The 2009 Creativity 50: Mother

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From left: Mother London's Ben Middleton, Stuart Outhwaite, Augusto Sola, Gustavo Sousa
From left: Mother London's Ben Middleton, Stuart Outhwaite, Augusto Sola, Gustavo Sousa Credit: Willem Jaspert
While much of Mother's fame and fortune over the last decade has come from its London and New York offices' work for brands like Orange, Pot Noodle, Coke, 10 Cane Rum and Dell, what really caught our eye in 2008 was the way the agency has taken clients outside the traditional mediums of advertising. You know, what everyone's talking about doing? They did it.

Let's start with a visit to the Pot Noodle factory, in the form of a Mother London musical theater production that garnered standing ovations at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Dubbed "The Les Miserables of the freeze dried snack food world," Pot Noodle: The Musical is possibly the first example of branded musical theater and, through a deft combination of brand transparency and quality-first creative, the agency created a winner. Next up is Four Feet From a Rat, a quarterly graphic novel written by agency creatives that ran as an insert in London's Time Out. The magazine provided the page space and distribution for advertising services rendered by the agency.

Then, just in case anyone in England didn't notice the football powerhouse failed to make the Euro 2008 Championships, Mother released a sticker book entitled Losers 2008, depicting the country's star players doing such soccer alternatives as walking the dog and shopping for designer wares. Stickers were sold in packs of six for footie fans with a sense of humor. Lastly, but far from least, there's Somers Town, an independent film directed by Shane Meadows (Dead Man's Shoes, This is England) and funded by client Eurostar, about a friendship between two teens in the titular London neighborhood, where Eurostar happens to be building a high speed rail terminal. The film took Best Actor and Best British Film awards, respectively, at the 2008 Tribeca and Edinburgh film festivals. "We had a client who saw (a film) as a valuable alternative to mainstream advertising," says Mark Waites, Mother London creative director and founding partner. "Then we found a director who could make a movie for half a million pounds, which is a small budget. The client already knew Shane's work and was a huge fan. It really was the best bait to put on the hook. We weren't just going to make a movie, we were going to make a Shane Meadows movie, and that absolutely piqued their interest."

For added pleasure, the New York contingent turned its homegrown Dogmatic gourmet hot dog cart into a full-fledged Manhattan restaurant by selling a majority stake of its popular "sausage system" to Blum Enterprises, headed by former Burger King CEO Brad Blum.

Waites, on Somers Town as advertising: "We made a film because we genuinely think that this massive, billion dollar building project in London deserved to be documented. 20 or 30 years from now when people want to know what London was like in 2007, they could do worse than watch this film. They'll know we had a huge immigrant working community, we were building a high-speed rail link and so on, all through the narrative. It's funny but when people were quizzed after seeing the film, they're now 40 percent more likely to travel to Europe by train. We thought it would do some good, but we didn't realize how effective it would be. Also, it's a DVD that will be on the shelves and continue representing Eurostar for many years."

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