Has Aussie creativity lost its edge?

OMA asked Ali Tilling, Simon Fowler, Andrew Howie and Carmen Bekker about their thoughts

Pier One provided the rather opulent Harbour setting for my breakfast this morning, kindly laid on by the folks at the Outdoor Media Association. What got me out for a 7am start, apart from free bacon and eggs? The chance to hear some of the industry’s best debating the relative strength globally of the Australian creative industry.

Contending that we’d commercially fallen behind the rest of the world were ex-JWT Carmen Bekker and Meat & Livestock marketer Andrew Howie. His tagline-laced trip down 80/90’s ad memory lane, helped laugh off any potential for yawning. Kiwi Simon Fowler from WithCollective and Brit Ali Tilling from BMF offered their rebuttal.

    Talent Drain

It’s not exactly a new phenomenon, but it is an important one. Carmen highlighted that unless Australia can attract and retain the best talent, there are plenty more hotbeds that can offer greater access to global accounts. And it’s that struggle to export work beyond these shores that is often a problem. Advertising at its best celebrates diversity, in thought, culture and background. We need to ensure this is a great place to work so…

    “Don’t let the bland and mediocre run us”

Charmaine Moldrich from OMA spoke of her recent trip to a Swedish creativity awards, and the strength of European work compared with Australia. The depth of great work across Europe is very apparent. “It shouldn’t only be judged on awards, but the level underneath that.”
And inevitably the issue of Sportsbet’s ‘Putting the Roid in Android’ ad came up. In this PR’s opinion a genuinely great ad, that was clearly never meant as anything other than tongue in cheek. I haven’t heard moral compass used as a justification since Tony Blair in 2003.

MLA’s always humourous Andrew Howie, called it: “Australian’s aren’t funny anymore. There’s been a rise in a group I call the ‘Concerned Australian’ who are bothered on behalf of others…for our MLA ad only about 6 of the 746 complaints were valid”, the rest were those appalled on behalf of vegans.

    We need more Lions

Cannes based ones are great, but outside of awards, it’s the everyday bravery of marketers that will get more effective ideas across the line. It takes a brave marketer to trust that daring creative ideas will work for their brand. And agencies have a role to play. An intense level of ROI is needed according to ex-JWT Carmen Bakker, “We need to give marketers the tools to prove that it works, give them the results to be sat at the top table”.
Being ex-agency it’s perhaps easier for MLA’s Howie to accuse most marketers of being ‘shit’. But his reasoning is right, most swim in the middle of the pack, because it’s safe.

    The three P’s

Pitching. Price. And procurement. The increasing role of procurement in the pitch process is potentially dangerous, as decisions may come down to simply price. Not only that but it’s damaging to the industry to have the incessant pitching culture where IP is often given away. All panelists were against this increasing trend. As BMF’s Ali Tilling pointed out, the tenure of CMO’s is continually shortening, averaging just 14 months now. It’s difficult to have the trust need to back creative execution if most don’t get to see a second Australia Day. The creative culture from that perspective needs fixing.

    Data, Insight, Strategy

If the CEO understands the insight, informed by the data, then he/she can explain the strategy. Simon Fowler of WithCollective claimed that we need clients to “buy the logic” behind the magic (aka strategy). And if they understand the strategy it doesn’t matter what the creative is said Howie. “My CEO can simply know that lamb brings people together” whether that strategy means sponsoring Pride or running ads helicoptering Mitchell Johnson from a sun-lounger in Bali for Australia Day.

The Twitter poll on the day agreed that Australia had lost its edge, but there is a lot of great work being produced. It could always be more effective though, measuring business impact of campaigns. Howie’s marketing approach seems obvious, but let’s ensure creative, media and PR are briefed together to allow each to contribute to the success of a campaign idea. Which in turn will hopefully mean the channel is less debated and important, as long as the audience is being reach in the most appropriate platform, be it outdoor, TV or Snapchat.

Australia’s largest IT and tech event CeBit comes to Sydney

This week Commswork went along to CeBit.

In the cavernous new ICC venue in Darling Harbour, those from the government, education, digital, cloud, fin tech, security and technology space came to discuss and exhibit under one massive roof.

