Creativity Down Under

Posted by Lucy Halliday On April 15, 2014

In 2007, in the midst of a snow blizzard threatening to keep me grounded forever, I left London to move to Sydney. My industry mates wished me well and congratulated me on making such a great ‘lifestyle choice’. The fact no one talked about the standard of advertising or digital work coming from Australia was slightly worrying. Had I committed career suicide by leaving the self-proclaimed advertising capital of the universe, London?

Well, not really, according to Simon Veksner’s clever Global Map of Cannes Lions Won Per Capita. Interestingly it’s not London or New York dominating creatively, but the Belgians and Swedes packing a heavyweight creative punch in Europe. Today, Sweden is still making some of the best interactive work globally. Punching way above their weight is the mighty New Zealand and vastly empty continent of Australia. Surprisingly, Asia-Pacific is fast becoming a hotbed of great creative work year on year. BIG Creative ideas like Best Job in the World, NAB Break Up, Share a Coke, NRMA Car Creation have all gone on to win effectiveness awards as well as major creative awards.

Just a quick look at the 2013 IABMIXX awards and you’ll notice an over-representation of Australian work. The question is: Why does this part of the world make such engaging creative work?

Here are a few of my theories:

If you don’t have a huge budget, your idea must travel for free. PR-ability, if that’s even a word, is a key ingredient in a great idea these days. Aussies and Kiwis have a sixth sense when it comes to second-guessing what the media will talk about. Dogs and Sport seem to be working quite well lately; SPCA Driving Dogs and M.J. Bale Grazed on Greatness to name-drop a couple.

Most agencies this side of the world are pretty good at collaborating with other agencies and specialists:

Lego Build with Chrome was a collaboration with Sweden’s North Kingdom + M&C Saatchi + Google.

The Monkeys’ Intelligent Sounds for Intel features a robot orchestra with Flume + Finch.

Most Powerful Arm was a collaboration between Havas Sydney + Finch + Reactive.

So, for your next brief why not try a geeky threesome with some robotic fringe tech music makers.

Remoteness can be a blessing
Global templated advertising can actually block local cultural truths from getting into the work. How many times have you sat through an ad that’s been dubbed to sound more warm and ‘Aussie’? Normally they feel a bit cold. In my opinion, the great work from this region tends to tap into a cultural nuance. Having fewer marketing managers working on a brand than say in North America or Europe is also a blessing. It’s much easier to get a creative meeting with the decision makers in this market, giving the idea more chance to survive.

A dry sense of humour
The Kiwis are kings of the subtle art of humour. They take humour very seriously. Right down to stamping your passport with ‘Middle Earth’ or Tui Beer being plumbed into a mate’s house. Aussie humour at work is incredibly effective when you consider that ‘Dumb Ways To Die’ has had over 60 million views – 60 million views for a public health and safety announcement.

The Great Outdoors vs The Grey Indoors
With more sun-soaked temptations to wag work and generally be outside, I think the outdoor lifestyle has to be a factor in inspiring creativity.

An obsession with creative awards
Finally, Australia and New Zealand are more than obsessed with award shows and, to be fair, pretty good at packaging up their work. This may be the battler attitude or competitive spirit that seems to permeate the culture this side of the world. Or perhaps it’s the underdog fight for global dominance. I think it’s a little simpler than that. I think Australia and New Zealand are just really, really good at making case study videos. Seriously.

So, while I miss the warm beer and cold summers, I do think this part of the world has more to offer than just a great lifestyle. And it’s the job of us all to keep the standard of the work high and keep making interesting, disruptive work. That, or move to Belgium.

Lucy Halliday