Ant Keogh on controlling his own destiny at The Monkeys

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 23 April 2018
Ant Keogh

It was one of the worst kept industry secrets that Ant Keogh would be joining The Monkeys after his shock departure from Clemenger Melbourne.

Now, six months in the role, Keogh has produced his first piece of work at the Accenture-owned agency and it's injected with the humorous approach that has won him and the agencies on his resume countless awards over the last two decades.

His work for Clemenger Melbourne landed him the title of the most awarded chief creative of 2017, according to The Drum, with TAC’s Meet Graham and Snicker’s Hungerithm earning a slate of awards.

Meet Graham and Hungerithm are campaigns that stand out in Keogh’s portfolio in recent years, but the creative has also been the mastermind behind big, bold and famous ideas like the ‘Big Ad’ for Carlton Draught and the Bonds’ ‘The Boys’ campaign.

His latest work for Holden is just the beginning, Keogh tells AdNews, with a 30-strong creative team now formed at The Monkeys Melbourne ready to take on bigger challenges.

“We’ve gone from feeling like a startup to a solid agency with real support and great people,” Keogh reflects.

“We’ve got a bunch of projects starting to build up and more work on the way.”

Keogh notes that while it took six months for the agency’s first work to be released, the pace isn’t representative of the agency, rather the process of producing work on big clients.

“We haven’t been dragging our heels. That’s just how advertising works. You have to go through strategy first,” he says 

Keogh is steering the Melbourne office alongside CEO Paul McMillan and chief strategy officer Michael Derepas, both of which he worked with at Clemenger.

Sydney ECD Grant Rutherford has also relocated to The Monkeys Melbourne – a move that has been speculated for some time.

Read more: The Monkeys: Adland’s provocateurs

It was a big shift for Keogh to join a smaller agency that isn’t part of a traditional ad network, having previously worked at Clemenger Melbourne and Y&R Melbourne.

“When you go from an environment of hundreds of people to a few people as part of a startup, you notice what you may have taken for granted at a bigger agency,” he says.

“Clemenger had a great support network and that’s obvious the striking difference compared to being out on your own but there’s an excitement and a nimble nature that comes with that.

“You can control your own destiny in a smaller agency.”

With cofounders Mark Green, Scott Nowell and Justin Drape spending 10+ years establishing the Sydney office and The Monkeys as one of the best agencies in Australia, it may seem like The Monkeys Melbourne have so far had an easy ride.

Essentially it's trading off the IP of The Monkeys Sydney and the heritage of the ex-Clemenger trio in Melbourne. It’s a combination that’s earned them some big accounts, picking up Holden and Asahi before they’d even found an office space.

“There’s some level of degree of comfort knowing you have a big brother down in Sydney,” Keogh says.

On the Accenture front, Keogh says the Melbourne office has only just begun to tap into the resources the consultancy can offer.

“We haven’t exploited our relationship with Accenture as much as we hope to yet,” he admits.

The work 

Holden is facing some serious challenges. Its sales have dwindled consistently, its experienced some backlash in Australia for moving its production overseas and it’s undergone a marketing shakeup that recently saw its CMO Mark Harland exit.

In March, Holden barely cracked the top 10 sales chart with 5,166 vehicles sold. When Harland entered Holden, the brand was still moving around 8,000 cars per month.

It’s a big task for The Monkeys to turn around the brand but one that Keogh is raring to take on.

On the new work for the Colorado model, Keogh says he wanted to keep the idea simple, to meet the brief of reaching 35-50-year-old men.

The ad switches horsepower for goatpower, depicting a man's struggles to race a goat to the top of a mountain.

“We wanted to set up something simple that allowed for the performance of the car to come out without us forcing it,” he says, adding that so far, the agency has received a positive response from dealers.

The automotive sector is a cluttered category and Keogh says that’s a challenge, but one that you can’t lose sleep over. 

“You don’t think about the competition, you just write a good ad. You can’t get bogged down in what everyone else is doing,” he says.

The simplicity of a good ad is something Keogh thinks is getting lost in the industry.

“There’s so much data and information out there and it creates confusion and can bog down the simple basic notions of just standing out in a crowded marketplace,” he says.

“Cut through is the initial problem you have to get through in any form of marketing and that can get forgotten in the complexity of what we do.”

Keogh's work for Asahi is expected to drop later this year and is highly anticipated, considering his heritage in the beer category.

His highlight reel:

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