He’s back

He’s back
SHARE
THIS



After two years in Singapore, Steve Back is back with the goal of making work, like ‘Share a Coke’ and ‘Rhonda’, a norm for Ogilvy. He speaks frankly to Jessica Kennedy about his first impressions of Ogilvy Australia

 

The son of sheet metal worker, Steve Back had what he describes as a very working-class upbringing.

His parents’ strong work ethic rubbed off on Back – “that’s not to say that I’m not a lazy person”, he caveats. But laziness and Back’s achievements don’t go hand in hand.

After a childhood of relocations – he was born in South Africa, moved to the UK aged nine and arrived in Perth five years later – the father-of-three has moved wherever work takes him and has scooped awards along the way at Cannes, D&AD, The One Show and more. From Sydney to London, London to New Zealand, New Zealand to Sydney, Sydney to Singapore and Singapore to Melbourne, Back is finally back in Oz.

“My wife and the kids love Melbourne, it feels a little bit more relaxed to Sydney,” he says. Not that Back can speak on the city’s charms with any authority – his latest role has kept him busy. So far, he has seen the city from inside cabs, the office and from the air as he jumps on a plane to Sydney.

Back is not complaining. After two tough years as chief creative officer at Ogilvy & Mather Singapore, he chose to tackle the mammoth and newly-created role of national chief creative officer of Ogilvy Australia.

Ogilvy first asked Back as Melbourne ECD, but he said ‘no’. “I’d get bored,” he explains. “So I said ‘what about a national role?’, and that’s how it came about. There’s a genuine desire for change here. It also felt like a good challenge and, stupidly, I like challenges.”

He has been given a three-year plan to “sort the place out”, and despite what he calls the industry’s “pretty low expectations” of the 550-person Melbourne and Sydney outfit, Back is confident.

“We’re the biggest in the country so there’s no reason why we can’t be the best,” he says.

Back took on the role with an open mind, but immediately noticed a gap between the Sydney and Melbourne offices.

“It feels like we’re starting a little bit further back with Sydney,” he says. The office was responsible for the ‘Share a Coke’ work, which Coke’s global creative and advertising strategy boss Jonathan Mildenhall recently branded the company’s “most successful in decades”.

But that’s simply not enough.

“I mean – that was two years ago,” Back says. “I’m just trying to replicate that and make it the norm, not a one-off.”

Back wants the agencies to create work that is famous – ads that become the topic of conversation between a taxi driver and his passengers – like AAMI’s ‘Rhonda’ campaign (below).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85ubtVs5n6A

“The residue of fame is probably success in shows, but not necessarily – I think I’ve got to a point in my career where chasing a piece of metal is not the be all and end all,” Back says.

“One thing I observed was that we were being quite executional as opposed to ideas-driven, and I’m keen on making sure we get to platform ideas, rather than just writing a script or doing a press ad.”

For this to happen, Back needs to push Ogilvy’s clients into being comfortable with fame.

 “Agencies can fall into a bit of a habit – where you’ve certain clients, there’s an expectation of certain work,” he outlines. “I want to be more optimistic about what we can do, even for some of the tougher clients.”

To make the offices co-exist in a more “harmonious way”, Back wants to establish an Australian creative council for the group to oversee and become a pool of resources for the agencies. But first, Back needs to hire two new ECDs – one for each office – to allow him to step back and tackle the national role. “And then I won’t have a job,” he jokes.

Back is an ideas man, and he likes places where they’re allowed to come freely. “It makes the grind worth it,” he says.

But the feeling you get when he discusses Singapore is that the ideas there didn’t make that ‘grind’ worth it. “By the nature of Singapore as a country, it was a touch conservative, which is an understatement, and I found it a touch constricting in terms of thinking,” he says. “Plus it’s very small.

“I think great work comes out of cultural diversity – and Singapore felt a bit culturally devoid. That’s me being diplomatic.”

The self-confessed “change-monger” has been reinvigorated by the potential posed by Ogilvy Australia. Its diverse client list – which includes Australia Post, IBM, Myer and Carlton Football Club – holds a wealth of opportunity, and in Back’s eyes he has the chance to shake up some categories and make his clients famous.

“It’s not about convincing them to do something brave – it’s just about making sure they feel comfortable that it’s the answer to their problems.”

“When I’m selling I ask, ‘do you want your brand to be famous?’ I defy any marketer to say no.”

Please login with linkedin to comment

Latest News

Daylight Agency Appoints Shelley Hammond As Director Of Agency Operations
  • Media

Daylight Agency Appoints Shelley Hammond As Director Of Agency Operations

The Daylight Agency’s significant growth has continued with the appointment of Shelley Hammond as Director of Agency Operations. Shelley is a leader in the global communications industry and brings vast experience following senior roles in major corporates as well as the agency environment. Shelley will be responsible for the commercial running of Daylight including client retention and […]

Host/Havas Takes Out Cannes Grand Prix With Palau Pledge
  • Advertising

Host/Havas Takes Out Cannes Grand Prix With Palau Pledge

Host/Havas has secured Australia’s first grand prix award at Cannes overnight, taking out the top gong for the direct lions with its work Palau Pledge. The work, which sees all visitors to the tiny island nation have their passport stamped with a pledge to be a good environmental citizen, which they must sign before entering […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Instagram Launches Long-Form Video
  • Technology

Instagram Launches Long-Form Video

Instagram unveils new eye-catching feature. Slicing onions while reading this will also make it eye-watering.

