David Blecken
Jun 24, 2013

'Dumb ways' success embodies McCann's multiplatform aims: Harris Diamond

CANNES - Harris Diamond, McCann Worldgroup chairman and chief executive, asserts that there is more to the network's creative muscle than 'Dumb ways to die'—winner of an unprecedented five Grand Prix at the just-concluded Cannes festival.

Harris Diamond
Harris Diamond

The campaign for Metro Trains in Melbourne has put McCann Worldgroup in the spotlight at the festival, winning Grand Prix in the Film, Integrated, Direct, Radio and PR categories, as well as 18 Gold Lions, three Silvers and one Bronze.

Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific as the festival wrapped up, Diamond said that although there is more to McCann than this one campaign, the work does embody the network's aim to bring together different platforms.

While Australia appears to be a particularly strong market for McCann, Diamond said he did not think other offices in the region had far to go to catch up in terms of creative work, but that the integrated nature of ‘Dumb ways to die’ was a model that should be emulated.

While 'Dumb ways' won a total of 27 awards, other McCann work from the rest of the world brought in 19 awards: three Golds, three Silvers and 13 Bronze. Notably, Asia-Pacific agencies accounted for all three of the Gold Lions: McCann Singapore won one with work for L'Oreal in the Outdoor category and McCann Worldgroup India Mumbai won two in Press for Penguin Audiobooks. 

“I wouldn’t say we’re trying to raise the creative bar,” Diamond said. “One bar we are trying to raise is the ability to perform on a multiplatform level. That is a programme that we’re trying to focus on.”

He said McCann’s structure, which aims to unite all marketing disciplines within the agency, was an important factor for success. “Over the past 10 years, there have been fits and starts in seeing it work," he said. "Now, I think it’s exactly what clients need. Keith Weed [Unilever’s chief marketing officer] said the biggest problem is fragmentation. The people I meet, when talking about marketing needs, ask ‘how do I bring all marketing disciplines together.” However, Diamond admitted that Ogilvy still set the benchmark for such a model in Asia.

He also disputed the assertion that aligning creativity with technology was a challenge for larger, more traditional networks. “We have engineers on board, but they are not a separate group,” he said. “Most of our people work in a multiplatform world. A good creative [naturally] understands both [creativity and technology].”

He added that creative technologists were most effective when placed in a client-facing role to help convey the benefits of solutions in areas such as mobile and e-commerce. He said he believed clients were also “maturing” in their ability to comprehend and work with technology.

Diamond noted more broadly that many markets in Asia were also showing signs of maturation. But he said the economic slowdown in markets such as China would not be a major issue for advertising networks since growth levels remained extremely high relative to Western markets. He also said the opportunity in third-, fourth- and fifth-tier markets was now very real. Likewise, he indicated that capitalising on the growth opportunities across Southeast Asia and in particular Indonesia was a priority for the network, although building a presence in Myanmar was not an immediate aim.

At the other end of the spectrum, he pointed to a possible upturn in Japan, despite continued challenging economic conditions. He said a pent-up demand among Japanese people was leading to a rise in product purchases. “There was a ‘slacker’ movement [a reaction against consumption], but what we’re seeing now is that it wasn’t true,” he said.


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