Lessons From An Aussie Adlander’s Move To New York

Lessons From An Aussie Adlander’s Move To New York

Former DDB Australia comms director Lindsay Bennett (lead image) has been working in New York for the past two years and is currently VP of comms and marketing for creative agency GALE. In the guest post, Bennett, who was recently in Sydney for the Ashton Media Agency Symposium, reflects on her time in the US and shares what Aussies need to consider ahead of any move Stateside…

Upon returning from the Agency Symposium, I found myself in a moment of reflection. It was a full circle moment, returning home after relocating to New York in 2021 to share the GALE global narrative, which I’ve had the honor of shaping over the last 18 months.

It prompted me to consider the last two years of my journey and insights that I can share for those contemplating a similar move.

Spectacle of stunts

One glaring difference is the absence of marketing theory in the US that dominates the Australian market. Down Under, marketers and agencies often lean on the frameworks and teachings of Byron Sharp, Les Binet and Peter Field, among others. In contrast, the US places less emphasis on established marketing theories, relying more on stunt-based ideas and earned media as validating metrics. As the largest economy in the world, it seems amiss to leave growth on the table.

Sadly, many agencies still prioritise creativity without linking it to tangible results. This has led to the commoditisation of agency services and a decline in status to mere production vendors rather than strategic business partners. Mark Ritson best summarises this in his recent piece discussing the diminishing influence of US marketers due to the failure to apply concepts of effectiveness.

This contrast in approach was a key driver in my decision to join GALE in 2022 – a Business Agency with a steadfast focus on effectiveness measured by business growth.

Corporate culture crash course

A stark cultural contrast exists between Australian and New York-based agencies. Being a talent hub, New York attracts those pursuing their dream careers with unparalleled determination.  There is a palpable sense of competitiveness rarely found in Australia. Consequently, New York tends to be less of a social environment in the workplace so you’ll likely build your social network outside of work.

There’s also the subject of scale. The economy of New York is larger than the entirety of the Australian economy. While this scale provides access to larger clients and budgets, it introduces more checks and balances. With great scale comes great responsibility. I’ve been lucky enough to grow my team to 10 people across Communications and New Business, which is unheard of in Australia.

Still, this scale can mean more layers of approval and, in the wrong environments, complex politics that I hadn’t experienced in my career until I landed in New York.

As an English-speaking Western country, I didn’t account for the drastic difference in corporate culture stemming from hierarchy and additional layers of leadership. In hindsight, perhaps I should have spent more time observing power dynamics and cultural nuances rather than instinctively shaking things up. Lesson learned: research the varied meanings of words (a side note: ‘singlet,’ ‘homely,’ and ‘jumper’ do not translate!).

That said, part of relocating is finding the right environment for you. In my case, GALE embraced and encouraged my approach.

Pocket of gold Down Under

Two years in New York have taught me to be a better Communications executive, a better leader and introduced me to incredible people both personally and professionally. GALE, in redefining what it means to be a modern agency, has introduced me to new worlds from martech to data and media.

The experience has given me so much, including the perspective of gratitude for what we have in Australia. Our market size conditions us to thrive with limited resources, be scrappy and make quick-fire decisions. Our geographical location and economic size provide a haven for innovation to flourish, shielded from global scrutiny.

These factors, ironically, make Australians thrive and stand out in New York. So, are you ready  for your Big Apple experience?

If so, you can reach me on LinkedIn.

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Lindsay Bennett

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