Ridley Scott Unveils New Directors Showcase At Cannes
  • Media

Ridley Scott Unveils New Directors Showcase At Cannes

Curated this year by Ridley Scott, famed director of Alien, The Martian and other classics, The New Directors Showcase at Cannes is now in its 28th year. Acting as a platform for talented new directors to have their work premiered to a global audience, Scott took to the stage in front of a full house […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
ANZ, PHD & JCDecaux Harness The Power Of Data
  • Advertising
  • Campaigns

ANZ, PHD & JCDecaux Harness The Power Of Data

ANZ and media agency PHD have partnered with JCDecaux to launch a unique campaign that harnesses the power of data across three cities incorporating actual tram, train and bus timetable information to align with the new ANZ App.

Report: Consumers Are Hitting Play On Mobile Video
  • Technology

Report: Consumers Are Hitting Play On Mobile Video

Ooyala survey finds media companies created and processed nearly three times as much video content in Q1 as Media Companies Created & Processed Nearly Three Times As Much Video Content in Q1 2018 vs. Q1 2017.

Intrepid Travel Go Back 30 Years, Posting Classified Adverts In Newspapers
  • Campaigns

Intrepid Travel Go Back 30 Years, Posting Classified Adverts In Newspapers

Intrepid Travel has gone back in time and is placing classified adverts for a new ‘mystery expedition’ to places that yet mapped by Google.  The adverts to be placed in Courier Mail, Herald Sun and Sunday Telegraph are calling for intrepid people to join a journey with “long travel days, intermittent electricity, no Wi-Fi, cold […]

Watching tv and using remote control
  • Advertising
  • Media

GroupM Investment Forecast For Australia: TV On The Rise As Digital Slips

GroupM has updated its 2018 ad investment forecasts and released its initial 2019 outlook. GroupM predicts $24B in net new advertising investment this year, the best annual increment since the bounce back from the global recession in 2010 when $26B was added to investment. GroupM estimates total advertising investment will grow by 4.5 per cent this year […]

Indigenous Campaign Deemed Too Controversial By APN Media To Run
  • Advertising
  • Campaigns

Indigenous Campaign Deemed Too Controversial By APN Media To Run

Aboriginal Victoria’s campaign in support of Australia’s first-ever treaty legislation, Deadly Questions, has been deemed too controversial to run by one of Australia’s leading outdoor media providers, APN Media. Online platform Deadly Questions provides a safe space for people to ask questions and have them answered by Aboriginal Victorians, to learn more about their cultures, […]

Introducing: YouTube Music Australia
  • Technology

Introducing: YouTube Music Australia

The wait is over! Starting today, YouTube Music is available to everyone in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S, Mexico and South Korea in addition to 12 new countries including Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Now fans around the world can find more of the music […]

Will PR Finally Earn Its Stripes At Cannes This Year?
  • Opinion

Will PR Finally Earn Its Stripes At Cannes This Year?

In this guest post, Haystac’s national general manager, Jason Carnew (pictured below), says with all this talk of Cannes at this time of year, it’s a kindly reminder that the PR business needs to get its act together in terms of awards, work and judging… All eyes on are Cannes as some of the best […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Ex-DDBer Unveils Designer Headscarves For Cancer Survivors
  • Campaigns

Ex-DDBer Unveils Designer Headscarves For Cancer Survivors

Two-times cancer survivor, Frankie Good Stuff Award Winner, ex-DDBer and founder of Bravery Co. Emily Somers has collaborated with a range of top-notch illustrators to produce Australia’s first range of designer headscarves for young cancer warriors. She is now crowdfunding $40,000 to produce the scarves and donate one to all the young women in their 20’s […]

New Advertising Platform Launches Down Under
  • Advertising

New Advertising Platform Launches Down Under

Following its massive success in Europe, Asia and the UAE, the Polishoe concept, which brings a high-demand shoe polish service and HD digital advertising platform together, has landed in Australia.

Women In Media Profile: Aimee Buchanan
  • Media

Women In Media Profile: Aimee Buchanan

No Women in Media series would be complete without the irrepressible Aimee Buchanan. Read all her pressibles here.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Set for blue sky, different clouds icons, cloud shapes, labels, symbols, icons. Flat graphic vector elements
  • Technology

PubMatic Unveils Cloud for Publishers And Tech Companies

PubMatic has launched PubMatic Cloud for publishers and tech companies looking to implement and control their own programmatic technology. By accessing PubMatic’s technology, global infrastructure and demand connections on a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) basis, clients are able to achieve full transparency and achieve greater control over their programmatic monetization. As programmatic trading becomes mainstream, innovations such as […]

Women In Media Profile: Claudine Hall
  • Media

Women In Media Profile: Claudine Hall

The Women in Media Awards are back for 2018! To celebrate this wonderful fact, and to recognise some of the killer women in our industry, we’ve created a women in media series – and have profiled some pretty inspiring women so far. This week, we chat with Bauer Media head of trade marketing Claudine Hall. […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Cancer Council and Target Tradies Tackle On-The-Job Skin Cancer Risks
  • Campaigns

Cancer Council and Target Tradies Tackle On-The-Job Skin Cancer Risks

Workers on construction sites receive five to 10 times more UV exposure every year compared to indoor workers. Target Tradies and Cancer Council have announced the launch of a partnership to help educate Australian construction workers about the importance of being SunSmart at work. With evidence showing that outdoor workers receive five to 10 times […]