Australian marketing is splitting into two distinct paths.
Marketing communications in Australia over the past year has been a story of two halves. Australia is increasingly a two-speed economy. While consumer confidence improves and growth continues, the nation is facing an environment increasingly of the haves and have-nots. This is reflected not only in a prosperous economy with greater disparity between rich and poor, but also in consumer markets with massively different fortunes. Those in the technology, financial services and sporting goods are marketing on a rising tide, while those in categories such as FMCG, travel and automotive face increasing challenges.
Coupled with the two-tier economy is a two-tier approach to marketing communications in Australia, both being embraced with equal zeal. On the one hand we see certain marketers embracing creative solutions with no predictable ROI attached, the other half embracing a more strategic use of channels and science to achieve results. It could be argued the best marketers are doing both. The range of standout marketing in 2014 reflects theses polarities.
In one camp, we saw the wonderful ‘GAYTMs’ launched by ANZ bank to celebrate the 2014 Mardi Gras. This was followed in 2015 by the wonderful ‘Only GAYTM in the village’, a very clever way of making a localised creative idea nationally relevant. The GAYTM work also taps into a cultural tension in Australia. Australia is ‘the lucky country’ and has had a history of egalitarianism, and acceptance of all. However, this liberal view has recently been challenged by an increasingly xenophobic Australia, determined to keep those not as lucky as ourselves out of our lucky country. GAYTMs is a celebration of diversity and inclusiveness.
Also in the experiential world was the Samsung Gear VR launch — a simple exercise of opening a dive store in the outback. Customers arrive, put the Samsung Gear VR on their heads, and then scream in fear as they experience a shark attack in virtual reality, while sitting on a stool in the shop. It’s incredible to watch.
However, in the same category as Samsung, and at the other end of the spectrum, we see advertisers like Apple using magnificent product as the vehicle to create desire, while the advertising just reminds us it exists. With a focus on outdoor and TV, Apple’s advertising is as tightly controlled as its product, and in its way just as beautiful too. The product is king in textbook examples of how awareness-building advertising can work.
The other advertiser proving simplicity works is Jeep. Combine the audacity to stick to the platform idea of ‘Don’t hold back’, while encouraging people to express to others ‘I bought a Jeep’, and you’ve got arguably Australia’s most successful ever automotive advertising campaign, built almost exclusively on TV and digital channels.
Marketers are embracing the behavioural sciences. We saw strong attendance at the inaugural MSIX conference, and the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute’s scientific approach to advertising went mainstream. Clients are still struggling with ‘big (clever) data’, but we are seeing the birth of many companies that have access to the data promising others to help make sense of it. Woolworths is becoming increasingly sophisticated in its use of data. A new player is Red Planet, part of Qantas’ loyalty division — 30 years of Australians flying with frequent-flyer cards means a lot of data.
Finally, an article looking at recent trends would not be complete without the word ‘programmatic’. Automating media-planning and creative services will, in time, become the new benchmark for effective communications. However, ‘the brighter the picture, the darker the negative’, and the dark side is the rise of creativity. Marketers are increasingly bringing creativity in-house, with mixed results. Creativity has made its way into the boardroom with the appointment of agency CEOs onto the boards of some of Australia’s biggest companies. Creativity now seems to have a seat at the top table.
So recent marketing communications can be expressed as the beginnings of a collision between art and science. This is an extremely interesting development, as we all know that advertising has shunned the scientific process for the last 50 years. What may be beginning to emerge is a new bedrock of information that is going to create better marketing. Getting the balance will be an interesting challenge for the Australian marketing scene in 2015 and beyond.