2020 Small AOY Bronze: Two-man Wunder gets scrappy

The Halifax duo aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, whether the work calls for strategic and creative thinking or a clever PR hack.

Wunder - Group Photo

This story originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2020 issue of strategy.

In 2019, Stephen Flynn and Mike Postma boarded a plane for Cannes.

The duo behind Halifax agency Wunder was to compete in the festival’s Change for Good Hackathon against teams from shops like Dentsu Philippines, McCann Romania and Y&R Miami. There was just one problem: they were three creatives shy of filling the five- person team that was required to participate. So the pair recruited two ad industry friends and Flynn’s fiancée to join them, and returned home with a Bronze.

It’s the kind of scrappy, punch-above-your-weight mentality Wunder has applied to every piece of client work since launching in 2017.

As co-founders and Wunder’s only full-time employees, CD Flynn and director of strategy Postma are de facto generalists, willing to get their hands dirty but not afraid to ask for help from specialists when the need (and client budget) permits.

“When starting Wunder we threw our titles out the window,” says Flynn, adding that their goal when launching the agency was to offer clients a “sliding scale” of options to match the depth of clients’ pockets. “If you don’t have the budget for the partnership with the production house… we’ll pick up a camera; we’ll figure out a way to bring this thing to life.”

For example, in May 2020, United Way Halifax engaged the agency to help highlight the impact the pandemic is having on the city’s homeless and marginalized population. With few production options at the time, the team modified the trending “Stay Home” Instagram sticker to read “No Home,” and promoted the message on social. Later, as restrictions began to lift, it expanded the concept through ambient installations.

“Pretty much everything from the video content [we shot] to the actual installations that ended up in the real world, that was Mike and I roughing up sleeping bags in the backyard and getting all the props designed, driving around in a van to set them up and documenting it, with our in-house gimbals and equipment,” says Flynn.

The duo’s gumption likely comes from having spent time in the startup trenches. They met during a stint at Halifax-based Trampoline Branding, where Flynn was an AD and Postma a developer with a computer science background. When Flynn left to launch mobile app Tap in 2015, his former colleague followed suit. They routinely travelled to Silicon Valley and eventually sold their startup to a U.S.-based company, going full-time with Wunder (originally a side-gig) soon after.

It was a risky-enough endeavour considering Wunder wasn’t launching with a founding client, such as a large CPG or telco, as startups sometimes do, says Flynn.

“We always assumed, if you do enough good work, the money will follow,” adds Postma. “That has so far proven to be the case.” Even through COVID-19, he says the agency continues to hit revenue targets. “We haven’t had to make any adjustments. We’re right where we said we wanted to be 12 months ago.”

Having picked up new assignments from Pexels, Netherlands-based Framewell and other brands, the team has started to consider hiring an additional full-time employee, though the founders must decide what type of outside talent they need most.

The challenge, Flynn says, is choosing to scale by hiring more creative problem solvers – a role he and Postma already fill – or people from specific disciplines, such as digital and PR. In addition to campaigns, the team currently handles a lot of “good paying” digital assignments around UI, UX and mobile app development.

Postma says a PR pro could help fine-tune the agency’s approach to creating ideas that are more likely to garner media coverage for clients. It’s something he and Flynn have already experimented with for the agency itself, having originally caught the attention of United Way with its 2019 self-promo piece.

To promote their agency during the holidays, the duo ran blank billboards, newspaper and OOH ads through the month of December. It only later explained the reasoning – to give people a break from holiday advertising – on social.

The stunt cost each of them their $5,000 bonus that year, says Postma. But with the number of new clients who took notice, the experiment “paid for itself at the end of the day.”

New key business: United Way Halifax; Pexels; Credit Union Financial Management; Framewell; Shopper Intelligence.

Staff: 2