If you’re investigating a local ad industry, a good place to start would be with the associations representing the companies that make up the local market. The Communications Council in Australia and the Communication Agencies Association of New Zealand (CAANZ) protect and fight for the ad industry and the issues affecting it in their respective markets. LBB’s Addison Capper caught up Tony Hale, CEO of The Communications Council, and Paul Head, CEO of CAANZ, to find out the big talking in Australia and New Zealand right now.
Tony Hale, CEO, The Communications Council
LBB> You became CEO of The Communications Council just over a year ago. What have been the biggest challenges during your tenure so far?
TH> The industry has become incredibly diverse as all agencies expand their skills to provide creative solutions across any platform. There is no such thing as a standard agency or standard business model. So in turn The Communications Council must appeal to an ever-broadening base on members requiring different support and resources. So at times, our job can be like rounding up cats. Having said that, agencies have become extremely exciting and innovative, making them far more relevant in an age of continued disruption. There is also increasing opportunity for our different committees to cross-pollinate and work more closely together.
LBB> What has most excited you?
TH> The chance to bring the industry together with a unified approach to professional development. We now have a Graduate Training program, internationally recognised IPA courses and qualifications (online and residential), AdSchool, and AWARD School. All have terrific programs, support and a bright future.
LBB> What sort of concerns are members talking about at the moment in regards to the advertising industry across Australia?
TH> Most agencies I speak to are thriving with plenty of exciting opportunities. The most common concerns cited fall into two broad categories – conservatism when it comes to creative concepts and on-going pressure on margins. Agencies have to offer something pretty special to overcome both pressures.
LBB> How is the Australian economy performing and what’s the knock-on effect on the industry?
TH> The problems with the local economy are more associated with lack of direction rather than lack of performance. To the envy of most economies Australia withstood the pressures of the global financial crisis, partially due to the mining boom generated by expansion in countries such as China. However, since the commodity prices have fallen we seem to have partially lost our way. The Turnbull Government has shown some vision by projecting our future economy as one being based on creative, innovative, agile, digitally, scientifically-led companies which is certainly good for our industry. But there continues to be a lack of tax, government spending and structural reform that is essential for a more efficient and transforming economy.
LBB> What can be done to ensure creativity stays front and centre in these times?
TH> Strong creative always rises above the pack. It is always front and centre. It is always the envy of everyone who hasn't produced it.
LBB> As Asian economies have rapidly grown in recent years, what kinds of opportunities has that opened for the Australian industry?
TH> Creativity is certainly core to our opportunities, not just advertising but across all industries. We have a long history of being innovative and it is often overlooked that inventions such as Wi-Fi have been developed here. Creativity crosses many fields with our ability to offer formal education especially attractive to Asia.
LBB> Melbourne and Sydney aside, which areas in Australia are exciting you creatively?
TH> Creativity can and does come from everywhere, so you never know. Perth has been a creative hotspot for many years. I expect its reputation will continue to grow as innovative work continues to flourish.
Paul Head, CEO, Communication Agencies Association of New Zealand (CAANZ)
LBB> You’ve been CEO at CAANZ for five years now, what have been the biggest challenges during your tenure so far?
PH> The big challenges are always around fighting for the industry. Whether this is negotiating with the government around an all of government procurement deal for agencies, advocating for the right to continue advertising alcohol or taking a position on poor client pitch practices. This stuff is always time consuming and crunchy.
As an association that runs three major awards programmes across the year, including Effie, there is also a constant challenge to ensure that judging processes are robust and transparent and results are seen by the market as being fair and true.
LBB> What has most excited you?
PH> The thing that excites me most is working everyday with smart creative people from right across the industry. I continue to be inspired by some of the smartest and most passionate people I’ve ever met.
LBB> What sort of concerns are members talking about at the moment in regards to the advertising industry across New Zealand?
PH> The economy here is reasonably strong and whilst budgets are always tight, agencies are in reasonably good heart. I think the concerns here are probably pretty much the same as everywhere else and fall into the immediate and the medium term.
The immediate concerns are around the changing media landscape and how agencies respond.
We also have some regulatory challenges, with an increased focus by government on childhood obesity. In response, the industry is in the process of reviewing the self-regulatory codes, but like much of the western world, this is becoming a major issue and there is increasing public debate about sugar and links to obesity.
In the medium term the big challenge is navigating what the rapidly evolving media landscape means for creative and media agencies alike. In a small market like NZ, getting communications in front of local audiences is going to be increasingly challenging as people source their content from a wide range of online platforms. Protecting the local industry will become a major focus.
LBB> We’ve heard from local creatives that health and safety laws around production are particularly strict in New Zealand. Can you tell us a bit more about them?
PH> New Health and Safety legislation came into effect on April 1st. It places increased responsibilities on a wide range of people, including board directors. It affects all businesses in NZ, but has specific implications for the production industry. The industry has invested a lot of time in making sure everyone is aware of the changes, what they need to differently and how to manage risk.
LBB> As Asian economies have rapidly grown in recent years, what kinds of opportunities has that opened for the New Zealand industry?
PH> NZ has done a great job of forming links with Asia. We were the first country to do a free trade agreement with China. We have similar agreements with a number of Asian countries and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was a NZ initiative. So NZ agencies often work with clients on campaigns in Asia, or in other parts of the world for that matter. A recent notable example was the McWhopper campaign for World Peace Day, which was done by Y&R here in Auckland for the client in the US and gained huge exposure internationally
LBB> Auckland aside, which areas in New Zealand are exciting you creatively?
PH> From an industry perspective, Auckland is the centre of gravity (apologies to those outside Auckland). However, there are pockets of creativity around the country. Wellington (seat of Government) continues to be an important market and generates world-class work, particularly around social change. There is also some really interesting work coming out of Christchurch and Hamilton.