says he’s been ask­ing him­self that ques­tion and one big fo­cus is work­ing with big­ger brands and sink­ing their teeth into grow­ing the busi­ness fur­ther.


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