Zulu Alpha Kilo opens New York office led by Tim Gordon

The former Droga5 CCO has been tasked with setting the vision and bringing top talent to the agency's first international outpost.
Zulu NYC_2

Zulu Alpha Kilo founder and CCO Zak Mroueh (left) with new partner and CCO Tim Gordon.

Zulu Alpha Kilo has hired former Droga5 creative leader Tim Gordon as CCO and partner, securing a key element to help the agency establish and grow its first international office in New York City.

“We started alluding to New York probably a year and a half ago,” says agency founder and CCO Zak Mroueh. “In that time we’ve talked to some pretty incredible people and big names that have done amazing work. But what I was missing was a bit of entrepreneurial spirit to make them want to leave very comfortable jobs. I met Tim at an award show, and he wasn’t looking to leave, because he had arguably one of the top creative jobs in the country. But that’s the caliber of talent we wanted to go after.”

“A lot of the work the agency is doing is scrappy by nature or, frankly, really advertising by nature, which is a thing that excites me,” Gordon adds, referring to work like “Tough Turban,” “Pause to Remember” or “Green Screen Shirt.” “I’m excited to see sort of what kind of work we come out with in New York, but the thing that I can guarantee you that is it won’t be formulaic, and it won’t be expected. That’s the goal we’ll hold ourselves to.”

Gordon, currently the office’s sole employee, has been tasked with getting the office off the ground and bringing on its initial talent, with support from Mroueh and president and CEO Mike Sutton. Though Gordon couldn’t get into too many specifics, that work has gotten under way.

“There’s no denying that the U.S. is the biggest market and has the biggest opportunities, and New York still has the largest gravitational pull for talent,” Gordon says. “But we will likely draw talent from across the U.S., because things have gotten a little borderless in recent years. And that’s really exciting, but the biggest thing for me was to help grow something and build something as a partner with Zak’s support from the ground up. Looking at where the future of agencies go is really exciting.”

Originally from Vancouver, Gordon began his 14-year career with Droga5 in 2008 as one of the agency’s earliest employees, and was named co-CCO in 2019. He has worked on some of the agency’s most notable award-winning work, including “The Truth is Hard” for The New York Times, Puma’sAfter Hours Athlete,” Under Armor’s Michael Phelps campaign and Vesta’s “Windmade.” Other clients have included Coke Zero, American Express Travel, Clearasil, AirWick, Motorola, Harry’s and Reform Alliance.

Zulu Alpha Kilo also has one to-be-announced client that will be served out of New York, though Mroueh says this is not a case of setting up a new office to serve a client.

“New York was going to be set up regardless, and it just so happened that we won a client along the way,” he says. “It was even more of a bonus.”

First and foremost, Mroueh says, opening in New York is about being able to attract the best talent.

“I really believe, with Tim at the helm and with our support in Toronto, this agency is going to take off, but we’re not going to grow just for the sake of it,” he says. “We didn’t go to New York to just get more revenue. To us, it’s all about creative work, so we went to New York to do the best work to achieve the goal of being the world’s number one creative company. And I believe we’ve got one of the world’s number one creative minds.”

But secondly, with Zulu Alpha Kilo gaining more and more recognition over the last six years from international award shows and press, it has been approached by “dozens” of U.S. clients and invited to pitch on U.S. business.

“I hate the term ‘boots on the ground,’ but we didn’t have anyone there,” Mroueh says. “We maybe could have done it out of Canada, but a lot of times it just didn’t feel right. And on a personal level, I felt like before we went to the U.S. I wanted to make sure we had solidified our global reputation a bit more, and I feel like over the last 18 months we’ve done that.”

Mroueh envisions the New York office working very collaboratively with Zulu’s teams in Toronto and Vancouver, describing it as a network that operates as one.

“Each office will have its unique voice and there will be a unique leader, but ultimately, we’re one network, one agency and we support each other,” he says. “There’s going to be times in the early days, for sure, where Toronto is going to be supporting in a big way. But down the road, there’s some projects we pick up in Vancouver, for example, where Tim might be really valuable in helping because he’s from there.”

Mroueh points out the many similarities between when the agency first started in Toronto in 2008 and opening the New York office today. Both started during recessions. Both had a creative leader at the head (which is also similar to making ECDs Michael Mayes and Dean Lee the first hires in Vancouver to set the path for a new office there).

“That’s actually really important to us,” Mroueh says. “You get Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid and you build a team around that person. And a lot of agencies set up another office and farm the work to Canada, or an agency comes here and just does the work in the states. For us, it is really important to be localized and hire really amazing local talent to make a real statement to the industry there.”

It has been a very busy year for Zulu Alpha Kilo expanding its footprint and service offering. In addition to getting its Vancouver office off the ground this year, the agency has also launched Zulumatic, its media offering.