Ex-McCann execs Rob Smith and Lee Tan launch creative shop Motel

Agency's founding client is Klarna.

Motel: Tan (left) and Smith
Motel: Tan (left) and Smith

Rob Smith, former chief client officer at McCann Worldgroup, and Lee Tan, former executive creative director at the same agency, are the latest pair to launch an agency.

The shop, named Motel, has set up with founding client Klarna, the online financial services company, for which it has already created an ad campaign.

Motel currently has 10 staff, all working remotely from various locations around the world, including London, Scotland, Mallorca, Sao Paulo and Bedfordshire. There is no physical office yet but there are plans to open one in central London in the spring, depending on the situation with Covid-19.

The agency said that the name Motel comes from such establishments having an "air of mystery and intrigue".

It said: "Motels don't pretend to be something they are not. They are exactly what you need. When you need them. What really goes on behind the scenes? How are these weird and wonderful ideas thought up?"

Smith had worked at McCann since 2014, joining as executive vice-president of McCann London, and was appointed as chief client officer in 2018. He has also worked at M&C Saatchi and Ogilvy, and set up an agency called Farm in 1999.

He said: "Apparently, patience is a virtue. I've known Lee for over 20 years. I initially tried to hire [Lee] at Farm a while back and then we ended up working in the same agency together at McCann, but for most of that period it was across different clients.

"We joked that the only way we'd get to work together as a true partnership would be to launch our own agency. There seemed no better time than 2020 to go for it!"

Tan joined McCann Worldgroup in 2012, with previous stints at TBWA\London and Mother. He said: "The more we talked, the clearer it became that Rob and I shared the same ideas on what a creative company could be. Especially now when we have the opportunity to shape an agency in a whole new way."

The agency's first work for Klarna, "Clothes love all", aims to break the prejudice and discrimination barriers within the fashion industry and encourages people to view fashion from the eyes of the clothes.

AJ Coyne, head of marketing at Klarna UK, said: "We're incredibly excited to be one of Motel's founding client partners. This year has been shit for most, but the energy and passion from this group to turn that into something positive is remarkable.

"We brought Motel on board because they reject the traditional agency models and are helping propel the Klarna brand in the UK, with disruptive work and a touch of garage. Win." 

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