Changing The Ratio: “Understand The Insights & Avoid The Cliches”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 28:  The CMO's Panel discussion, 'Leveraging the opportunities of multicultural Australia' during B&T Changing The Ratio 2018 at Belvoir Street Theatre on May 28, 2018 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images for B&T)

Prior to lunch Yesterday the Changing The Ratio crowd was treated to a lively panel discussion on leveraging the opportunities of multicultural Australia.

In the driver’s seat moderating was Kirsty Muddle; owner/founder, of Cummins&Partners. Along for the chat were Tamara Howe, marketing director Kelloggs ANZ; Willie Pang, CEO of MediaCom ANZ; Michaela Chan, CMO of oOh!media; and Andrew Howie, head of advertising at Westpac Group.

Muddle opened by stating that today 30 per cent of Australians speak another language at home and over a third were born overseas.

“So the question is how do we reflect that in our advertising,” she asked.

Howie said that one of the more successful campaigns he’d been involved in put diversity at its centre. “The idea was that lamb tastes good in any language, and that was really effective. Another successful strategy was to create messaging in languages relevant to the customer and not simply translate from English. And you have to do that now – if you’re the only ones communicating in English in a suburb like Chatswood, you stand out.”

And how do we ensure we really hear the minorities, Muddle followed up.

“A good place to start is just creating an environment in business that gives them a voice,” Pang said.

Willie Pang speaking at Changing the Ratio

“We need more people in the majority, the white males, to take a lead,” Howie added.

Muddle then touched on the sometimes controversial idea of quotas in the workplace.

Pang said he was a fan of hard targets. “I’m a fan because as a society the muscle memory isn’t there.”

“As an Asian female,” Chan said, “working at Chevron in America years ago, if it wasn’t for a quota system I wouldn’t have likely got the same opportunities.”

Howie, however, had a slightly different view. “As long as we set out quotas, I’m not sure the intent is totally pure. If we simply go through the process, we’re not going to be genuinely curious about including people.”

Next, Muddle inquired as to how you draw the line between mimicry and mockery.

“Neither are ok,” was Howie’s view. “You should try to get to universal human truth. At at core we have a fairly common set of values. They shouldn’t mimic or mock.”

“It’s hard to please all the people all of the time. We always strive to get the balance right. You need to have the right people at the table to navigate that. The work we did on Special K was always better when we had female creatives at the table,” Howe said.

Pang related an anecdotal experience. “15 years ago some of my young female Asian mates dated white guys, and amongst us it established it a bit more as a social norm. Nowadays on TV we often see the token multi-racial family. But for middle Australia it also starts to make it more of a social norm, which in turn helps people accept it as normal over time.”

And the rolled gold best advice for harnessing multicultural Australia?

“Understand the insights and avoid the obvious cliches – in the US in my past experience I saw things like including a piñata in Hispanic advertising, for example,” Chan said.

“If you’re looking at the Chinese consumer, ask your social teams for data on WeChat. You will gain an understanding you almost certainly wouldn’t have had before,” Pang said.

“At our best we influence people to think, feel and do something. If we mobilise our agencies, brands and peer networks and don’t make it just a box to tick, then we’ll start to genuinely explore the opportunities,” Howie summed up.

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