There were a host of panel sessions and key notes from Eugene Kaspersky, NASA’s Dennis Andrucyk, Randi Zuckerberg, WIRED’s Greg Williams, Nick Kaye, Naomi Simpson, Daniel Newman and Nicholas Davis from the World Economic Forum Geneva.

As reported by GovNews, the federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Arthur Sinodinos was on hand to play down the loss of jobs to technology, but without much conviction:

“I know some people now ask ‘should we be a bit scared because innovation means that jobs are going in some areas’, but jobs are growing in others. There are jobs being created today that we have no idea. This is the lesson of history. This is the lesson of technological progress. We have to be optimists.”

Earlier in the week NSW Innovation Minister Matt Kean and Federal Trade Minister Ciobo announced applications to Austrade’s second cohort of Landing Pad startups to visit Tel Aviv is now open, as covered by Innovation Aus.

A good summary of the driverless cars, robots, remote working technology and VR on offer can be found on Finder.com.

For a better idea of what the stands looked like, CRN has a photo gallery.

And finally Chris Griffiths from The Aus spoke with the man behind Worker Clicks, the video chat pods dotted around the conference, helping to navigate those who were lost.

Until next year CeBit.

A brief summary from IAB Sports in Digital Media event

Earlier in the week I attended IAB Australia’s first foray into the sports world. Discussing sports in digital media we had Nine Entertainment, Nielsen and Seven West Media at host Telstra.

First up. Big news for rugby league supporters. The announcement of a new app from Channel Nine and the NRL. What does this mean? In short, viewers will have “greater access to what players go through”. Live stats, powered by Catapult Sports, to accompany the game. And what a game to debut in. Launch will be Game I of the State of Origin series. To find out more Mumbrella spoke to those behind the project.

The wearable GPS technology, once considered the realm of just coaches, will provide fans analysis, like distances covered, while the match is happening. Time-syncing will allow you to go back and find out the heart rate of players like Mitchell Pearce while in the tackle. We can’t wait. Let’s just hope the ‘Datatainment’ description for the product doesn’t catch on.

Sam Brennan went on to explain how Nine segments its audience into 30 profiles, “an important tool for customers to optimise campaigns”. One for the media agency planners. While mainly used to better understand behaviour patterns, this also “influences our content pipeline” said Brennan.

Not to be outdone, Seven had its own nuggets to take away. CDO Clive Dickens said the organisation is focused on growing ‘Total Video’ audiences, (SVOD, streaming with the main slice still being linear TV). Which-50 explains what that means in greater detail.

One of the surprising stats was that Seven’s streaming of the Melbourne Cup achieved more traffic at race time, than the rest of the internet combined! Admittedly this was just on Telstra’s network. But still impressive. And for him it’s about growing all audiences, reaching those which might not traditionally have tuned in had it not been for digital. “Powerful stories raise all of the boats” as illustrated when Dickens added that while digital represented only 3% of Seven’s total audience for the Olympics, that still equates to two week’s worth of Home & Away viewers.

Thanks very much to IAB Australia for having us along.

Nike’s ‘Breaking2’ marathon project is marketing…at its very best

It was the attempt that almost never happened. Gusting winds and showers left conditions less than perfect. But as the sun was sinking in the Oxford sky, Roger Bannister informed his pace-setters they’d go for the record. And two years after the disappointment of Olympic fourth, he achieved what others had deemed impossible. Bannister became the first human to run a mile in under four minutes.

Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile on May 6, 1954. “It just didn’t seem to be capable of being broken,” he said. Credit Associated Press

Today, on the 63rd anniversary of the ‘dream mile’, three athletes will attempt to break the next magical figure in distance running, as they battle to complete a marathon in under two hours.

Speaking on this barrier in 2014, Bannister told the NY Times that with the right temperature, wind conditions and on a course that wasn’t too hilly it would be possible. “It’ll be done”, he predicted.

Conscious of controlling those variables, the Breaking2 campaign from Nike has been years in the making.

