“We Can Make A Far Bigger Impact Than What We Actually Think We Can”: Chris Howatson

“We Can Make A Far Bigger Impact Than What We Actually Think We Can”: Chris Howatson
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Today’s the day, folks! It’s Changing the Ratio! Here at Belvoir St Theatre, the day has well and truly kicked off  – and our Male Champions of Change panel just hit the stage.

This panel is moderated by CHE Proximity CEO Chris Howatson, who’s talking with Peter Horgan, CEO of Omnicom Media Group Australia and New Zealand, Jason Scott, CEO of Allure Media and Steve Baird, head of customer loyalty marketing at Velocity Frequent Flyer on how we can cultivate the next generation of male champions of change. Because for anything to change, men have to be part of the conversation.

Howatson started by playing an ad from three years ago to demonstrate the suxualisation of women still present in today’s society.

To reiterate, that ad was aired just three years ago.

Following a few gasps and giggles from the crowd, Howatson asked the panellists if it was surprising that a campaign like this one was run so recently.

Scott said absolutely not – then threw the question to the audience, who echoed a similar sentiment. But have things changed a lot since then? Scott said not enough.

“In fact I think it’s possibly getting worse,” he said.

Scott said that the amount of media platforms there are now meant that there was less jurisdiction on what was published and what wasn’t.

Howatson agreed that the industry could do better in this country, before playing a second ad with a less clear message of bias from P&G’s ‘Proud Sponsor of Mums’ campaign.

The ad, although highly awarded at the time, is an excellent example of how unconscious bias drives our everyday desiscions.

“The trouble is, you’re using your own frames of reference,” said Baird.

“So one thing which we’ve done at Velocity is trying to get a diverse [set of] views reviewing marketing creative, which really represents our brand.”

Horgan said that things needed to change from the brief.

“We’re about driving client outcomes, rather than social change, in how we’re briefed. A marketing director would look at us and ask if we said ‘we’ve gone off target here because we feel strongly we need to shake things up here.’

“But we do look for opportunities to venture beyond your traditional audiences. In a programmatic world where we’re all headed, we’ll run off the data.”

“[However], it’s tough for a small group of marketing chiefs to try to take themselves out of their own zone and project into a target audience.”

Baird agreed that unconscious bias needs to be checked throughout the whole process – from the brief to the publishing of content.

“All marketing starts with a brief.

“It’s critical that we find a truth that can go all the way through, but I think what’s critical is from the brief to the creative concepts that we are creating ads that are connecting with the truth but also not alienating any groups  – we just need to get checks and balances in place for that,” he said.

When asked how he tries to avoid unconscious bias in his organisation, Scott said that within Allure Media, there’s a good balance of journalists.

“I think the answer is in [that] half the population is female,” he said.

“It’s very strange that that doesn’t come into play more often.”

Howatson said that both brands have grown and changed their narrative since producing these ads.

“Those brands have made the decision that they’re either no longer going to overtly sexualise women or advance unconscious bias. And I think this is the big thing for our industry.”

“Maybe we can even make a silent pact to ourselves – that in each of our daily jobs that we actually influence daily culture far more than we think we do, and if we just make a desiscion to not let any [unconscious bias] creep into the work, I think we can make a far bigger impact than what we actually think we can.”

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