Slow and steady? Not in this game

Sacred Spring Gin Packaging design

They call it the 81 rule – 19 percent talk, 81 percent action. Most agencies will do the opposite, spending most of their time on talking and ideation, the partners say, but at EightyOne they’ve flipped the script.

“EightyOne was born out of a little frustration with how long it took to solve problems,” Constable says. “We thought there was a smarter, faster way of doing things and the answer to that was to be nimble.”

He says reverse briefs, constant back and forth and flawed processes often meant it was weeks before anything was generated.

“We found if you sat in the same room with some smart people who could think on their feet you get to solutions much faster. So we created EightyOne to be agile with the flexibility to test, learn and execute.”

Partners West, Constable and Wells are self-described nior ad-guys coming out of large international agencies. Four years ago the trio landed in the same room and saw an opportunity. The rest is history in the form of successful campaigns for the likes of Kiwibank, NZ Rugby, Nike and Trade Me.

“We didn’t set out to build an agency, we just took the chance to get on with it and make stuff.” Constable says.

First off the mark

Today’s playing field is a fast one. Agencies have to be able to adapt to new information sources and tailor outcomes to client’s needs, and West says if you’re an old tanker with a big standing army it makes it that much harder to manoeuver.

“We see nothing but change on the menu for today’s marketer,” he says.

“Fragmentation has been talked about for a while now, so in response we think there is a speed and nimbleness required that we haven’t seen before.”

The small team of analysts, creatives, digital artists, videographers and animators don’t see themselves as a traditional advertising agency, nor as a classic design agency, West says.

“Solving strategic problems is still at the heart of what we do, whether it be for clients, or our own brands.” 

Partners (left to right) – Jason Wells, Carlos Constable & Matt West

Trade Me logo re-design

At your service

Working with the logic that the world is a fairly messy place, West says EightyOne finds solutions to fit individual clients by working collaboratively with them.

Creativity is not solely the domain of agencies, he says, and close communication with clients leads to the most effective story-telling. Those solutions span across branding, to marketing strategy, to advertising, and often the data piece is at the core of the equation.

“We assemble teams around problems and projects rather than having people assigned to accounts. I guess a little more like a consultancy model,” he says.

Clients can expect only two or three people at a meeting, and those will be the people responsible for finding the solution.

EightyOne doesn’t hold contracts and isn’t too bothered by retainers, instead it measures its success on consistent results and how clients respond. The constant growth of the agency, which has seen the partners take a shareholding of data company DOT Loves Data and kick off digital building company Kernl, is all on the back of recommendations and return customers. 

From start to end

From banking to football, data-driven marketing to animation; creative shop EightyOne uses its skills to tell entertaining and effective stories for its clients. 


EightyOne created a short video animation series that speaks directly to school leavers and tertiary students about money in a genuinely helpful way. The short authentic animations were made by young Kiwis for young Kiwis. 

Trade Me

Revamping one of New Zealand’s most popular online brands took a collaborative approach.Using an evolutionary perspective EightyOne partnered with Assignment Group to prod and poke Kevin the Kiwi and put him back together ready to face the future. 

NZ Rugby

The EightyOne team regularly works with NZ Rugby for special events, doing branding and print work. From creating bespoke invitations to VIP gift boxes, the agency dazzles fans with thought-out pieces. 

Nike Teamwear

Using their branding expertise and creativity, along with a shared love of football, EightyOne created the annual catalogue that brings the world’s best football brand to New Zealand. 

Sacred Spring

EightyOne developed the name, brand identity, packaging and web presence for this uniquely New Zealand gin, splitting from its European and colonial roots. 

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Branching out

The emergence of data as a powerful marketing tool has changed the landscape for advertisers, marketers and designers, and has become a big part of how the industry operates.

DOT loves data is run by Wells to solve complex data problems. EightyOne works closely with DOT to glean relevant insights and target communications for clients.

“People know they’re going to get bombarded with messages,” Wells says. The key is to make sure the messages have some relevance to the individuals.

Kernl is home to the digital builders, creating apps and websites. West says it came from clients asking for more.

The three companies are completely independent of each other with different shareholdings, but they work together closely.

“I think the combination of creativity with data is really interesting at the moment, and clients want to know more,” West says.

Moving forward

Despite the challenge industry players face in taking disparate sources of information and pulling them together clearly and quickly, Wells says you just have to listen to what people are saying, act quickly and move on to the next thing.

“We have to embrace the constant of change.”

“I think it’s really hard to predict what’s going to happen, as long as you’re adding value to clients and coming up with ideas quickly then there’ll be a place for you.”

Plus, he says, without pace and new ideas coming in things can just get a bit dull. 


Matt West, partner and business director

[email protected]


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