Today sport tech companies like Catapult Sports can use sensors (wearable tech) to monitor the body’s response to environments. The results can be automated using machine learning to predict when/what an athlete should drink to improve performance. Predictive analytics also selected 5.45am on the Monza asphalt racing track in Italy, to give the athletes’ bodies the best chance to regulate their own temperature.

The conditions too played a role in Felix Baumgartner’s Space Jump, a similar project in pushing human capabilities, which was funded by Red Bull in 2012. The energy drink this month making headlines for the success of its RB Leipzig football team.

Source Velocity Sports Equipment

Now despite claims to the contrary, just as with Red Bull Stratos, this initiative from the apparel brand is just part of its marketing. The ‘Moonshot’ project, namesake seemingly to Google’s ‘moonshot factory’, is another way to sell shoes. As the effectiveness of traditional channels is questioned and adblocking levels rise, marketers are increasingly turning to owned and earned media.

Nike has created an event which inspires human evolution, at least in distance running, while showcasing its Zoom Vaporfly Elite shoe. And all the while garnering the attention of the media but also its punters. The ‘live-streaming’ mechanism drives traffic to its site and the potentially historic content itself demands that its shared. It will achieve metrics many digital campaigns would run an ultra-marathon for.

This week self-proclaimed futurist, Anders Sörman-Nilsson, spoke at Orcale’s modern business event, remarking that with Nike+ the sportswear brand had transitioned from the experience economy to the transformation economy. An app with advice, planning tools and even a soundtrack to your marathon run. Yes and e-commerce functionality too.

When you take the jargon out, he’s probably right. Nike is aiming to associate itself with the positive changes you make to your body and life, by offering the tools to get there – aided slightly by psychological grooming, using the Proteus effect (a shift in your behaviour after seeing a future digital representation of yourself).

Nike is changing the way it reaches its audience. But whether the record goes today or not, the media attention and free promotion of Nike’s latest product has been worth the investment in the athletes making this historic attempt.

And if it comes off, will we remember the name like Roger Bannister in 60+ years time? Or will Nike be the one that comes to mind instead of Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa or Zersenay Tadese?

Lessons in PR crisis management from United Airlines CEO – Communicator of the Year

Liam Fitzpatrick, Communications Consultant, asks what B2B Australian marketers can take from the latest United Airlines brand crisis

Over the last 24 hours United Airlines has become the most talked about brand globally. Viral videos. Trending on social media. However for CEO Oscar Munoz, recently crowned Communicator of the Year, it was for all the wrong reasons.

In short, United overbooked its flight from Chicago to Louisville. To accommodate its four additional travelling airline personnel, compensation was offered to randomly-selected ‘volunteers’ already on the plane. Three out of the four accepted, a doctor refused. In line with company procedure, Aviation Security Officers physically removed this customer.

Disturbing camera phone footage of the incident shows the officers assaulting the man before dragging him from his seat through the aisle of the plane. Very far from the customer experience most would expect.

A shot at redemption though lie in United’s response to the events. It was a chance to demonstrate the company’s values in full view of the world.

Which is why it was a little surprising that someone awarded for his aptitude in this area, failed to show any empathy and ended up sounding like a robotic lawyer.

He talks of how upsetting it was for ‘all of us here at United’. But when your company causes distress and physical harm to your customers you should apologise to them – both to those directly affected and to those who witnessed the events. The statement feels cold, it passes on blame and comes across as unrepentant. Where is the commitment to reform?

For those of us in Australian comms it brings a reminder of how not to respond in a crisis. Here are five simple rules to remember:

1) No brand story is local. These events may have taken place in Chicago, but with global media reporting on the story and international online petitions, it’s clear your customers don’t follow your domestic boundaries.

2) Heads will roll. Your first statement is a chance to show you understand the gravity of a situation and you’re doing everything in your power to resolve it. The CEO’s apology for having to ‘reaccomodate’ passengers feels as if it came from his legal team – it lacks appreciation for what has happened to one of his customers. We’re all human, so when seeking forgiveness, it’s appropriate to speak like one.

3) Own the situation. Admit when you’ve made a mistake. And when overseeing any incident it’s vital you have all of the information possible before engaging in comms internally or externally. It will allow you to answer questions, alleviate concerns and appear like you care. It will also prevent you having to use the phrase ‘while the facts are still evolving’ in a letter to your employees a day later.

