What’s in a Name? Ugly Channels the Beauty of Creativity

It’s the kind of name that makes you stop and think. In just one playful and provocative word, Sydney-based agency Ugly is grabbing the attention of the creative world.

Call it a meeting of the minds. Returning to Australia after a 20-year career in Amsterdam, which included opening Anomaly, managing director Hazelle Klønhammer had her eyes set on another startup. M&C Saatchi saw the gap in the market for a smaller, nimbler creative shop and offered to be a shareholder. After connecting with former TBWA executive creative director Gary McCreadie and former head of strategy at M&C Saatchi Sydney Ross Berthinussen, longtime BBH colleagues who had already discussed the idea of opening an agency together, the trio launched Ugly in 2017.

“We talked a lot about how creativity can solve even the ugliest problems. How creativity can take something ugly and turn it into something beautiful,” McCreadie says. “It was an instinctive name, a name that didn’t take itself too seriously, but still had a rational story.”

Calling oneself Ugly implies that the team within is not afraid to take a stance. Here, the power of creativity takes priority over endless agency processes. “A more creative and evocative name works harder in the sense that it makes people notice you and hopefully remember you. And more evocative names are often braver which is a good filter for attracting the right talent and the right clients,” Klønhammer says. “Our mission is to build an environment that allows creativity to thrive.”

And sometimes a setting that facilitates success means being, yes, ugly. Berthinussen defines it as “working in a much more human, collaborative and efficient way. Small, focused, senior teams with the clients at the core who nail stuff quickly. No layers, no wasted time. Experienced teams who can move and pivot with the business needs.”

The transformation comes when clients can point at their “ugliest” situations and be open-minded about the solution. In essence, Berthinussen notes, “Our approach turns business problems into people problems. What do we need people to think, feel or do to solve your business problem? And where in the customer experience? Once we’ve got the problem tightly defined we point creativity at it.”

With that, the results can be beautiful.

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