The World: Insider's View - Australia

Australia's human geography makes it a world leader when it comes to integration, Andy Pontin says.

Australia is about the same size as Europe, with one-thirtieth of the population. While the UK squeezes 224 people into every square kilometre, Australians enjoy 90 times more elbow room.

However, 85 per cent of the 20 million population squeezes into just 1 per cent of the continent, mostly in the major state capital cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra).

This makes for an interesting advertising market, because those cities are a long way apart. Flying from Sydney to Perth takes four hours. From Heathrow, that'll get you as far as Beirut. The result is that each of these domestic markets has its own distinct culture, its own daily papers, radio and TV programming and its own clients and agencies.

The size and dispersal of the population means that there is no scale in the Australian advertising industry. Conversely, we have a very sophisticated marketing and advertising community. All the big corporates, brands and ad networks are here, as is half the UK advertising workforce (you can't move for Poms in the industry - I should know, I'm one of them).

So there's no shortage of drive and know-how.

The result of this paradox is forced integration. As Patrick Collister (compiler of The Won Report) said at a recent Proximity conference: "In Australia, if you don't integrate, you're a moron." Harsh, but fair.

Successful agencies are truly full-service, seamlessly offering brand and retail advertising, direct marketing, digital, promotions and often design and PR. Most pitches - certainly at the big end of town - wrap up all these, so if you're running a standalone DM or digital business, you're pretty much excluded from the top-table.

As evidence of this, let's look at a place close to an agency's heart - awards shows. In recent years, Australia has punched way above its weight at international awards shows, specifically the DM shows that reward integration more than above-the-line shows. Looking at Cannes Direct and the Echo International Awards over recent years, Australia has picked up four Grand Prix for integrated campaigns for Jim Beam, Virgin Money, ANZ Bank and Virgin Mobile. Four differentclients, four different agencies, four Grand Prix. All based on integrated thinking.

Far from being an advertising backwater, in many respects Australia is leading the way in integration. This makes it a great place to work, as people can easily break out of their discipline silo and expand their skills. I'm a good example - I'm a lifetime direct marketer, but before joining Proximity I was a joint managing director of M&C Saatchi Sydney.

I wonder how many London advertising agencies are run by direct marketers?

- Andy Pontin is the chief executive of Clemenger Proximity.