4) Communication lines are vital. Open dialogue shows a company willing to be transparent with its customers, as opposed to one which refuses to comment on a situation even deferring to a police department not even involved in the incident. You should demand information from all sides, not just your own, to find out what happened. That way your resolution can at least appear informed.

5) Live your values. If your customer commitment says you will notify travel itinerary changes in a timely manner, probably best not to be asking those sat on a plane to get off and wait for another flight tomorrow. This is a chance to investigate your procedures, make changes, and ensure there’s no repeat of these events. Time to publicly demonstrate your company values, instead of paying them lip-service at the end of a statement.

Update: United Airlines had to expect a reaction from competition and here it is:

Further Update: Someone managed to convince United to actually apologise and set a timetable for investigating how they screwed up and how they will change procedure. $1bn wiped off market value and all a little too late.

The future of AI in marketing – why it’s just a matter of time before your job is lost

Jobs and roles in business are changing. Take air travel. The pilot used to be revered as the most important position on an aeroplane. Fast forward to today and it is the flight attendant delivering the customer experience who is valued most, as the plane mostly runs on autopilot.

And this paradigm shift is coming to your sector soon warned Jarther Taylor, CEO at Datarati, speaking on Aquent’s AI in marketing panel last night.

“I think all jobs could be replaced by automation. The issue is just the time horizon.”

“The cost and speed of doing business is already decreasing, thanks to AI” and so businesses that are traditional in their marketing thinking will risk being left further behind according to Taylor.

However there are going to be bumps to sort out along the way. For example ‘AI backfires’, where machine learning behaves in an unexpected or damaging way – see Microsoft Tay. “If you’re not collecting the right data you’ll be driving incoherencies” says Chris Collacott from Deloitte Digital. Essentially if you’re not inputting useful data and setting suitable parameters for AI, you can’t expect its results to work. Brand strategies with the wrong metrics can damage reputation quickly.

This is to be expected says Henry Cho, head of UX and AI at Upwire and mobile UX at CommBank. Irresponsible bot behaviour is down to how the program is designed which is why he believes we need to be investing more in behavioural scientists and evolutionary psychologists. “In 10-15 years the nature of intelligence and how we perceive it will have changed”.

Many Australian blue collar workers have lost their jobs, with another 20% expected in the next eight years. While white collar legal professionals, financial analysts and any role involving repetition are also likely to be replaced by automation. This includes coding, so maybe hold off that course which your boss has recommended. Which is why Kristi Mansfield, head of customer experience at Oracle, thinks universal income may be needed. “It’s going to be up to us, it’s a generational point, and we need to solve it.”

It will be difficult to know when an industry will be disrupted. Customers are now willing to spend 400% more for concert tickets than a decade ago, while listening to most music for free, Collacott observed. He went on to say there will be new roles created for humans as “Subjectivity is always going to be important. But what will be hard to replicate is trust and interpretation.” Everyone agreed that technology struggles to imitate emotions and empathy – and even when it does it could verge into the uncanny valley of AI.

We’ll need to readjust to where humans can add the most value. As Datarati’s Jarther Taylor concluded “Businesses need to invest in their people and culture”. Technology will always be changing but it will be the people you have and the the systems in place to embrace it that will result in success.

Top Three PR Industry Myths

Get into PR and I guarantee two things. Family and friends outside of the media will never understand what you do. And to rise to the top, you will need to work/network your arse off.

PR is not for everyone. Ever the need to be the mediator, you’re likely to receive flak from journalists because of clients, and from your client because of circumstances beyond your control.

But mainly it’s exciting. Always varied. And at a recent PRCA event I tried to inform the next generation of PR folk on what they can expect. Here are three of the most common misconceptions:

1. PR is one long list of parties

OK, so there’s Cannes Lions. Oh, and Ad Week Europe for those of us in media/advertising. But that’s about… actually, how could I forget SxSW. However, those who think the role is endless alcohol-drenched soirées have not spent weeks researching a plan for a campaign, only for it to get pulled at the last minute. It can feel like half of your time is spent justifying what you’re spending the other half of your time doing. Slight exaggeration maybe, but your administrative skills need to be sharp. Prioritising double-digit task lists is key. Get it done, accurately, and move on to the next.

