Women in Media’s Tish Tambakau On Adland: “People Aren’t Pushing Boundaries Enough”

Women in Media’s Tish Tambakau On Adland: “People Aren’t Pushing Boundaries Enough”
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

It is more important to be fearless in times of change than in stillness, according to Tish Tambakau, Australia Post’s lead innovation and accelerator coach.

During this year’s B&T Women in Media Awards, presented by Are Media, we’ll be recognising exceptional people who have achieved success in their professional arenas, celebrating their invaluable contribution to their industry through leadership, innovation and courage.

Tish Tambakau is Australia Post’s lead innovation and accelerator coach, and a judge for the inaugural B&T Women Leading Tech Awards.

She’s also a Women in Media and 30 Under 30 award winner, with her finger firmly on the pulse when it comes to innovation.

Recently, we spoke with Tambakau, who revealed why she has mixed views on whether ad-land is embracing the opportunities of the coronavirus pandemic, and the Black Lives Matter social justice movement.

Tish, what does ‘fearlessness’ mean to you?

I think fearlessness is about taking calculated risks, when there is an opportunity. So, it’s really about doing things when there is an unknown; and, where I work right now, we talk about navigating ambiguity and having the right mindset to do so.

Often you don’t know exactly where you’re going, but I think that’s what fearlessness is also about—it’s pioneering and going to new places.

What that means, from a behaviour point of view, is really not falling back on what you’re used to.

And what does fearlessness in advertising, marketing and the media look like—from the outside?

I’m going to answer this broadly, but I think that fearlessness in advertising, from a brand point of view, is really doing things that no one has done before, and taking it back to pioneering and challenging the status quo.

In this current COVID climate, you see that manifest in also being able to adapt and act on things quickly.

I’m surprised when I remember that it was back in March when some brands were so quick to update their messaging, and that was really great to see how some brands can react in their communications.

And I think that is one of the fundamentals of fearlessness, as well as not having advertising act as a standalone—advertising is just a communication channel at the end of the day.

Fearlessness should show itself when you are able to connect the dots within a brand—from your customer, through to understanding the pain points and solutions, and really tying it all together.

One other thing is that fearlessness in advertising is also looking at other ways to measure what success looks like, because I think very often you have metrics that focus on sales and revenue.

If you use that as a primary success metric for everything, then you end up playing on the safe side.

Who do you know who has shown these good qualities since the COVID-19 pandemic struck?

I thought long and hard about this question, but from my own experience, one brand that really stands out as memorable is Youi Car Insurance.

As soon as the pandemic hit, they knew that a lot of people were working from home, people weren’t driving to work anymore. And they [Youi] came up with a temporary relief program for customers that allows them to reduce their insurance because they’re not driving as much.

So, I think having brands [like Youi] that can react quickly, can look at overall customer experience, look at different ways to measure success, it has made me want to change to Youi because they are looking at how they look after their customers as a metric of success.

Tish, what’s an issue in the industry that keeps you up at night?

In the Australian market, I don’t think that people are pushing boundaries enough.

In my time working for agencies, there’s a lot of brands who say they want to be innovative, they want innovative ideas, they want to push the boundaries, but when it’s presented to them—they’re just not willing to take the risk.

Because, again, they fall back to that metric of success, whether that be an increase in sales or revenue, or whatever that is.

I think in our industry—in the Australian market, which is a bit slow—brands are still looking at how they can create great digital experiences, but this should really just be the norm.

We should continue to push the boundaries and look at what more we can do to create that multi-channel experience, which the Australian ad industry lacks.

In what directions could ad-land go?

It’s all about looking at the entire customer journey—it’s not just about digital, bricks and mortar, or physical presence, but how you connect with your potential customer at different points of their journey, so that they have an opportunity to interact with the brand.

I don’t think there’s a channel or a specific solution. I don’t think there’s a magic one-size-fits-all. It’s really about understanding the customer first and seeing how you can integrate with their lives.

Do you think industries are embracing the opportunities presented by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Black Lives Matter social justice movement?

Yes and no. I think that there’s definitely brands that have been fearless in creating a stance with the Black Lives Matter movement, by coming out and having a really clear position, creating actions for the community.

And I think that’s been great. Because, when you’re in that scenario, you have the potential to also eliminate some existing customers as you’re actually taking a stance on something.

But I think at the same time its been great for brands to take a stance rather than not take a stance at all. I also think that it’s hard to be fearless in the current economic climate, because brands are trying to stay afloat, and when you’re in that scenario, it’s also harder to take risks.

I think that definitely there’s brands, businesses and industries in particular that have taken this opportunity to be really creative, like the restaurant industry, for example.

When all restaurants were shutdown, and you could only do takeaway service, that’s one thing. But then you start looking at some high-end restaurants who invested into doing video content. It opened them up to scale their offering.

So, I think COVID has definitely forced some businesses to think outside the box and create new service models. I think this has definitely been a good decision, and it’s now about how they continue to retain that, after months and months, when things finally go back to ‘normal’.

Which brands have stood out to you during the BLM movement?

One brand that was massively impacted is one that I follow closely—CrossFit.

Their story is interesting because CrossFit actually stood silent during BLM. This caused a huge uproar within the close, tightknit CF community, which resulted in the athletes taking a stand against the brand as well as affiliate gyms vouching to ‘remove’ themselves from the brand.

Further to that, it had inspired staff from CrossFit HQ to speak out and exposed a toxic workplace, and terrible racial and misogynistic leadership behaviour in that company. There was more uproar in the community, and they protested.

This forced action with the brand and resulted in the CEO being overthrown (he was also the founder). The community had hoped for this change, but I personally didn’t think it was going to happen—but it did.

It was turmoil for the CF community for a while, but it truly showed how important and powerful taking a stance is on these issues, resulting in change.

How can professionals in advertising, marketing, and the media be fearless in times of change?

I think that it is definitely more important to be fearless in times of change, otherwise you will get left behind.

With everything that’s happening in the world right now, there are more eyeballs on brands and how they understand the stance that they are taking than ever before.

I remember when BLM hit [in 2020] and I was just realising a lot on Instagram that people were upset at brands that were not taking a stance as much as the ones that were. And I think that says a lot.

I really think that they should be fearless in times of change, and they need to take a stance to do things that are going to make them standout—whether its just for your own consumers, or the broader community, as well.

And, make sure that when you say something that it can be followed through: ask, what are you doing? How are you making sure that you’re contributing to change, and not just putting a social post out there?

Don’t be shy, be proud of your achievements and enter B&T’s Women In Media! Submit your entry here.

You can also get tickets to the event here, which will be held virtually on Wednesday 28 October 2020.

And, if you’d like more information, head to this website.

On-time deadline: Friday 21 August 2020 (5pm AEST)

Late entries deadline: Friday 28 August 2020 (5pm AEST)

Shortlist announced: Wednesday 23 September 2020.

Thank you to all of our incredible sponsors for making the event possible! 

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