The Ashes and advertising – lessons from an Aussie

The Ashes and advertising – lessons from an Aussie
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Aussie creative Wayne Deakin, based in the UK as ECD for Jam at the Engine Group, wonders whether Australia should take some tips from its creative industry onto the sporting field.

Oh no. The f**king Ashes are on. Here we go.

As an Aussie living in England, this is a time filled with drama and despair nowadays. Once I was a smug bastard when it came to The Ashes. Now? Well it’s more complex and interesting to say the least.

No doubt the larger-than-life cricket-mad characters in Engine in the UK – Leon Jaume and Tim Crow to name but a few – will be hoping to see the Aussies beaten good and proper ‘again’ (I didn’t want to have to say that).

But I am an Aussie. Like a dog with a bone I am passionately determined that Australia will always come back and will stick to the notion that we will win. We could be down to our last bloody batsman, facing an impossible task, but I will still think this way.

It’s just our Aussie DNA, a culture of winning is what it’s all about – not the politically-correct version of “well done for trying”. Sod that for a game of cricket.

And here’s my tenuous link to advertising and creativity. You might be winning now, but we will never give up.

In the back of the twisted white matter that is my brain, I keep thinking back to the great work and wondering why my fellow antipodean countrymen and woman have done so well at Cannes recently. I am not just talking about 2013 (where McCann Melbourne broke all records with ‘Dumb Ways to Die’), but over the last couple of years now.

Is it because there’s some secret ingredient in the sunscreen or the crap Aussie sausages we put on our barbecues? Or could it be much more simple? Something buried deep in the fabric of our cultural identity and our sporting DNA.

So here's a crazy theory: could the recent rise in success away from the cricket field and in the boardroom of the corporate world be down to a little word that doesn’t tend to get used much on this side of the world? A simple word, so rarely now used with agency and client relationships nowadays.

The word: "No".

As well as being a creative, you may not actually know that I also have an MA in Cognitive Science, and the two sit well together sometimes. If you think about the UK's western culture there's a degree of calmness and order to our society. The way we deal with clients is often a direct reflection of our everyday behaviour patterns that underlay polite British culture.

In today’s post-modern Britain, manners, compromising and social etiquette are seen as admirable and hugely important characteristics in a person and often it’s the way we relate to our clients. Yet great creativity and sporting abilities don’t necessarily like these qualities. Creativity isn't ordered or polite. It's straight to the point, passionate, direct and demands a ‘win at all costs’ attitude.

The antipodean culture is one that hates to bend. We hate to lose. We are pains-in-the-ass people who speak our minds and don't have centuries of social class politeness in our DNA. So it’s hard for a creative from that country to not just be straight up and transparent and hard for them to comprise when they can't feel it.

Yes, I know it’s a loose idea, but hey the Brits are beating us in the cricket (and the f**king Lions) so at least let me make this loose point.

Or indeed, maybe there’s an element of truth in my thoughts. Maybe sometimes we do have to say “no” to clients to help them win the long game, to help them increase their brand share and fame. Maybe we have to say “no” when we know the work can be better. Maybe it’s time to stand up that little bit taller if we want to keep any sense of pride in our craft and our profession.

As we all know from the cricket, a five-day test match isn’t about making the quick runs, it’s about who ends up lifting that urn.

C'mon Aussie!

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