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Dream Teams: When Advertising and PR Collide

Advertising Agency
Melbourne, Australia
Harrison Webster and Max Reed, creative directors at TBWA\Melbourne and Eleven PR, speak to LBB’s Tom Loudon about how they balance traditional advertising with earned PR
Harrison Webster and Max Reed are making a name for themselves.

The Melbourne-based creative director duo have a dual role that sees them split their time between TBWA and Eleven PR. But far from being overwhelmed, the two have seen their fair share of campaign success.

Most notably, the campaign ‘Winnie-The-Pooh: The Deforested Edition’, a picture book published for sustainable toilet paper brand Who Gives a Crap. In the book, Winnie-The-Pooh loses the iconic Hundred Acre Wood due to unsustainable practices.

The reimagining of the iconic children’s book to highlight the impact of deforestation saw the pair garner significant praise. But having worked together for eight years now, nothing seems out of reach for Harrison and Max.

When Harrison met Max, he met a “highly extroverted boy” who seemed nice –  a characterisation he stands by today.

“He still looks heaps younger than he is,” Harrison says.

Max, on the other hand, already had an idea of Harrison in his head.

“I thought, holy shit, this guy filmed ‘Feed the Rhythm’ by Client Liaison,” Max says of meeting Harrison. “I love that clip!”

Nowadays, the pair have a more familiar relationship, having put several years behind them at TBWA\Melbourne. To Harrison, Max is a self-motivated auto-didact, quietly amassing a cache of skills as varied as animation and beekeeping.

“As a creative team, his skills become our skills,” Harrison explains.

“He’s exceptionally creative, but also also consistent. In the eight years I’ve known him, he’s never missed a deadline, nor failed to hand-make every birthday card for his closest friends (of which there seem to be hundreds).”

While Max still loves the Client Liaison clip, he has come to learn Harrison has an exceptionally high EQ, making him an excellent communicator, and very intuitive.

“We always seem to be on the same page with the projects we’re approaching and can work in a wonderfully symbiotic way,” Max explains.

“We have a creative partnership spanning the length of an average marriage in Australia, so it’s safe to say we gel well together.”

While eight years is a long time, time flies when you work with people who make you better. The pair both acknowledge that each of their respective crafts and working styles compliment the other’s. It’s not hard to see why; they are both former account managers who went to film school. But the real compliment is perhaps more in their temperaments.

“Max operates with a lot of energy which is contagious,” Harrison says. “He’s always emitting a stream of ideas to discuss and shape, whereas I’m more likely to spend a day pulling at the threads of one or two thoughts.”

For Max, Harrison’s rhythm helps to conduct and distil his own chaotic working style.

“He’s great at stopping and thinking, which is the opposite of my ‘craft’, if you can call it that,” Max says.

As creative directors at both TBWA\Melbourne and Eleven PR, Harrison and Max oversee both traditional advertising and earned PR initiatives. 

“One of the unique challenges of this dual role is knowing when to relinquish control”, Harrison says.

“In traditional advertising, you surround yourselves with teams of specialists, craft the work, and then release it through strategically purchased media. There’s a lot more randomness in the earned world because, beyond your initial media pitch, you can’t control the narrative.  All you can do is ensure the work is as simple as possible, and scenario-plan the response.”

But Max credits the unusual job role with keeping their ideas fresh.

“We find that shifting critical thinking between these two worlds really helps develop a diverse and interesting way of processing ideas,” Max says.

And their results speak for themselves. Their work for the sustainable toilet paper company, Who Gives a Crap, originated from the idea of educating people that over a million trees a day are cut down to make traditional toilet paper. The pair realised leveraging an existing book that already had a place in people’s hearts would have a better shot at earning PR.

“We realised that so many children’s books are set in lush forests where nature thrives, but with the current rate of deforestation caused by the traditional toilet paper industry, these books are becoming unrealistic,” Harrison says.

“We knew that in order to get people to care, we needed to win over their hearts,” Max adds.

“The strength of Harrison and my partnership is built on a mantra of collaboration. As soon as we have an exciting idea, the next step is building the right team to bring it to life.The most exciting part is that thousands and thousands of people switched over to Who Gives A Crap’s recycled toilet paper for a change.”

Not bad for an unconventional campaign. But unconventional is normal at TBWA, where, according to Harrison and Max “disruption is in the DNA”.

“We need to make sure ideas are disruptive at their core,” Harrison says.
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