Urban Faces Its Unthinkable Future

Urban Faces Its Unthinkable Future

If you accept every business needs a little bit of external help from time to time, then the next conundrum is deciding whether creativity or hard-nosed strategic thinking is what is required.

David Hovenden
Posted by David Hovenden

B&T’s 2014 Experiential Agency of the Year, Urban, wrestled with this very issue and decided what was required was a mash up of the two. Betting big this was a gap in the market, the Sydney-based agency has relaunched itself after going through a cathartic process of unthinking everything it thought it knew.

Headed up by a management trio of Gavin and Ryan McDonough, both managing partners, and Jonas Katzellenbourg, who’s director of planning and strategy, Urban describes itself as the product of changing times.

“A new kind of strategic consultancy that also creates brilliant ideas. We exist to unleash your brand’s potential,” it says in its credentials deck.

The agency has reset its true north based on its trademarked methodology of “unthink” itself a consequence generated by the uncomfortable truths business in 2016 is facing. Namely underperforming businesses underwhelming cultures and uncool brands.

The remedy to this malaise is Unthinking, which Urban says defies old ways of doing things.

“We use Behavioural Economics and Design Thinking to uncover new ways for brands to succeed,” Katzellenbourg tells B&T.

So far the agency has found itself working in the diverse industries of travel and lifestyle, automotive, finance and banking, retail, FMCG and ecommerce, technology and telecommunications as well as consultancy and advisory.

And just as its sectors are diverse, so too are Urban’s business solutions. Gone are the days when a schedule of TVCs could solve any woes, nowadays, argues Gavin McDonough, his agency offers an eclectic mix of interventions depending on the unique set of challenges its confronted with.

Be it customer strategy and marketing, transformation and turn around, organisation and people, innovation and growth, digital or even data and analytics, Urban has geared itself up to play in all of those spaces.

Take its work for Airbnb involving Sydney’s world famous Mardi Gras. This was a customer strategy and marketing intervention to deal with demand outstripping supply. Mard Gras is Airbnb’s second biggest season in the southern hemisphere.

The problem is there were a lot of misconceptions about being an Airbnb host during Mardi Gras, especially among premium property owners – straight and gay.

Urban’s job was to get more premium property owners to sign up during the Mardi Gras season; clearly it had a myth busting task at hand.

For Coke the problem required a data and analytics solutions.

Meanwhile Urban helped PwC with its people and culture to change from being a company of knowers to a company of learners.

Finally, for Holden Urban was faced with a transformation and turnaround assignment not surprisingly given the closure of the company’s manufacturing plants in Australia.