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From student flat to Forbes' '30 under 30': Motion Sickness' Sam Stuchbury

Sam Stuchbury, creative director and founder at Motion Sickness and co-founder of The Social Club, has this week been named in Forbes'  30 under 30 Asia in the 'Media, Marketing and Adverting' category. 

Top image: Sam Stuchbury (centre)

The list, featuring 300 young innovators in 30 categories picked from 2000 nominations, includes those who are considered to be re-inventing their industries and driving change across the diverse region.

In his category, Stuchbury sits alongside creatives, developers and writers, including 29-year-old Milan Reinartz, founder and CEO of Postr, 22-year-olds Jaden Harris and Alex Susmky, cofounders of Forever Network, and 27-year-old Krystal Sutherland, a published author for Penguin.

Keen to hear how Stuchbury feels about the accolade and his journey there, we asked him about founding Motion Sickness and The Social Club, as well as his thoughts on the industry and advice he has for other young creatives.

Give us a rundown of your journey to becoming a 27-year-old at the helm of your own agency?

It all started in my last year at university in Dunedin, where I started the business. Pretty much happened due to the fact I didn’t want to work for anybody else, and I saw a bit of a gap in the market for a social media/content creative agency. I've come a long way from running it from a student flat that had no insulation and no toilet paper, to our Auckland-based office with eight full-time staff and more part-timers. Though sometimes the boy’s toilets still lack a bit of TP... I think we have grown really quickly due to our approach, myself and Motion Sickness’ two other directors (Alex Mcmanus and Hilary Ngan Kee) have never worked in a traditional agency so we just do things in the way that makes sense. We cut out a lot of the ‘red-tape’ and just chipped away doing our own thing, just focussed on producing good work and cutting some of the bullshit.

It has been a lot of work to get where we are now and by no means have we reached our ‘goal’. I have a vision of being a world-leading specialist agency in the social media and content space. We’ve found our lane and we’re sticking to it, we don’t want to be a jack of all trades and master of none. It’s something we are keeping in mind as our journey continues. It’s been an awesome journey so far, and I think the best part has honestly been doing projects I enjoy with people I like. The biggest factor in the agency’s success is the people that work for Motion Sickness and have worked for Motion Sickness. Working with such cool talented people for me is the factor that’s really made us pop, can’t wait to bring more young talented folk onto the team.

To be in Forbes' '30 under 30' was a bit of surprise, to be honest, I saw there was 2000 finalists and didn’t rate my chances. Stoked to be included though, and looking forward to heading to Hong Kong in July for the 30 under 30 summit.

Check out this podcast with Stuchbury and Idealog digital editor Ben Mack:

What are the biggest industry changes you’ve had to adapt to over the years?

I think the way people interact with brands and generally consume ‘ads’ is super interesting and has changed dramatically and is continuing to change so fast day-to-day. There's always a lot of buzz around the 'right' platforms/medium but I think it's better to focus on the people you're talking to, which naturally transcends platform. In a nutshell, the big thing to continually adapt to is how people consume brands and what people feel is ‘lame’ and ‘cool', what they feel is authentic and what is disingenuous, and that line between entertainment and commerce. 

What’s keeping you up at night?

I'm not going to lie, sometimes running my own business disturbs me kip. There's a bit of extra weight on the shoulders. 

You’ve adapted to the rise of influencer marketing with The Social Club in late 2016 – how’s that going?

Yeah, it’s going really well, it was a reaction to a need in the market. Full credit to Georgia McGillivray and her team for building the business to where it is now. I think The Social Club is sitting in a really interesting space right now bridging the gap between creative, influencers and tech. Can’t wait to see where it goes. Myself/Motion Sickness are shareholders in the business after helping co-found it in 2016.

In February, the ASA updated its guidelines outlining transparency for social media advertising. What do you think about the need for all parties to an advertiser be responsible for ensuring advertiser controlled content is clearly identified?

I think it's good to see. To be honest, I think a lot of New Zealand businesses already had their own code of ethics that addressed the need for transparency. It's good to draw that line in the sand though, it's fairer for everyone. 

Do you think a post by an influencer will be as effective when labelled that it is an ad?

I think we have to give people credit, whether labelled or not I think people are pretty smart and they know when they're being 'sold' to. But it's better now that it's clear-cut. 

What’s the best thing about working for yourself?

I think just having the freedom to not have to answer to anybody. For example, being able to have control over the work you do and don’t do, it keeps things fresh. Having less of a boundary between 'work' and 'life' is great but it's a double-edged sword, as like most other business owners we have to work hard to be able to switch off. I just go on trips these days to places where there isn’t any phone or internet coverage

What’s your biggest success?

Still doing what we love five years on from starting the business, and still enjoying it.

What’s your favourite piece of work you’ve produced?

Most recently our campaign for Scapegrace Gin (previously Rogue Society Gin). Really chuffed how that turned out and it all went down so well - especially amongst longtime fans of their brand. As for our video work I think just looking back at our 2017 showreel last year and seeing all the stuff we made makes me happy.

Do you have any advice for other young creatives entering the industry?

I think it would be first, not taking yourself too seriously, it’s just advertising...But also just exposing yourself to lots of creative work, having your finger on the pulse and developing ‘taste’ is the biggest thing. It takes a long time to develop good ‘taste’ and I feel that’s so important, rather than just ‘book smarts’ know what feels good and looks good is something that’s so valuable.

What’s next for you?

Growing the team and just leading the ship I guess to where we want to be. We really want to build this into internationally-recognised experts in the social media and content space. I am not totally sure what that looks like but to be honest, I'll do what we have always done - just make good work and do what feels right. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learnt in business, rather than getting hung up on forecasts, business plans and lofty goals, instead just have a rough idea of where you want to be, put your head down, chip away and just do what feels right. It seems to be working.

A version of this story first appeared at StopPress.

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