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XYZ: from start-up to Creative Experience Agency of the Year

Despite launching seven years ago, XYZ’s origins date back to 1992, when founder Will Mould set up music promotions agency Slice – with Run-DMC as a founding client.

The agency rapidly earned its credentials as a creative experience shop, working with brands including Heineken and Beck’s. More than a decade later, Slice attracted the attention of Engine, which went on to buy the business in 2007.

It was at Engine where Mould first started to collaborate with creative director Paul Stanway (this would prove to be a formidable pairing) as Slice delivered music projects for Levi’s, launched Microsoft Xbox in the UK and created brand activations around the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Mould and Stanway left the business at the end of 2012. They founded XYZ in spring 2013 and delivered their first project (along with a team of other agencies): an experiential strategy and launch plan for Glasgow’s SSE Hydro entertainment venue.

It was the start of the agency we know today as that campaign led to projects around the Commonwealth Games and the Rugby World Cup, meaning that XYZ was able to scale up year after year.

Fast-forward to 2017 and XYZ created one of its most famous works: “Nike strike night” – an experience that captured the attention of the global live community.

Dubbed “Fight Club for football”, the event was created to promote the Nike Hypervenom 3 to its audience of football-obsessed teens. More than 2.7 million people watched the Facebook Live broadcast within 24 hours of the penalty shoot-out.

The project won the coveted Grand Prix at the Campaign Experience Awards in 2017 and cemented XYZ’s reputation as one of the hottest experience shops in the industry.

In February 2018, “Converse One Star hotel”, created in collaboration with design agency Hotel, was lauded as a leading example of an immersive and culturally on-point experience.

The project brought together the concept of “sneaker, skate, fashion and music” inside an east London townhouse, timed to coincide with London Fashion Week, and it won XYZ another award for Best Creative Event at the 2018 Experience Awards.

2019 was the agency’s busiest year to date, with an incredible 115 activations produced across 10 months for brands including Nike, Apple, Major League Baseball and New Era.

After presenting to a panel of brand marketers to clinch the Creative Experience Agency of the Year title in this year’s Experience Awards, judges were impressed by XYZ’s creative responses and its versatility in delivering global launches for the likes of Lego alongside smaller-budget yet equally impactful experiences for organisations such as The Children’s Society.

Campaign caught up with Mould and Stanway following the virtual ceremony to ask about their highlights of the past year and plans post-lockdown.

How will you celebrate this win?

It feels as though now isn’t really the time for loud celebrations, but given the tough times we’re all facing it’s really heartening to know that we’ve got the respect of our peers and that the agency’s long-term vision is starting to bear fruit. This will really help us push on through this tough time and bind the team even tighter as we work hard to come through this period.

What for you was the highlight of the past year?

We started to win more projects based on creative strategy, as well as our ability to deliver experiences physically – producing playbooks and toolkits, and working closely with clients in a slightly different way. Another great highlight has been how the culture of the agency has not only survived but thrived as we’ve grown the team by 40%. It’s such an important aspect for providing the right kind of environment for innovation and creativity to flourish.

Which agency or project do you most admire?

It has to be our friends at Amplify, who have put forward some amazing work at this year’s awards – if pushed to pick one of their projects, then Google’s “Curiosity rooms” stand out as a great example of fully integrated experiential marketing.

What has been the biggest challenge of being an independent agency?

As a truly independent set-up, it’s always a challenge to grow whilst maintaining the quality of work that you’re known for. It’s a dark art of balancing risk with resources and getting your timing right.

When lockdown ends what activation would you like to deliver next?

Just before the lockdown kicked in, we were within touching distance of being able to work with some amazing, globally recognised new brands across our full range of work – designing and producing experiences as well as working strategically on their fan engagement strategy. We are really looking forward to being able to catch up again with them soon.

Read the full article on Campaign here