Mention the advertising industry and thoughts generally tend towards the cutthroat – a dog-eat-dog world of diamond-sharp skyscrapers populated by mercenaries in French cuffs. Leave it to Tim Kentley and the very talented team behind Melbourne’s award-winning commercial animation studio XYZ to turn that perception on its head. A belief in pure creativity and a willingness to foster creative relationships has paid off in a big way for these local standouts as Kentley and executive producer Hamish MacDonald head off to New York to proudly open XYZ’s new Manhattan office.
“It’s a good evolution for us,” say Kentley, who began XYZ Studios in 2003 with no experience in either animation or advertising (“I’m a total hack,” he says with a laugh). “We’re a boutique studio but we’ve been fortunate enough to work all over the world and we’ve done some really good work out of New York and formed some really good relationships over there.”
None more so than with American visual effects powerhouse Charlex, whose close relationship with XYZ has helped establish the Melbourne outfit’s permanent New York presence. “It’s actually a really simple setup,” admits Kentley. “They’ve given us a desk in a room and a telephone. We can work out of there and in return they do all our post-production for us [though] we wouldn’t take it anywhere else anyway,” he adds. “It’s a pretty simple thing to do but it gives us some good feet on the ground over there. It’s kind of the advertising capital of the world, so it make sense to have a presence there.”
For XYZ, growing international notoriety is a pleasant reminder that size doesn’t always matter when it comes to success, even in an industry as image-based as advertising. As their website proclaims, “Design, illustration, animation and live action are the tools. Story telling is the art.” That kind of dedication to what’s at the heart of effective advertising – substance not style – has resulted in XYZ securing prestigious campaigns for the likes of Comcast, Coca Cola and Kellogg’s. It’s inspiring to hear that a genuine commitment to originality is still more important than how many people you have on the payroll. “Our studio’s success is built on one leg,” says Kentley, “and that’s creativity. It purely comes down to your vision and your ability to take it somewhere special.”
On their expansion to New York, Kentley’s confident that their ability to do just that will hold them in good stead. “One thing I’ve found about New York, it’s not about where you’re from, it’s about your talent,” he says. If that proves to be the case, 2011 should be even bigger than 2010 for XYZ.