Special Wellington announces leadership line-up

After announcing the opening of a Wellington office late last year, Special has officially opened the doors with an impressive first round of hires.

Since announcing the ambition to build a world-class agency in Wellington, the award-winning full-service agency has been on a national and international recruitment drive and has now appointed a team of leading business and strategic brains in the capital.

Tony Bradbourne, Founder and CEO/CCO of Special New Zealand, says: “We’ve hand-picked talent in Wellington we have long admired, brought leading global talent back to Wellington from overseas, and attracted talent back into our industry because of our unique model and values. Our goal is to build something really quite exceptional in the Capital, and we couldn’t be happier with the incredible quality of our first hires.”

To lead the Wellington team, Special has lured Phil Baker, Global Business Director at VMLY&R back from London to be its General Manager. After spending five years in Wellington and another five in Melbourne in the BBDO Network, Baker and his family are returning home to Wellington. He brings with him hands-on entrepreneurial experience and a huge breadth of global industry experience.

“Special’s passion for purposeful and important work is what has stood out for me. I’ve watched on from abroad as Special has delivered innovative creative campaigns that have received recognition for their effectiveness and creativity from all over the world.

“Home to our government organisations and some of Aotearoa’s most innovative businesses, launching in Wellington presents the perfect opportunity to deliver work that makes a positive impact on our people and our place.

“The opportunity for me to not only lead a world class agency like Special, but for my wife to return to her hometown of Wellington and our two kids to grow up closer to their Nana is an incredible opportunity,” says Baker.  

Joining him is Mereana Beconcini, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa, Ngāti Ruapani, as a Lead Business Partner. Before joining Special, Beconcini was the Marketing Manager for International Brands Inspire Group (B2B Services) and Chameleon Creator (SASS products), producing campaigns across Asia and Australasia.

Prior to that, Beconcini worked as an Account Director at FCB where she led projects with a number of government clients, including ACC, Waka Kotahi, Maritime NZ, Te Taura Whiri, and the Ministry of Education.

After eight years client-side Beconcini will be joining Special to lead some of their biggest clients and the rōpū of Special Aotea in Wellington. Special Wellington pledges to be an equal opportunities workplace and will include internal and external cultural advisors to ensure creative outputs and strategic approaches authentically represent the values of Te Ao Māori and live up to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

John Marshall, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Maniapoto, General Manager Special Auckland says: “I couldn’t be more excited about Mereana joining the Special whānau. She brings with her leadership, mana and a Te Ao Māori worldview that will not only enhance the work we do, but also the culture we hope to create in Pōneke, Wellington.”

Partnering with Beconcini is Matt Barnes, joining as a Lead Business Partner. Barnes’ experience is vast; on social marketing programmes here in Aotearoa such as Unite against Covid-19, Te Pūkenga, Ministry of Primary Industries, Stats NZ, Inland Revenue, Waka Kotahi, KiwiRail, Department of Conservation, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, and commercially with Tuatara’s brand refresh and Toyota’s CX work. His work has been recognised at all major awards shows, but his proudest moments are for the range of work that’s won EFFIEs around the globe and authoring 2x Gold IPAs.

To round out the Special Wellington leadership team, Bethany Omeri joins as the Head of Strategy. Omeri has spent the past ten years as the Strategy Director at Clemenger BBDO Wellington across clients such as The New Zealand Human Rights Commission, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, Waka Kotahi, Te Hiringa Hauora, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Primary Industries, Oranga Tamariki, and Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and with some of New Zealand’s best brands – from ‘Trade Me’, the country’s largest e-commerce platform, and ‘Tuatara’, New Zealand’s originators of craft beer.

Omeri has won the Executive Judges ‘Hardest Challenge’ at the Effies three times in the last four years across three different clients. A focus on honouring tangata whenua in the development of solutions has also led to her work being awarded Best Awards Toitanga Grand Prix which recognises collaborative work that celebrates our indigenous culture.

Tony Bradbourne adds: “We set out to bring together some of the best business and strategic minds in Wellington and we have done just that. Matt and Bethany have been behind some of the best and most important work from Wellington over recent years, Mereana comes back into our industry with incredible large-scale behaviour and organisational change experience, and Phil brings a wealth of international experience to lead a team driven by using creativity to deliver the most effective work. We aim to build from being ranked ‘4th Most Effective Agency in the World’ by WARC, and we believe this team can help us do just that’.

“This first wave of hires is just the beginning. We hope to be able to announce further appointments and our Creative Lead soon. We truly believe Special Welington will produce some of the most powerful and socially important work in the Special network. So bringing together the right mix of Strategic, Cultural, Creative and Business leads is key to achieving that.”

The team will be working out of Special’s new premises on Wakefield Street, in Te Aro and are already working with many clients with offices in Wellington – including Kiwibank, Contact Energy, Education New Zealand, The Interislander and the Wellington City Mission.

There will be a formal opening where Special Wellington will invite Mana Whenua and clients in the Pōneke region.

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