13 November 2017

Creative Talk with Matthew Masters of Zebradog

We talk with Matthew Masters from Zebradog, specialist B2B agency located in Sydney on how they ended in Australia; why B2B and his advice to those starting out.


Matthew, you started your career on the creative site in the UK. How did you end up with an agency in Sydney and New Zealand?


It was a bit of an accident really, and doesn’t even start in the UK. My wife and I had been working in Amsterdam and after five years there were ready to move on. We finished up moving to Auckland to work with Publicis but stayed in contact with some of our old PPGH/JWT colleagues from the Netherlands. In particular with Ed Schmidt, an incredibly smart strategist and suit who had moved to Sydney about the same time we went to NZ. When I started Badger a few years later it became apparent pretty quickly that there was a real opportunity for a business-to-business agency in Aus. Ed and I spoken for ages about working together again, so Zebradog was born.


Did Zebradog start as a B2B Specialist agency.


Definitely. There are challenges in B2B communications that I find particularly interesting, and I have always been surprised that it doesn’t get the attention it deserves in Australia or New Zealand.


B2B is quite big business, although most traditional larger agencies don’t tend to cover this.  Why?


Beats me, it really does. I guess they just put it in the too-hard-basket. Or maybe the not-sexy-so-unlikely-to-win-awards-basket.


Do you work collaboratively on your client accounts with their ATL brand agencies?


Definitely. We have a great working relationship with FCB on Vodafone New Zealand, for example. Because we have no ambitions on the brand or retail work, there’s no fear of “scope creep” and that makes working together on joint responses to client briefs (which we do often) a whole lot easier.


How do you find the market in Australia in comparison with New Zealand?


Bigger, obviously. But that’s about ambition more than it is about bodies. Aussies have an intrinsically positive outlook, a confidence that makes for big plans and a willingness to invest to make them happen.


Do you find it hard to find staff with the B2B experience?


Yes and no. It’s very hard to find creatives (or any agency people) with decent B2B experience. But if you look outside our industry, there’s no problem. Since I originally started on the client-side myself, I have no issues with looking beyond agencies for people with the right skills.


In your role you have times where you straddle Managing Director and Creative Director – do you prefer one side over the other?


Probably the Managing Director role, but only because it allows me to get involved with anything I want to; strategy, creative, client relationships, IT (yes, even IT … tragic old geek that I am). I still get to do a lot of creative, but I get to pick a choose. It’s the best perk of being the boss.


If you could, would you change the course or path you have taken in your career? 


Of course. But exactly what changes hourly!


Where do you think Australian agencies sit on the world stage?


Both Australia and New Zealand are right up there creatively speaking. Both punch well above their (our) weight.


What would be your most challenging project to date?


Zebradog and Badger, actually. The whole thing. The people, the clients, the briefs – even the little ones. Collectively they are a project that makes getting up in the morning easy.


What advice would you give to your younger self about to embark on his career?


Start by doing something that isn’t advertising or marketing. Seriously, the more experience you have outside the industry, the better you will be at communicating with people. I’d recommend some actual sales experience too, but probably only because that was the route I took.


2018 will be….




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