Perspectives On Aussie Adland From A Newly-Arrived Englishman

Perspectives On Aussie Adland From A Newly-Arrived Englishman

After 20 years in strategy and innovation roles agency side, in London, RYVL Channelzero’s new head of strategy, Dan Machen (pictured below) shares his thoughts on the local industry and finding the right role Down Under.

When I emigrated to Sydney from London this year, I’d been told all sorts of alarmist stuff about agency life in Australia. “It’s a bit parochial.” said one. “Get set to step back 10 years” snarked another, over a bowl of overpriced olives in Soho House.


In my London life, I was director of innovation at HeyHuman. HeyHuman is an independent agency that we completely reengineered to engage with people in the modern world based on behavioural science.

Starting out as a relative unknown, or “Hey Who?!’, we grew to be an International award-winning agency, also nominated for UK agency of the year in 2017.

Based on this I felt like I had a lot to offer Australia and above that, I was proud to have helped create something that genuinely repurposed our process around creative collaboration. A client of ours remarked on how much we involved them in the process. How refreshingly it was to be able to honestly say – “when it comes to us, being people-first, isn’t just a positioning, it’s a position.”

As I began to look at strategy jobs in Sydney, I discovered two things.
First, many of the people who look down on markets outside London are full of shit.

Second, the reality of the advertising and marketing world in Australia is both better and worse than I’d been told.

Better – because there are some fantastic people here, doing brilliant work.
Adam Ferrier and Thinkerbell’s new ad for Vegemite, strikes me as genius – warm, hugely embracing of Aussie culture and supremely mnemonic and distinctive. Ben Cooper at Tricky Jigsaw is getting great innovation away and is a rare breed of super smart and a thoroughly decent human being.

Finally, the folks at The Communications Council, led by Tony Hale, were hugely welcoming to a Pom they didn’t know from Adam.

Worse – because as someone interested in pushing the agency model,
I found precious little appetite to do so. The world has changed so why haven’t agencies? The larger networks, while talking a great ‘horizontality’ game, would invariably default back the creative agency/TV as the engine of network revenue.

Plus, when some were asked if they would be open to evolving their model to be more client and or behaviour-centric, the feeling I got was emphatically, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

After a while looking, the answer for me lay in a more independent agency RYVL Channelzero. Coming from the RYVL Group – set up as an agile antidote to the traditional network – Channelzero is perfectly placed to shake the agency model.

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  • Adam Ferrier 2 years ago

    On behalf of the Vegemite crew and Thinkerbell, thank-you.

  • Dan Machen 2 years ago

    You’re very welcome. Great work!

Dan Machen RYVL Channelzero

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