The unique creative culture of Royal Tunbridge Wells

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As the agency prepares to turn 50 next year, Southpaw's MD Tom Poynter highlights the creative culture of one of England's best-loved spa towns.

Situated in the heart of ‘The Garden of England’, this spa town takes its name from the natural wells that sprung up around 1870 and earned its ‘royal’ title thanks to Queen Victoria’s fondness for it. Even in those days, the town sparkled with enough creativity and culture to keep a capricious queen amused.

Today we are proud to call Royal Tunbridge Wells, RTW for short, the home of our agency. We don’t have to go far to be inspired, challenged and entertained. We have enjoyed mind-expanding days at TEDx RTW, evenings of music and revelry with Jazz on the Pantiles, and the magnificent Kentish countryside in Hever Castle, Bewl Water and Bedgebury Pinetum. All of this brilliance is right on our doorstep!

We have always been proud of our heritage, but never more so than as we prepare to celebrate our fiftieth birthday as an agency next year. In the time Southpaw has been operating, we have watched the agency marketplace grow at pace in the town we love. We thrive on helping grow the creative category here and we’ll never stop getting a kick out of putting Royal Tunbridge Wells firmly on the map.

ghd x Pink – ‘My Tattoo, My Story’

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Earlier this year we helped launch ghd’s 15th Global annual ‘Pink’ campaign, in partnership with cancer charities around the world. The campaign, entitled ‘My Tattoo, My Story’, shone a spotlight on the stories of women who have had mastectomy tattoos by David Allen, a tattoo artist who has spent a decade working with breast cancer survivors to create tattoos that conceal mastectomy scars. David’s designs have been displayed at MoMA in New York and appear on this year’s limited edition ghd platinum+ and ghd gold stylers. For every styler sold, £10 will go to cancer charities, with the aim of raising $1million worldwide. Out of RTW, this campaign is currently live in New York’s Times Square. A proud moment and a truly international affair for our agency.

Go Here

In Tudor times, destinations within a day’s ride from the capital of London were known as the ‘Golden Ring’. For this reason, RTW’s Pantiles were a major holiday destination and they have lost none of their glow since. The Pantiles is home to independent galleries, buzzing cafes and plenty of shops. The colonnaded walkway is an Instagram-ready setting and one of the most photographed areas of the town. Deciding what to do on a balmy Thursday evening in summer is made easy by the famous Jazz on the Pantiles and the fortnightly farmers market is hands-down the best local produce around. It’s also home to the natural Chalybeate Spring, famed for its healing properties. Perfect for soothing sore heads after a night on the (pan)tiles.

Honda Type R

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Honda has been our client for nearly 50 years and when the new Civic Type R model was due to launch across Europe, they approached us to help them. Despite the breadth of our target audience, we found that they all had an unexpectedly high propensity for risk and discovering new things. This sparked the idea that ‘with risk comes reward’ and when we dug deeper, this attitude correlated with that of the Honda engineers, who had to take huge risks to engineer the new Type R model. We concluded that Type R is more than just a car: it’s a type of person. The result was ‘Are You Type R?’ an integrated campaign including Honda’s first major influencer campaign. We carefully selected four individuals who lived and breathed the Type R attitude and invited them to get behind the wheel of the new Type R to race to their limits. Results were excellent with 46% more sales than targeted and over 7 million video views achieved.

Eat Here

Head straight to Central Market, a street food paradise with an outdoor dining area surrounded by a feast of different cuisines. You can find Indian and Argentinian fare, juicy burgers, delicious wine and cheese, and of course, the almost ubiquitous vegan and gluten-free options. There’s always music playing and even though it’s outside, it’s fully covered and heated, so there’s no excuse not to enjoy a nosh and natter with colleagues and friends. It’s one of our favourite haunts.


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Sanctuary Spa had become indistinguishable and lost in-store amongst similar indulgent products. We were briefed to help re-establish them as the brand that exists to ‘Make Women Feel Wonderful’. In research, we discovered that 88% of women believe that brands and media put too much pressure on them to be perfect, with a startling 12 million women feeling like they’re about to burnout. We challenged the trend of female empowerment with a counter-message, that success should not always be defined by busy-ness, by leaning-in and being a superwoman. We encouraged women to step back every now and then, breath and ‘Let Go’. The campaign was global, translated into different languages for key markets and is one of our most famous pieces of work. We had an overwhelming response to the campaign, with an outpouring of positive emotion witnessed across social.


Tom Poynter - MD of Southpaw


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