The year of challenges, of woes, and of creative solutions is all but over. As the dust begins to settle, and 2021 comes ever closer, B&T chats with adland’s young blood to see what the future holds.
Jack Elliott (pictured, left) and Lochie Newham (pictured, right) are associate creative directors of Wunderman Thompson Melbourne, and a pair of WPP AUNZ’s ‘young guns’.
In the second in a series of interviews speaking with the best and brightest of the industry’s wave of young creatives, B&T chats with the pair, revealing their passions for advertising and where our industry can go from here.
What are the year’s best learnings that we ought to take into 2021? Do we need more challengers in the year ahead? And is ‘data’ the buzzword of 2020?
These questions and more were answered with finesse from the pair, in the interview that follows.
B&T: Jack, Lochie, why do you choose to work in advertising?
Jack: I grew up in regional Victoria, where a lot of my high school mates decided to become tradies. I liked the idea of having a finished product to show for my work, but as someone who barely had the dexterity for Year 9 Woodwork, I settled for making ads not houses.
It’s not just the finished product that excites me though, it’s the process. I love the problem solving, the teamwork, the uniqueness of every brief, and sometimes I even like the late nights.
Lochie: Advertising is the perfect career choice for someone who never really made up their mind about what they wanted to do. You get some of the creative fulfilment of an artist discovering new ideas. Some of the intellectual fulfillment of an engineer solving real problems. And some of the emotional fulfillment of a kindergartner receiving praise for a finger-painting.
The potential to help find solutions to some of the world’s biggest issues is the carrot that keeps the game interesting.
Has your perspective on the industry changed since you began working in it to now?
Jack: My perception of how creative advertising people can be beyond advertising has certainly changed since I first started out.
It feels like every week you’re hearing about someone in the agency or broader industry who’s starting their own fashion label, DJing on the weekends, or even creating their own brand of vodka.
It’s been great to see how these entrepreneurial side-hustles help us better understand the challenges our clients face, and how inspiring they are for those of us who get to watch from the best seats in the house.
As consumers prepared to spend billions on Black Friday, Patagonia revealed it would again not be taking part in Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales. It said: “There are many initiatives we’d rather be drawing attention to … instead of encouraging rampant consumption.”
The brand also famously knitted “vote the assholes out” into its apparel, calling on people to vote climate denying politicians out of office ahead of the US election.
Is this what the modern brand ought to look like in 2021? Do we need more challengers?
Lochie: The best and most interesting, creative work almost always comes when you’re taking on a well-held belief, category norms or ‘the man’. So, selfishly, I’d love there to be more challengers because it’d make my job easier and more fun.
From a brand point of view though, I don’t know if we can even still look at a lot of these causes as being ‘challenger’. Talking Politics doesn’t have the stigma it once did, and consumers are increasingly expecting brands to care about the things that they do.
Brands shouldn’t grandstand or be tokenistic—that’s never a good look. But if an issue relates to them and resonates with them, then they should be just as vocal about it as their audience.
Spotify just came out with its ‘Wrapped for Advertisers’, which breaks down audience insights globally and across different markets. It seems there’s a new breakthrough in data on demographics every week.
Is it safe to say ‘data’ is the buzzword of 2020? Or should we continue to take these announcements seriously in 2021?
Jack: 2020 has had its fair share of buzzwords—this guy even wrote a book about them—but data is here to stay far longer than ‘Quarantini’ (I hope). The thing that will be most interesting to see in 2021 is how brands harness it.
Data on its own isn’t the impressive thing, it’s how we analyse it or reframe it that’s most exciting to me; whether it’s the creative way that brands reframe their consumers’ data for them, like Spotify does so well. Or whether it’s how brands use data to tell a brand story, like Volvo’s E.V.A. Initiative.
Lochie: Our collective moods, especially in locked down Melbourne, have never been so directly tied to numbers and graphs; daily case numbers, rolling 14-day averages, logarithmic vs linear scale graphs.
There’s not a lot of people who will have come out of 2020 looking smug—maybe some epidemiologists, probably Jacinda Ardern, but definitely every single high school maths teacher who’s ever had a kid say, “yeah but when will I ever use this?”. Everyone’s become a sitting room statistician in 2020 and data has never been so relevant or democratised.
That said, my favourite 2020 buzzword is probably anthropause.
What are the greatest learnings of 2020 that will serve us well as an industry in 2021? And what aspects of our industry should we leave behind?
Lochie: Jack and I were the first people in our office sent to work from home. We’d been to a festival the weekend before where someone had tested positive, and as we were quietly escorted out of the building (so as to not cause a panic) I remember feeling like I was being sent on a little holiday.
A couple of weeks working from the couch, maybe sometimes in a hammock, it sounded too relaxed to actually be considered work. Eight months of lockdown later, I’ve never been more exhausted or gotten more work done. There’s good and bad to that. Working nationally and internationally has felt more seamless but the lack of distinction between office and home, and the need to mark a clock-off time, has I’m sure contributed to more drinking than is ideal.
So, I’d like to continue working from home, but not for five days a week. Maybe two or three.
We just learned that Dentsu, one of the world’s largest agency networks, plans to reduce its workforce by 6,000 employees. It’s the latest news of agencies struggling, during what is proving to be an extraordinarily challenging time for our industry.
After all that has transpired across the industry during 2020, are you hopeful or resigned to what 2021 holds? What will the year look like?
Jack: I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of guy, so despite how often 2020 has tried to smack that glass off the table, I’m still optimistic about 2021—and I think there’s plenty of reason to be.
As we’ve seen this year, crisis breeds creativity, and as we work with clients on some of the most unique challenges we’ve ever faced together, we’ll begin to uncover some of the most unique solutions ever.
With the growing list of problems the world is now facing, I think we’ll also have more opportunities as an industry to use our creative powers for good.
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