Mother Shanghai’s Future-Focused, Independent Spirit

Opinion and Insight 208 Add to collection
Global CEO Michael Wall explains the ambitions and ethos of Mother’s joint venture with The Secret Little Agency
Mother Shanghai’s Future-Focused, Independent Spirit
Last week creative agencies Mother and The Secret Little Agency further cemented their strategic partnership by officially opening their operations in China as Mother Shanghai.

A joint venture between the two shops, the new agency will bring Mother and TSLA’s unique set of creative beliefs to the world’s most populous country and beyond into the rest of Asia. The announcement of the joint venture made it clear that it will prioritise local talent in order to build a “future-focused” agency working with both local and international clients in China.

The expansion grows Mother’s independent family of agencies that already included Los Angeles, New York, London and Singapore. 

LBB’s Laura Swinton asked Michael Wall, global CEO of Mother Holdings, about what the creative world can expect from the birth of this new agency.


LBB> You're investing in local talent - how are you doing that and what is it about the local up-and-coming talent that you're excited about?

Michael> China is at an exciting and innovative moment in our industry. There’s a new generation emerging that’s truly inquisitive, interrogating the world around them - they’re challenging the status quo for brands day in, day out. You can feel the energy and it’s exciting to be part of this shift. We wanted Mother Shanghai to be a real reflection of local culture, and the best way to ensure that is to have that local talent in the driving seat, building the agency talent base from the ground up - not just parachuting it in. We’re about to confirm the creative leadership and are getting closer on other key roles. Working in partnership with The Secret Little Agency, we’ve been able to take the appropriate time to get these early hires right.


LBB> Both Mother and TSLA are independent spirits - what's the appetite like in the Chinese market for independent creative?

Michael> It’s right that we’re both independent spirits - it’s probably what first attracted us to them and vice versa. The real beauty of our shared independence is that we can make decisions for the right reasons. The appetite and need for creative strategy and ideas is growing exponentially in China, as local companies are becoming more sophisticated in their understanding and requirements for their brands. As independent agencies, we believe we understand that and deliver on it better than most. 


LBB> This has been a long road for both of you... Why has it been important for you to take time to set up this venture?

Michael> We never set out to build a network in the conventional sense. We always find the right people and then figure out how we can build something with and around them. Time isn’t the imperative. The opportunity, the quality and delivery is our focus. Taking our time, we’re building an agency with deep roots, Mother Shanghai will help us tap into China’s increasing role in shaping global communications, for both local brands looking outwards as well as global brands looking in.


LBB> Who will be heading up the team locally?

Michael> The local team will be led by local talent. The first announcements will be coming over the next few weeks. 


LBB> And how do you see the local insight/talent feeding back and benefiting TSLA and Mother's existing clients in other markets?

Michael> China has leapfrogged many of the communications practices we’ve been used to in Europe or the US for decades. It’s embracing of technology and personalised channels puts it years ahead for message delivery. We’re learning from that experience, but the learning is two-way as we're bringing our decades of storytelling and brand building experience to businesses in China. 


LBB> Both Mother and TSLA are experts at joining and shaping wider conversations (look at your work for KFC and your Singapore Independence Day film) - what local conversations are you looking forward to getting stuck into?

Michael> It all depends on what happens. Culture moves as fast as, if not faster, than advertising. Our team in Shanghai are plugged locally, so are able to use the spirit of Mother and TSLA for the benefit of our clients.
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The Secret Little Agency, 1 year ago