Ten on the Fly: searching for the ‘holy crap’ factor

Creative agency Fly turns ten next year and to mark the milestone, has brought co-founder Shane Hansen back into the fold to give the brand a bit of a facelift.

According to creative director Johnson McKay, when he and brother-in-law Hansen originally started the studio, they began with a very clear vision.

“We started off with this idea that we would do everything in our power to not do advertising,” he says. Instead, they wanted to do creative campaigns that engaged people with brands – “without them feeling they just got marketed to”.

“That was our point of difference, our unique offering. We got big brands with that mentality.”

But eventually they drifted closer to the realm of traditional advertising and in 2012 worked on a handful of massive campaigns, including relaunching Marmite.

McKay says he realised Fly had ended up basically doing what other agencies do, a little more creatively perhaps, but they’d moved away from the original vision.

Pushing the restart button

With 2014 shaping up to be their biggest yet, it was time to “draw a line in the sand” and redefine their specialisation.

And who better suited to help push the restart button on Fly than one of the founding members?

Hansen’s rebrand of Fly is typical of his bold and graphic style.

As McKay explains it, the central motif of a bird represents Fly, with McKay and Hansen personified in its two wings – an idea whose time has come and is surging ahead. It’s got its eye on the prize – a yellow sun of prosperity and happiness. The two spirals on its tail are for McKay and his wife and the five small black circles, their children. (“The business started because we wanted to do not only great work but to provide a lifestyle for our families – we didn’t want to work 80-hour weeks.”)

fly creative shane hansen rebrand

fly creative shane hansen rebrand

Feathers in the Fly cap

Highlights of Fly’s portfolio to date include, early on, the NZ Icons fashion range, which moved 10,000 units and generated $180,000 worth of PR with no above the line advertising, he says.

Then there was last year’s Christmas gift project for Air NZ’s 12,000 staff, in which Fly set out to acknowledge employees’ vital contribution to the company and the overall Air NZ brand. (The airline usually turns to a promotional merchandise company, resulting in things like a giant puzzle, which McKay says is cool but not “mindblowing”.)

More recently, Fly worked with Greg Straight on a collector’s edition tin for Chelsea Sugar and will be doing some more work with the iconic Kiwi brand next year to help people rediscover “the goodness about them that people already inherently love”.

Whether it’s a fashion brand, PR campaign or a product range, McKay says the Fly approach is the same – telling a genuine story that’ll spread of its own accord rather than just slapping a logo onto a mug.

“It’s about trying to bring something that people go ‘holy crap, I want that’!” he says.

Spreading their wings

Expect to see touches of Fly across upcoming TV2 programme launches (they worked on the publicity campaign for hit show The Walking Dead).

And another collaboration with Greg Straight is in the works for Dudley Creek Farm, playing up the benefits of growing your own food and eating local.

McKay also hopes to expand the staff (currently four) to seven by the end of 2014.

“We’ve had a pretty good run of working with New Zealand’s most loved and trusted brands, and all those companies we’ve worked with right from when we first started and had the privilege to grow alongside,” he says.

“People feel a sense of loyalty toward New Zealand companies and products and we’re happy to be working with some of the best of them, and building our own brand as we work with them.”

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