WORLD: ANALYSIS - The complete communicator brings integration down under

Rietz is determined to bring integration to the Australian ad scene.

Bjorn Rietz's arrival in Australia was bound to create something of a stir. After all, it's not every day you find a Swede at the helm of an Australian agency's creative department.

Not only is Rietz the creative behind the rise of the Italian fashion brand Diesel, he is also, according to his publicity, a "master of integration" who has come down under to show the industry exactly what that means.

"It is one of my missions to bring integrated advertising to Australia," he states - the other being to make the agency he has just joined, DDB Melbourne, "the best in Australia".

Already Australia's fifth-biggest agency, boasting billings of $364 million in 2002, DDB has a strong creative reputation, producing award-winning work for McDonald's, Wrigley's and Volkswagen. However, it has lacked a high-profile creative in its Melbourne office for some time. Instead, it has relied on Garry Horner, the national creative director, Michael Faudet, the executive creative director, and Jay Furby, the creative director at DDB Sydney, all of whom will now team up with Rietz.

But keen though Rietz is to get cracking in his new role as the executive creative director at DDB Melbourne and the vice-chairman of DDB Australia, he must face reality - Australian advertising is largely stuck in the TV ad groove.

There are a few agencies, most notably DDB and Publicis Mojo, that aspire to offer something more, but they are thin on the ground. In addition, demand from Australian clients for integrated solutions is not as great as it is in Europe.

"I have a real problem with advertising that speaks in several voices. For me, every execution (of each discipline) has to point to the next one, otherwise it's not going to work," Rietz says.

This philosophy has been at the core of Rietz's work for more than a decade. It was also applied to his most famous client, Diesel. In the ten years he worked on the account as the creative director of Paradiset DDB, Diesel's sales increased ten-fold to be worth $500 million a year.

It was Rietz's ads as much as anything else that shaped the brand's unique, quirky profile.

Campaigns such as Diesel's "it's real" in 2000 demonstrate Rietz's love of integration. Every element conveyed the key message, from the fabrication of its central character, a Polish country-and-western singer, Joanna, to the equally fake tabloid newspaper It's Real, created to write about her.

So what made one of Europe's hottest creatives head for Australia, a country hardly at the cutting edge of integration?

Aside from the great climate - Rietz has a holiday home on Queensland's Sunshine Coast - he says it's because integration can become a reality in Australia. Communications companies in Europe often have their direct marketing, PR, and other elements on different profit and loss accounts, not to mention in separate buildings. Rietz argues this is a major disadvantage: forcing agencies to compete for the client's marketing budget and putting them at odds with one another on how best to serve the client.

"Here at DDB, everything is literally under one roof. We can all work together on the same account, which gives us enormous advantages," he says. From his desk, Rietz can see the Rapp Collins creative team and their digital counterparts at Tribal Squibb, as well as his own teams of creatives.

Nick Cleaver, the chairman and chief executive of DDB Australia and the man who hired Rietz, comments: "Bjorn is as excited about writing a letter to the consumer as he is about an online campaign or an ad. He's a complete communications man."

It is this passion that has drawn Rietz back to advertising after a two-year break. After selling his stake in Paradiset in 2001, Rietz threw himself into writing. He also launched a vodka brand in the UK called Seriously.

Rietz joined the ad industry aged 25 as a copywriter for the Stockholm-based Alinder & Co. From there, he moved to Aggerborgs to work on the pan-European business for H&M before finally setting up Paradiset with two former clients in 1990. After a year in business, the agency landed the Diesel account - its work winning the Cannes Grand Prix twice.

Perhaps it's because Rietz has won so many accolades that he's earned the right to have a dig at Cannes. He argues that the clamour among Australian creatives to win an award at the festival has stymied Australian individuality in advertising.

"The industry here used to have a real style of its own, but now the focus has been on winning awards. It just all looks the same," he laments.

It's certainly a peculiar world where it takes a Swede to help to give Australia back its creative identity.

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