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‘This isn’t about the odd project’: Inside the big ambition for Not Wieden + Kennedy


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

January 18, 2023 | 7 min read

A new division of the legendary indie ad shop is looking to generate serious revenue from design and branding briefs, explains creative director Adam Rix.

Widen+Kennedy asset

The new studio has been dubbed Not Wieden+Kennedy / Not Wieden+Kennedy

Renowned creative agency Wieden+Kennedy London has split off its design and branding team into a separate boutique studio. Dubbed ‘Not Wieden+Kennedy’, the new division has been a year in the making and will be based out of the London branch’s Spitalfields office.

It's a bold naming choice, driven in acknowledgment that the Wieden+Kennedy (W+K) mothership has become so synonymous with traditional advertising campaigns for the likes of Cok, Sainsbury’s and Nike that it was never in contention for design and branding briefs – despite having the talent to take them on.

Making a name for ourselves

“Despite some of the huge design projects we’ve done… nobody knows about it because the massive creative reputation precedes it,” explains creative director Adam Rix.

“The idea of the name is to take the fact we’re not primarily known for our branding and design capabilities, and trying to challenge the perception and signal that something pretty unexpected is available.”

Critically, the new venture will target clients in different weight classes than its sister agency, extending its market reach to smaller brands and startup firms normally priced out of traditional services.

Starting from scratch

“At the moment, we’re not on anyone’s pitch list for branding and design work. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people looking to commission branding and design don’t even know who W+K are,” says Rix. “We don’t just want to get more work from our existing clients or do the odd project here and there. This is about creating a separate entity to create revenue.”

Despite that, Not Wieden+Kennedy won’t be trading as an adland outfit – in fact, only one of Rix’s colleagues has worked in an agency other than W+K before, a fact he believes will work in the new studio’s favor. The unit will be “effectively a startup branding and design agency with the backing of a 40-year-old creative giant” – and, Rix hopes, none of the baggage.

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not wk

Though parent agency W+K has built its reputation on big-ticket work for global brands, Rix says Not Wieden+Kennedy will be focusing on smaller fares.

“We will be a scalable operation that can work with small nimble teams to service, for example, a tech startup,” he says, noting that it will retain the capability to produce large projects in the vein of W+K’s Formula One rebrand, produced in 2017.

Creativity is king

“There will be a number of different client sizes. What will be identical to W+K… is that it doesn’t matter if it’s Nike or a supermarket or dishwasher – we still believe in the power of creativity, great design and craft to make any brand interesting and appealing to consumers.

“We will be sector-agnostic: we’re not just chasing cultural brands, or sports brands or cool brands, we want to work with anybody that shares our ambition to be a little bit disruptive.

“Despite the name, the new business will also act as an on-ramp into W+K’s advertising practice; Rix says the studio could “open up another door into the agency” for brands just getting to grips with their advertising needs.

Rix also hopes that a backdoor into W+K will aid recruitment for the studio, too. Being in the same building means the team will share W+K’s corporate culture (including its annual ‘Founder’s Day’ celebrations) and will benefit from its “creative cultural environment,” giving it an edge, he suggests, over competing specialist design agencies in the capital.

“That same culture will apply. It’s a good thing for clients and it’s a good thing for talent,” he adds. “We’ve had a lot of CVs from designers.”

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