With New Zealand returning to a post-pandemic world, DDB Australia and New Zealand Chairman Marty O’Halloran discusses how brands can build equity in a post COVID world, resisting the desire to go tactical and shares insights from his epic 34-year tenure at DDB.
Brands need to resist the temptation to go completely tactical in the wake of COVID-19, declared O’Halloran while featuring on the latest episode of SCA’s Brand New World podcast hosted by Russel Howcroft.
The majority of clients entered into a stage of panic at the beginning of the pandemic, the chairman explained, but are returning to their pre-COVID ambitions now restrictions are lifted completely in New Zealand and partly in Australia.
“I’m going back to the core of what we believe in terms of let’s get the tactical out there, but let’s start thinking about those enduring brand stories and platforms we’ve built,” he said.
“Some clients in the short-term say they want to throw away their existing brand platform to make way for something new. For me, being the voice of experience, that’s where it’s our role to say we’ve invested in building a brand platform for you, let’s see how we need to modify and evolve that to navigate the future that is in front of us.”
O’Halloran gives the example of Westpac in Australia and Lotto in New Zealand as having strong existing brand platforms that enabled the brands to navigate COVID perhaps better than others in the same category.
Both brand platforms have leveraged the power of emotion, something that has become synonymous with the DDB brand specifically in recent times with the 2019 global rebrand recommitting to the founding vision of the agency some 70 years ago.
“Bernbach’s belief in the power of emotional connection still part of the DNA culture of this business right now. Many people that have joined DDB think they need to change it, those of us that have been around for a while realise that it’s actually something extremely powerful that we need to hold onto as we also build a modern DDB well,” O’Halloran said.
“Even when you’re doing short term activity, if it’s done through the lens of long-term brand storytelling, it’s going to be more powerful.”
With 34 years at DDB under his belt, starting as an account manager at DDB Melbourne on McDonald’s and working his way to the top, O’Halloran has earned his title as an “industry luminary”, according to Howcroft.
His impact on the Trans-Tasman is evident in the recent slate of Agency of the Year Awards achieved by the Australian and New Zealand offices. A more surprising impact, however, is his role in the creation of the Value meals for long-standing client McDonald’s.
“When people ask me about one of my greatest moments in advertising, mine isn’t particularly flashy. But, working directly with the marketing team, we invited Value meals. We were the first country in the world to do it,” O’Halloran said.
“It’s good example of how young account and agency people of today can get inside a client’s business and drive profitability. As a young guy, I looked at the statistics, looked at the numbers and worked out the average person wasn’t buying three items, they were only buying 2.2 items per transaction. We did the maths and found if you discounted a meal by 15 per cent, you’re going to encourage more people to buy three items.
“Creativity is the wonderful bits of film we create, but creativity is also in the innovations and the new ways of doing business that we can help our clients navigate.”
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