2. Public relations is all about spin

The phrase covering a turd in glitter comes to mind. Malcolm Tucker-style tirades. Bullshit artists right? Not quite. PR is actually about honesty. Holding a mirror up to a client and persuading them to become a better version of themselves. Journalists are rightly cynical when speaking with PRs. But once you establish a relationship with those in the media and remain truthful, your words carry a new sense of value. So earn the right to be listened to. And demand the tools you need to deliver great coverage for clients. Ultimately both will respect a frank and open discussion. Take what clients want to say and couch it in terms the media will find newsworthy and the bridge is built. More translator, less salesman.

3. The customer is always right

Like a patient who doesn’t listen to their doctor, or gym bunny who ignores their trainer’s advice; those who disregard counsel will never get healthy. So focus on your relationship first and the rest will follow.
We can only prescribe the solution, it’s then those clients willing to invest the time that will reap the media rewards. No quick fixes I’m afraid. The best advice I’ve had is that clients will forgive mistakes if you’re straight with them. After all, who wouldn’t want to work harder for someone who shows measured compassion; everyone loves a redemption story, right?

Brexit: a colossal collapse in communications and why Cameron deserved to go

I started writing this article at the beginning of June. Remember when the pound was a credible currency. And England’s football team still had support.

The aim then was to highlight the lack of any visible promotion I’d seen for the #Remain/#StrongerIn camp by that point. It felt frustrating that I’d already voted by post before the bulk of campaigning seemed to have started.

And then the tragic news came through about Jo Cox. An MP killed for her beliefs. A violent and mindless act of extremism. And suddenly the arguments were put into perspective.

Front page of Yorkshire Post

Yet the severity of one person’s actions did not put off a disillusioned nation from voting for, what one friend described as, a ‘cackle of political pantomime villains’. Post-Brexit I’ve witnessed the justifications from those voters about taking ‘control’ back from an over-bureaucratic Brussels. And that’s fine. Despite what #Remain voters say we do still live in a democracy.

The trouble with this is David Cameron. He handed control of our future to the public; who through no fault of their own simply didn’t have the knowledge or experience to make this decision. The giddy after-glow of an election landslide coupled with a threat on the right from UKIP prompted an ill-judged referendum promise.

The would-be-hilarious-if-it-wasn’t-so-sad stories which followed framed the problem perfectly. Just hours after the result came in, the most Googled phrases in the UK were ‘What is the EU?’ and ‘What happens if we leave the EU?’

It’s disturbing that people had to belatedly search for what should have been at the heart of the #Remain campaign. It was a chance to educate public about the great benefits of the EU. Not just garnering public backers. Or discrediting the opposition – although a thorough dismantling of inaccurate statistics would have helped (see £350m-a-week to the EU).

And a week after the vote, the advertising agencies responsible for the tardy #Remain showing, have released a cannon of work which was turned down. Reports of decision-by-committee and last minute changes, have all been levelled at the #Remain camp’s door. And all of this under the command of a former PR man! Communicating a message should be as simple as watching House of Cards for him by now.

Politics is personal. It invokes passion. And advertising needs to draw on that. At its persuasive best, it should convey one message leaving the viewer/reader with an emotion. The Leave campaign knew this – which is why they tapped into two main shared values with supporters. The desire to take back control from Europe. And immigration. As the ‘father of advertising’ David Ogilvy said: “If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.”

The #Remain campaign had the support of almost anyone it wanted. Yet it ran with videos of celebs like Kiera Knightly telling us ‘don’t fuck with our future’. No matter the outcome, my future was always going to be different to theirs. So how could I relate? Calling on A-Listers to persuade those who felt disenfranchised, seems misjudged.

Keira Knightly support lacked relevance

Think back yourself to any stats you can remember from the whole referendum. I can only think of #Leave figures – despite how wild the National Statistics Office deemed them.

