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Australian creativity at its best is straight-talking, no-nonsense and unashamedly populist

Australian creativity at its best is straight-talking, no-nonsense and unashamedly populist

Gareth Collins

Managing partner, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, and former managing partner of Clemenger BBDO in Australia

Based on recent international awards shows, and with campaigns such as "Dumb ways to die", you’d be justified in thinking that the Australian marketing and advertising industry is a creative hotbed, replete with examples of bravery and innovation. Sadly, you’d be wrong. Getting to great work in Australia, as in many other countries, is hard and rare.

Despite perceptions of Australia being a laid-back country full of easygoing types, it remains, at heart, largely conservative, especially when it comes to creativity and advertising. Too readily, advertising is traditional in form, a short-term sales driver to pick off low-hanging fruit. And with a happy duopoly existing in many categories, there aren’t the market forces needed to drive investment in brand-building through engaging communications or product and service innovation.

However, Australia is also an ingenious nation, full of people who have carved out a highly successful country from an inhospitable land. And, if you dig below the surface, you can find this ingenuity in some of Australia’s most creative marketing and communications output.

Remember Tourism Australia’s "Best jobs in the world" campaign – a unique and brilliant way to raise awareness of a destination, and all on a minimal media spend? Or "Magic salad plate" for Four & Twenty Pies, essentially a gift with purchase, in the form of a plate printed with salad leaves to assuage any potential guilt or judgement associated with eating a pie. Or even Tontine, a bedding manufacturer that realised people rarely change their pillows, however old and grubby they get, and so started to print use-by dates on them.

These are all brilliant examples of understanding the brand and business challenge, and answering it in an unexpected, ingenious, original way – and without the expensive and slow process of developing big ad campaigns or new products.

Australian creativity is at its best when it comes to straight-talking, no-nonsense and unashamedly populist advertising.

Take the Carlton Draft "Made from beer" campaign, which, in the face of new competition from Europe, cut straight through the pomp and puffery of European beers with ads such as "Big ad", "Flash dance" and "Beer chase". These overtly poke fun at the category advertising conventions to appeal to the straight-talking Aussie beer-drinker.

Another wonderfully straight-talking campaign came from the New South Wales government. Called "Don’t be a tosser", it successfully encouraged Australians to stop littering. Or there’s "Pinkie", a road-safety campaign aimed at young men, which equated speeding to the size of your manhood through the simple but powerful gesture of brandishing your pinkie finger at those who break the limit. The "Beaver" campaign for Kotex tampons was an example of this straight-talking approach transcending gender. The campaign featured a woman with her pet beaver, claiming "you only have one so make sure you look after it". Yes, broadcast on mainstream TV.

Is this the most creative work out there? Definitely not, but it is what the Australian public loves and responds to.

There are a lot of arguments about advertising and creativity either setting culture or following it. In Australia, creativity is undoubtedly shaped by the culture from which it derives. While the vast majority of the work reflects the conservative heartland of middle Australia, there are pockets of ingenuity and a straight-talking approach that stem from national character, and which yield some brilliant examples of creativity.

Abe Dew

Director, strategy & planning, bcg2

From a global perspective, the defining aspect of New Zealand’s creative communications industry is its exceptionalism: exceptionally small and exceptionally far away. Yet, beneath the clichés, these exceptions also define the best work happening here. The boutique character of our industry drives collaborative intimacy in how ideas are developed and experienced. We’re too small to be introspective, so our influences are eclectic, international and mix in with an emerging "Euronesian" identity that makes our culture, design and brand ideas distinctive.

Tui Beer’s brand idea "Always something brewing" demands engaging ideas that move beyond campaigns and begin creating culture. Part of Tui’s 2013-14 New Zealand Cricket sponsorship, its "Catch a million" promotion put NZ$1m up for grabs. Fans at selected matches wearing a branded T-shirt and lanyard could earn NZ$100,000 for a clean, one-handed catch. Given patchy team performances in previous seasons, the idea of switching attention onto drama in the crowd made sense. Two fans succeeded, and seemed like bigger news than the cricket, with coverage extending to the UK, India, Australia and Pakistan.

Special Group’s integration of design into the broader communications mix views visual identity as a natural extension of engagement in all brand experiences. Its philosophy is based upon non-fiction design that must be able to live with people and feel welcome in their homes.

Special’s design work for Omaha Organic Blueberries (OOB), developed from a conversational portrait of OOB’s creators, picked up a Cannes Bronze Design Lion, among other awards. OOB is also one of New Zealand’s fastest-growing exporters in Deloitte’s 2013 Fast 50 programme. These exceptional Kiwis prove the rule that neither size nor distance are barriers to world-class creativity. 

Sony

New Zealand

Waterproof Walkman is packaged inside a water bottle

In February, Sony launched a campaign to promote its NZ$99 NWZ-W270 Walkman Sports MP3 player in New Zealand. The device is fully waterproof, and has been designed with swimmers in mind. Sony created packaging to display the player in a bottle of water, proving its waterproof credentials. The "bottled Walkman" was put on sale in vending machines at gyms and swimming pools.

Ajax

Australia

Cleaning brand helps declutter social-media feeds

In Australia in January, domestic-care brand Ajax released an online tool designed to help consumers clean up their social-media feeds. After connecting to a user’s Twitter account, the Social Wipes tool scans all followers to detect spam bots, while on Facebook it aggregates all page "likes" so that they can be easily unfollowed.

meMINI

New Zealand

Wearable camera automatically captures special moments

MeMINI is a wearable camera that reached its funding target on Kickstarter in January. Designed in New Zealand, the device records on a continuous loop, and by pressing a "recall" button users can instantly save the past five minutes of footage. Priced at $169, the meMINI operates via a cloud-based storage system, while an accompanying mobile app lets users control the camera and share their footage.

Campaign examples compiled by David Mattin, head of trends and insights at Trendwatching.com.