Exceptional ALIEN co-founders Justin Drape and Michael Canning reveal the driving forces behind its newly launched creative studio

Exceptional ALIEN Studio - Justin Drape and Michael Canning

“We believe in the power of creativity and bringing together those different voices, perspectives, nationalities, cultures, and backgrounds”

Exceptional ALIEN, established in 2021 by Justin Drape, co-founder of The Monkeys and renowned creative director Michael Canning, has announced the launch of its creative studio.

The studio is connected to a global community of exceptional talent. It works with brands to create and execute stories, platforms and campaigns that shape and connect with culture. They have previously worked on projects with Beyonce, Hugh Jackman and Kylie Minogue.

Exceptional ALIEN Studio was founded with the belief that different voices, perspectives, and skills from wide-ranging disciplines inspire unique creativity and modern problem-solving.

This scope of thoughts and perspectives from their bank of exceptional talent gives their clients the confidence that results can be delivered. 

Mediaweek spoke to Drape and Canning about launching Exceptional ALIEN Studio, its collaborative and borderless model, and the driving force behind its client work.

Bringing Exceptional ALIEN Studio to life and what its unique and disruptive model brings to the industry

The Exceptional Alien Studio has a team of 14 in Sydney, in addition to its team in Los Angeles and New York.

Drape and Canning have worked on the studio for a few years, developing its creative community and meeting its exceptional creators worldwide. Drape noted that the phase allowed and informed them of a new and exciting way to work with brands, shaping the blueprint of what of the studio and its offering.

Both Drape and Canning share backgrounds in marketing communications at creative agencies and the sentiments of recalibrating and understanding the possibilities of strategic and creative storytelling.

Canning noted that in the past creative projects by the studio have set the standard and become the blueprint for a different way to work that is a “highly collaborative and borderless model for collaboration.”

“The Exceptional Alien Studio model is about inviting different talent from around the world to work on projects with our team in the sense of who would be right and brilliant for these projects with their skills and backgrounds,” he said, noting that the opportunity is open to people from all different types of nationalities.

Exceptional ALIEN Studio

Exceptional ALIEN Studio’s creativity-driven work and what it has delivered to clients

Exceptional ALIEN Studio has already worked with Tourism New Zealand, Atout France, Art Gallery of NSW, Visit Victoria, Warner Music, Sony, Mushroom Music, Freeride World Tour and DC Shoes. 

The studio’s work with South Africa Tourism saw them collaborate with musicians, football stars, sommeliers, philanthropists, conservationists, fashion designers, photographers, and chefs.

The work saw over 900 hours of stories consumed across three months, which reached 15% of the Australian population. Meanwhile, the ten talents featured shared the content with their own audiences, which achieved a total reach of more than 11.6 million people.

Drape said: “The creators were able to share their country as the creators of that series. It is a good example of a story with a lot of authenticity because the people are actually the story themselves.”

Mosilo Sofonia, sub-head for South African Tourism Australasia, praised their work and said: “It has been a privilege to collaborate with a truly innovative disruptor such as Exceptional ALIEN to tell our stories and feature as its first long-haul destination campaign.”

The studio also produced the Exceptional ALIEN MVP app, which launched in January. The app, available on Apple and Andriod, features Travel Playbooks for 33 countries created through the lens of a creator and guides from their perspective, adding authentic storytelling and cultural connection to that place.

Camming explained: “It feels like you’re travelling connected to a global community of well-informed creators, and there’s trust there. You can trust that the recommendations, or the travel gems as we call them, will be interesting as an experience.

“In essence, it’s like a 21st-century itinerary that allows you to connect to cultural places and experiences through the guidance of these exceptional creatives,” he added.

The driving forces behind its exceptional work

“Creativity takes you places” is the driving philosophy behind the work Exceptional ALIEN Studio delivers to clients, Draper and Canning said.

Canning explained that the statement was inspired by the people whose stories they shared. “Their creativity takes some places all around the world, whether it be someone who’s picked up and moved to a different country, city, or culture. Or people who come from a global lens of creativity,” he said.

“We believe in the power of creativity and bringing together those different voices, perspectives, nationalities, cultures, and backgrounds. To be able to bring together all those different skill sets and people to work on projects captures what can be a unique outcome because you have different perspectives working on a project,” he added.

Drape also noted that “creativity takes you places” has been central to the studio’s new model. He said: “It’s that idea that we can use creativity to tell meaningful stories and create collaborations between exceptional creators, brands that are brave and have a purpose and the studio itself.”

“It’s an exciting time for us to be able to offer that to the market and work globally immediately. You can get into a habit where you start working a certain way, and those habits inform your outcome.

Drape explained that the studio aims to approach each project in a unique way and to achieve its outcome. He said: “It’s the fact that we’ll bring unique talent to work on that project. Therefore, the outcome will be different versus the same people, the same teams working on the same project.”

Canning added that at Exceptional Alien Studio, they believe “creativity is borderless.”

“Ideas and creativity can spread across borders very quickly. We want Exceptional Alien Studio to be a platform that can collaborate with creators and different thinkers in a very borderless way,” he said.

Exceptional ALIEN Studio

Drape reflects on how stepping away from industry recalibrated his view on what’s possible

After his long tenure at The Monkeys, which he co-founded, Drape took some time away from the industry before returning in 2021 to launch Exceptional ALIEN Studio.

Drape shared that while the industry is an exciting place, he felt that habits began to naturally. “I had to extract myself from the industry to get a recalibrated view of what’s possible,” he said.

Drape noted meeting thought leaders, entrepreneurs and creators around the world opened him to new ideas about what can be done with brands.

“Only in hindsight can you realise that you have to step away to get a new perspective on something. Otherwise, you continue down the same path. That’s helped to inform the blueprint network Exceptional ALIEN Studio is,” Drape added.

What to expect from the Exceptional ALIEN Studio team

Looking ahead, Drape and Canning shared that Exceptional ALIEN Studio will work with big brands and organisations with big ambitions and require exceptional thinking and global talent.

Canning said: “With the blueprint that we’ve uncovered with Exceptional ALIEN and commercial partnerships, we realise we can apply that to working with any brands, and we’ve been excited to have those inquiries and interest.

Going forward, Canning added that the studio continues to be a borderless platform that brings together exceptional talent worldwide to create great, impactful work that people care about.

Canning said: “Whether it be value through entertainment or storytelling, or through something more utility-driven. It is valuable in some way.

“We’re not interested in a model of interruption or the work that does that. It’s more about how we get people’s attention for the right reasons and create work that has value,” he added.

Top image left and right: Justin Drape and Michael Canning. Photo by Derek Henderson

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