Hawke’s Brewing and ex-Droga pair launch creative agency, The Ministry for Communication & The Arts

“We launched Hawke’s during the rise of the indie (craft) beer movement and strangely, it now feels like the time of the indie agency movement.”

The co-founders of Hawke’s Brewing Co – David Gibson and Nathan Lennon – have returned to their creative agency roots, launching an independent agency called The Ministry for Communication & The Arts to service both their own brands and others.

“It was conceived inside Bob Hawke’s office at the brewery, so it just made sense to name it as if it were a department of his government,” Lennon told Mediaweek.

We launched Hawke’s during the rise of the indie (craft) beer movement and strangely, it now feels like the time of the indie agency movement. Just like building a beer brand in a saturated market, agencies are going to need a real point of difference.

“Our difference lies in the fact that we’ve built value in some of the biggest companies in the world, and we’ve built value in our own brands. We believe MCA will bring a rare mix of creativity, commericiality and empathy. We’ve sat in just about every chair of our own businesses.”

Gibson and Lennon were formerly creative directors at Droga5 in New York, becoming start-up founders upon their move back to Sydney with the launch of Hawke’s Brewing Co and the Bob Hawke Beer and Leisure Centre, the Marrickville home of a pub and the Lucky Prawn Chinese restaurant.

While MCA has been set up primarily to service these brands, Lennon confirmed “we’re making our services available to partners outside our business.”

“We hope they see The Ministry for Communication & the Arts is seen less as a typical ‘agency’ and more as a creative problem-solver. While a focus will be on ‘brand’, we expect some briefs to stretch beyond traditional campaign work – from brand experience, to IP and brand creation, to innovative ideas that can be operationalised into a business for growth outcomes.”

Asked whether they missed creative agencies too much to stay away, Lennon and Gibson said it’s less about the business itself, and more about the culture.

“It’s always about the people and nurturing a ‘culture of care’ where we make impactul creative decisions for each other and our partners. We’ve experienced it at some agencies. We’ve done our best to create it in our own business. And we hope to bring that culture to anyone who works at or with The Ministry for Communication & the Arts.”

In November, Gibson told Mediaweek that if it wasn’t for the brave, or stupid, part of them, they never would have started the beer brand in the first place: “We’d worked so hard to get to a place in our careers where we were just at that tipping point. We could have gone on to get our boss’s job and our boss’s boss’s job and financial security, and still got to live in a favourite city. There were so many reasons not to do it.”

The duo said it all started at Droga. They had an idea. “Let’s ask Australia’s most iconic Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, to start a beer company with us. And before he gives us an answer, let’s quit our jobs, just to make it interesting.”

The Bob Hawke Beer & Leisure Centre, Marrickville, NSW

The Bob Hawke Beer & Leisure Centre in Marrickville

While MCA, their latest project, was spurred by a love for founding businesses and building brands, “our most potent realisation was that creativity can solve more than just the problems that clients typically give to their agencies. We have proof. It’s in the businesses we’ve built.”

Earlier this month, the pair launched a pokies machine for good, installing a gaming machine in the Marrickville business whose takings are donated to environmental charities. Gibson said of the idea:

“The Hawke’s journey started with Bob Hawke passing on his royalty share to help the company support environmental causes. Since then, every Hawke’s beer enjoyed has helped us keep that promise.

“The ‘Game for Good’ is a continuation of that spirit, while delivering an important message around our collective gamble with the environment. Ultimately, if the environment loses, we all lose. If it wins, we all win.”

Top image: Lennon (left) and Gibson

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