30 Under 30: Industry Success Story Ricci Meldrum Reveals What Makes The Best Ads Great

30 Under 30: Industry Success Story Ricci Meldrum Reveals What Makes The Best Ads Great

The 30 Under 30 Awards, presented by Vevo, are back for another year, in a celebration of the industry’s young blood and new wave of talent—the ones to watch for the future.

In the lead-up to the event, B&T is chatting with some of advertising’s biggest success stories—people who took their first steps into the industry from where you are standing now.

What does it take to carve out a career in advertising? For eager young creatives keen to make their way in the broader media landscape, Ricci Meldrum’s advice is clear.

“I remember having a peer promoted ahead of me and only after many months of silence inquiring why with all the awards, effectiveness and recognition I had brought to the agency, ‘why him and not me?’, only to be told ‘you never asked’,” she says.

“Which is not to say ask for more, but to let your ambitions be known.”

Now TBWA Melbourne’s managing director, Ricci Meldrum grew up loving ads, but she knew little to nothing about the advertising industry—or how to get into it, at a time when advertising degrees were rare or non-existent.

However, after a brief foray into public relations after studying the media discipline at RMIT, despite the insistence of her family that she study law, Meldrum was offered an opportunity in ad-land—and she never looked back.

“A friend of mine started dating someone who worked at Mattingly Advertising (later Mattingly Y&R),” Meldrum says.

“He offered me a job as an account manager working on Myer (retail production being a great starting place for anyone learning the ropes in our industry) … and 26 years later, after four years at Mattingly, nearly 15 at Clemenger Melbourne, almost two as managing partner of BMF’s Melbourne office and coming up to seven years at TBWA Melbourne … And yep, I still love ads.”

In 2021, she finds herself a few months into the managing director role at TBWA, after taking over the position from executive partner at the agency.

“It’s hard to separate changing the role from living in COVID,” Meldrum, based in Melbourne, says. “As an exec team we’ve had to really dig in from day one and be focused on our staff … but also balancing that with the needs of the agency as well.

“In some ways, as a managing director, I certainly feel that that’s my role, but as an exec team we probably all played that role prior to that [the coronavirus lockdown] as well, realistically.”

An industry success story, Meldrum has received just about every major award in the land for her work, with 23 Cannes Lions across 12 individual campaigns, including a Cannes Lion Grand Prix.

According to the TBWA Melbourne MD, great work needs to meet a client brief exactly and be done in a unique and different way.

“I think too often, we can get pushed into what’s been done before or what’s safe,” Meldrum says. “But pushing the boundaries, trying to do something unique, trying to do something different, it doesn’t just get awarded but get noticed by people as well.”

When asked whether any of ad-land’s recent work hits all these notes, she points to Australian Lamb’s latest effort, via The Monkeys, ‘Make Lamb, Not Walls’.

“It’s such a benchmark in our industry—looking at the Australia Day lamb ad each year. I don’t know if they were fortuitous that the borders closed again … but it hits a really good note,” Meldrum says.

“We’re going to talk about it, we’re going to respond to it. They’re going to get noticed.”

Make Lamb, Not Walls was followed-up with an eye-catching OOH campaign that sees various premiers who, at one time or another during the coronavirus pandemic, went head-to-head over border closures come together by sharing a lamb cutlet.

The campaign was a riff on the famous Berlin Wall artwork, The Kiss. Meldrum said the whole campaign by Australian Lamb found a meaningful way to have a conversation about 2020 without being over political.

“It’s not making a commentary on the premiers, who are doing the right thing by their own states, which I think is great,” she said. “It’s just acknowledging that there are divisions and that we all want to be together, which is tricky because they’re in a difficult spot with Australia Day.

“That’s what they’ve [Australian Lamb have] struggled with for the last couple of years, to find how they can talk to Australia in a meaningful way without stirring some of the political conversations that happen around Australia Day.

“They found a way to do that in a meaningful way for everyone to relate to.”

The opposite side of this coin of great work versus absolute stinkers is, as Meldrum says, whether it is visible or not. She says she can’t name the worst piece of work she’s seen, because it is “invisible”.

“Annoying work is more effective than invisible work,” she says. “Even if it gets talked about for the wrong reasons, at least it gets noticed. But work that is so safe and so dull, that no one even talks about or bothers thinking about, then why bother spending money on it?”

Do it: Back yourself and enter B&T’s 30 Under 30 Awards! You can submit your entry here.

The 30 Under 30 Awards will be held at The Metro Theatre, Sydney on Thursday, 15 April.

If you’d like more information on the event, head to this website.

Other key information

  • Entries close Monday, 22 February 2021
  • Late entries close Monday, 1 March 2021
  • People’s Choice Poll launches Wednesday, 3 March 2021
  • Judging period: Wednesday, 3 March to Friday, 19 March 2021
  • Shortlist announced Wednesday, 24 March 2021
  • Early bird tickets close at 11.59pm Wednesday, 2 April 2021
  • Full price tickets on sale at 12am Thursday, 3rd April 2021 (until sold out)
  • People’s Choice Poll closes Friday, 26 March 2021.

Thank you to our incredible sponsors for making this event possible.


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30 under 30 2021 Ricci Meldrum

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