The View from Downunder

Issue 16 | September 2010

For a small industry, we continue to develop big ideas across a wide range of client categories from automotive to chocolate, from beer (of course!) to not-for-profit.  There aren’t many categories we don’t do well if you also consider standout campaigns from previous years including LynxJet, Virgin Credit Cards, Magic Salad Plate and Best Job in the World.  It’s a comprehensive list.

Why is the work so consistently good?  Talent, of course.  Passion and persistence.  But they’re pre-requisites for agencies everywhere.   More likely it’s because the size of the communications industry created a blurring of the lines between the disciplines and true integrated thinking long before it was in practice elsewhere.  With fewer clients, smaller budgets and less population to market to agencies had to capture a client’s total budget by offering more services.

And Aussies don’t like to be left behind.  We may be geographically remote but that doesn’t mean we’re slow to respond to change.  Quite the opposite: we’re early adopters of technology – especially social media.  Although this avid use and incorporation into campaigns isn’t reflected in award wins.

Humour and directness are areas that differentiate the work.  Aussies are a pretty laid back bunch and this is often reflected in the work.  Think Magic Salad Plate, VB Boony Doll and, of course, LynxJet.   And the most recent campaigns from Commonwealth Bank and ANZ certainly make you laugh.  What other countries would let you say “Drink. Drive.  Bloody Idiot” or show a poo explosion for Babylove nappies?

I’m often asked about the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne.  And, yes, it’s there.  There’s a history of long standing rivalry – often friendly, sometimes not – between the two largest cities in Australia.  It’s the reason that Canberra, and not Sydney or Melbourne, were chosen as the capital city when the nation was federated in 1901.  Rivalry and cultural difference is ingrained in our psyche.

“There’s not a lot Sydney-siders and Melburnians agree on” says my good friend, Rob Morrison at BWM.  And he should know: he’s spent time in both cities.  Although nationally we’re sports mad it’s only in Melbourne that you get a public holiday for a horse race.  The very important Melbourne Cup.  With football – it’s either Aussie Rules or NRL- even the fields we play on are different shapes and with beer it’s Tooheys or VB.  We disagree on which city is the nation’s cultural capital, which is the most liveable, which has the best food and wine.

Melbourne and Sydney are different.   Melbourne is renowned for its culture, food, sport and lifestyle.  Whilst Sydney is known more for its Harbour Bridge and Opera House, and surf beaches such as Bondi Beach and Manly.  Melbourne is coffee and people watching to Sydney’s surfing and bronzed bodies.  You could say that Melbourne is more under-stated and conservative; Sydney more status conscious and entrepreneurial.   In Melbourne the old school tie supposedly counts; in Sydney it’s where you live.

The big agencies like DDB, Clemenger,Ogilvy and Y&R have offices in both cities but overall there are more agencies and big clients in Sydney than there are in Melbourne.  And industry bodies such as ADMA (Australian Direct Marketing Association) and the Communications Council are Sydney based, not Melbourne.  And it’s the same for award shows, bar one.  Melbourne has its own award show – the Melbourne Art Director’s Club – which Sydney doesn’t.

As an ex- Londoner who’s lived in Melbourne for ten years I’d like to say that the work is shinier and glitzier in Sydney.  Or that Melbourne produces more grounded and crafted work.  That would stake my allegiance to my adopted home.  But it simply isn’t true.  Ideas and a spirit of entrepreneurialism shines through in work from all Australian cities and brilliant ideas come from every state.  Outcome has more to do with individual talent and client braveness than it does from inter-state differences.

Sydney is a bigger market than Melbourne.  But size is irrelevant.   Just look at the Kiwis.  The communications industry is far smaller in New Zealand but the work definitely punches above its weight.   If there’s rivalry, it’s more likely to be across the Tasman rather than inter-state.   Who wouldn’t want to have created Yellow Treehouse or iPhone Jonny?

There’s more that unites than divides us.  And there’s no such thing as 6° of separation – everyone knows everyone else.   And will share a beer or two in true Aussie mateship.   When Aussie agencies win on the international stage we all take pride.  Just like we did last year when a Brisbane agency took out most of the major award shows with ‘The Best Job in the World”.

But we’re all agreed on one thing: we all appreciate big ideas and great work.  It’s a land where great direct marketing campaigns are lauded.  Whether developed in Melbourne or Sydney.   It’s where everyone wants to work for the best agency in the world.

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