Mark and Antony are the founders of Habitat Media, a full service creative and brand activation agency.
Mark: Mark started his career in advertising as a direct radio sales person at the Australian Radio Network. It wasn’t long before he realised a real love for advertising and the thrill of chasing the sale. From there he looked for a more tangible medium at Australian Federal Publishing, specialising in ad sales to the retail market of Sydney’s CBD, but it wasn’t until he did a short stint in “on-pack” promotion at the Leap Frog Group, that he really found his calling.
An opportunity came up to work in the new an innovative world of non-traditional and experiential media at Ambient Advertising. This is where he was able to awaken the creativity that had long been in his blood and couple it with his experience in selling a concept. Over 7 rewarding but challenging years, he pioneered many campaigns that have graced the pages of B&T and ADnews (albeit behind the scenes) and forged a reputation that is widely acknowledged in the industry. It was only a matter of time that he would get to a point in his career when he needed to take that step into the unknown and back himself (along with the help of his mate of over 30 years) and start his own gig.
Antony: After majoring in painting and illustrating at The National Art School Antony spent 15 years working in the Film, Building, Publishing and Advertising industries. “I’ve done a lot of different things. Everything from SFX tech on big Hollywood pictures to dreaming up the next creative platform for multinational brands.”
These experiences and others have given Antony a wide skill set ideally suited to thinking, creating and implementing.
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ideas don’t always have to be big to be effective – sometimes it comes down to strategy, relevance and timing.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
Mark: Habitat is a full service creative and brand activation agency that brings big ideas to life through experiential marketing and non-traditional media. We wanted to bring big ideas to life in new and interesting ways. We felt creativity in the area of non-traditional media and brand activations had really waned and there were really very few ‘big ideas’ out there coming to life in fresh and original ways.
Antony: We also had the skill set between us to be able to offer a creative arm to our services, so rather than just be another production supplier to media agencies and clients, we are equipped to help brands create some exciting concepts from idea to execution. We have now added PR to that skill set within out team so we have really become a one-stop-shop.
Mark: Originally, we came up with the idea to start our own business while out surfing – ‘Start a company, surf all the time – NOT’. Seriously though, for me it was about taking control of my career. I’d reached a professional cross road and when the opportunity came along to partner with Antony, I realised we had a shared vision and new we could make it work.
Antony: I was surrounded and influenced by a lot of people in my life who were their own bosses and this was ultimately my goal, I just needed timing and opportunity to play out.
Please explain your business model
Mark: Our business model has to be slightly flexible as our clientele range from media agencies to brands themselves. Essentially we sell ideas, but the idea itself only becomes valuable when it is coupled with professional execution, management, production and ongoing client service. An idea is signed off by a client, then we package the rest.
Our offering eliminates additional outsourcing and headaches for our clients, saving them time, resources and money.
Antony: We were lucky enough to hit the ground running when we started but as with any business, in order to grow and stay ahead of the competition, its imperative to take the time to create ‘brand awareness’ for ourselves too. We pitch ourselves to media agencies, creative agencies, PR agencies and clients directly through clever and strategic promotional campaigns. We’ve tried to dispense with the old adage that “the doctors children are always the sickest”. In business if you don’t regularly pay your development the attention it requires, the wheels eventually stop spinning and fall off.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
Mark: Currently we are working on an AirAsia campaign coinciding with the Mardi Gras festival. We were actually able to purchase and brand a Tuk Tuk to deliver a truly experiential campaign designed to bring awareness to their budget airfares to Asia.
Antony: We are also working on a really exciting execution for the launch of the new Virgin Mobile store in Queen Street Mall, QLD, which involves Zorbing through the CBD.
How do you make ideas happen?
Mark: We have an expansive network of production contacts all around Australia, from prop makers to lighting specialists to artists and even inflatable constructions. To date, there hasn’t been an idea we haven’t been able to produce, and ideas don’t always have to be big to be effective – sometimes it comes down to strategy, relevance and timing. Our team, while still relatively small have all been brought on board because they each specialise in a different area; from design, to sales, to client management, to production, and each bring their own network of contacts to our stable. So at the brief, we say ‘yes’ and then its our job to tap into our network resource and find the safest, fastest and most professional way to produce the idea.
What does your typical day look like?
Antony: There’s no typical day in this business. One day we could be bumping in a job at 5am in the middle of the city, or we could be spending the day in client briefings, or we could be art directing a photo shoot. That’s the beauty of what we do, and there is certainly no time for boredom. We juggle many jobs all the time.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
Mark: For us the challenge was to manage a massive workload from the word go with just a small team, and the goal to not begin the business with debt. We’ve relied on profitability to allow for our steady growth, which means at each level of growth you have to be willing to take a leap in order for that growth to continue on that trajectory. It’s a bit of a chicken or egg situation, which I’m sure all businesses face, but essentially if you take a risk and if you’re committed, it works out for the best.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Antony: A Fold up kayak for commuting to work via waterways.
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry at the moment?
Antony: Often we look to multi-media artists and scientific researchers as a source for new ideas around what is possible. I am really interested in kinetic surfaces and the potential of getting consumers engaged via a 3D surface they can manipulate in realtime.