Zulu Alpha Kilo lands top global creative talent to open New York office

After opening a Vancouver office in February, Zulu Alpha Kilo is expanding to New York with a new office led by Tim Gordon, who was most recently co-chief creative officer at Droga5 New York.

For now the office is just Gordon, but new staff will be added shortly. There is one unnamed client, and a temporary office in Soho, with a permanent location designed for the new post-Covid hybrid work era still to come.

Along with leading creative at one the top ad agencies in the world, Gordon has a long list of creative accolades to his name, including four Grand Prix in Cannes: Two for the New York Times’ “The Truth is Hard” campaign, one for Under Armour’s Michael Phelps film, and another for Puma’s “After Hours Athlete.” (See all three campaigns below.)

Agency founder Zak Mroueh said they had been considering U.S. expansion for more than a year, and while they looked at the West Coast, they ultimately decided New York made the most sense. It has “the best creative talent in the world,” the most business opportunities, and it’s a short flight to Toronto, he said. Both No Fixed Address and Rethink have both opened New York offices in recent years, though another independent, Juliet, opted for Los Angeles for its U.S. expansion.

Once word got out that ZAK was looking to open in New York, they were approached by president and managing director types, but Mroueh wanted to start with the creative lead. “If you open up a restaurant, you want to have your executive chef,” he said.

And with Gordon in place, they are now actively looking to hire a managing director or president, a head of planning, and additional creative talent. As they build out the New York office, they can draw on resources and staff from both Toronto and the quickly growing Vancouver office. “We’re a network now because we’re going to have three offices, but we’re operating as one agency,” said Mroueh.

Gordon said he wasn’t looking to leave Droga5, which was acquired by Accenture in 2019, and retains a strong reputation as one of the world’s top creative agency brands. But when he heard about the opportunity with Zulu Alpha Kilo, and learned more about how “like-minded” he and Mroueh are, he knew he had to take the job. “It became too good to pass up,” he said.

“I’ve heard Zak say a lot that the world needs more creativity,” said Gordon. “When it comes to solving the business problems of our clients, creativity is at the core of it.”

Opening in New York and landing one of the top creatives in the world is part of a larger ambition Mroueh has had since opening ZAK in 2008. “It’s about reaching the goal of being the world’s number one creative company,” he said.

The agency has won a number of international honours in the last couple of years, both at top awards shows (including a strong showing in the recent Cannes Lions) and from international trade magazines, so they were already getting more interest from clients outside Canada. Opening New York is a natural next step to build on that momentum.

“When I look back at the founding vision of Zulu, it was that global clients will one day reach out to us,” said Mroueh. “It’s been a 14-year process we’ve been building. I think in Canada, we’re well known. But over the last two years, we’ve solidified a bit of a reputation globally so it makes it easier to have those conversations with clients.”

But opening in New York is by no means the last step toward Mroueh’s dream to be the best in the world. “Long term, the goal for Zulu is beyond the U.S.,” he said. “We want to build an international agency and one day, down the road, that will probably be another office outside of North America.”

Originally from Vancouver, Gordon graduated from VCU’s famous Brandcenter program before joining Droga5, where he stayed for 14 years—rising up the ranks before being named co-chief creative officer in late 2019. He’s worked on Coke Zero, The New York Times, American Express Travel, Clearasil, AirWick, Motorola, Harry’s, Under Armour, Chase, Mattress Firm, Paramount+ and Reform Alliance.

And despite being a New Yorker for the last 14 years, Gordon also said he remains a true Canucks fan: “You can print this, I will never be a Rangers fan. Not after ’94.”

David Brown