Cameron should never have put this choice in the hands of the population without first educating. And £9m on a poorly worded and confusing leaflet does not count. He had the chance to run a positive campaign. But it failed to ever get going. Perhaps it was misplaced arrogance when reading articles like this Torygraph one from February about just how easy the whole referendum would be.

Either way Cameron had to go. He’s not the first Conservative PM to have Europe contribute to their downfall. But he might be the last if his successor triggers article 50. Let’s hope we manage to get someone who is able to articulate their beliefs at little better.

The Brexit Battle Bus of lies – Credit: Charlotte Graham

Ideas that excite: What to expect from PR at Cannes Lions

This article was originally published by global creative magazine Shots

The sun is shining, Pharrell’s Happy stalks every speaker you pass on La Croisette and England are still in the World Cup. This time last year was truly a frenzy of hopeful expectation – and that was just those awaiting judgement on their Cannes entries (before we found out who we should be paying homage to and those just merely lip service).

Like Dumb Ways to Die the year before, Chipotle’s Scarecrow campaign [below] was on everyone’s lips last summer and for the second year on the trot, the PR Award was won by…wait for it… a PR agency [Edelman].

The power of advertising is well documented, but what of its less limelight-grabbing sister PR? Business guru Warren Buffet once remarked, “it takes 20 years to build reputation and five minutes to ruin it”. Which highlights why the subtle art of protecting one’s public image is one of the fastest-growing professions worldwide.

But why would an award dedicated to earned media so often be coveted and awarded to those in the paid arena? The answer lies in the essence of what makes a good PR campaign.

Warren Buffet once remarked, “it takes 20 years to build reputation and five minutes to ruin it”

For those of us more comfortable behind the scenes, we work through influencers to create and pique that initial interest/awareness in a campaign. To take home a Lion, organisers maintain that high level engagement and strategy with business results are needed. And don’t get me wrong, they’re very neat and quantifiable aims. But for me it could be simpler: Is yours the campaign that has everyone talking?

Whether they’re quaffing rosé at the Carlton, drinking from their jamjars in Shoreditch or supping a real ale pint on the Yorkshire moors – are you the topic of general public conversation? Then, and only then, have you tapped into the mainstream consciousness and achieved the hierarchical pinnacle of PR coverage needs.

The Sun parodying Mother’s campaign idea – PR gold

When, for instance, you have the front page of a country’s best selling newspaper parodying your campaign with a senior politician, I think it’s safe to say you’ve cracked it – a feat that Mother achieved when The Sun illustrated chancellor George Osborne giving his best Epic Strut prior to the election [above].

Talkability is high on any client’s checklist when casting an evaluative eye over the success of a campaign and will no doubt be front and centre of judges’ minds. Especially when they look at potential entries like United Nations 805 Million Names by Forsman & Bodenfors, a campaign which drove the undeniably important message of starvation.

Zlatan uses his body as a canvas in a way only he can – Credit: AFP PHOTO / TRIBOUILLARDKENZO /AFP/Getty Images

In February we saw just how large a campaign can grow when a personality as well-known as £520,000-a-week Zlatan Ibrahimović [above] offered his body as a canvas to tattoo 50 of the 805m names…albeit only temporarily. The result though was impressive with stories everywhere from Fast Company to the Mail Online.

Another campaign which has been building a lot of momentum in the lead up to Cannes comes from Leo Burnett. Now this started as a P&G ad campaign but I’d argue that it has PR at its heart in sparking debate within the media through to classrooms across the globe. #LikeAGirl [below] cleverly inverts the meaning of a phrase through the lens of a 10-year-old girl, changing something previously derogatory to an affirming badge to proudly display. It is the kind of insight which juggernauts a campaign into the stratospheric realms of worldwide support.

When we think of what does well within the prism of Cannes Lions, let’s not forget that a good idea is exactly that. It should identify an insight and then place that at the nucleus of any campaign. It won’t necessarily guarantee headlines but it will definitely give you a better chance of tapping into the zeitgeist.

Good ideas should translate into any brand’s language. So as author Simon Sinek suggests, let’s start with why, and worry about the whens and wheres of the channel later. Paid, owned or earned, the best ideas are the ones that initiate debate and encourage collaboration behind an overarching objective.