‘Melbourne is the new Adelaide because we lost focus’

Mark McCraith, Sean Cummins, Robin Hicks, Ian Coutts, Darren Woolley

The balance of power has shifted towards Sydney because Melburnians lost focus and allowed it to become “the new Adelaide”, pitch consultant Darren Woolley has claimed.

The TrinityP3 boss, who relocated the headquarters of his organisation from Melbourne to Sydney, said that a “loss of focus” had allowed Melbourne to be ursurped by Sydney as Australia’s top ad market.

“There was a time when you could argue that Melborne was easily the lead centre for business in Australia,” he said. “The cause of the shift has been a loss of focus. Melbourne has rested on its laurels.”

Melbourne born and raised, Woolley said he had wanted to live and do business in the city, but had moved HQ to Sydney because it had become “the centre of commerce in Australia.”


“Sydney is seen by most as the international city for business in Australia. It’s where many multinationals are. The head offices for the major media brands are Sydney based. So media agencies have their head offices in the city. The sheer size of spend is bigger in Sydney than Melbourne,” he said.

“Personally, I think the tide is against Melbourne. And I jokingly say – but maybe it’s not a joke – that Melbourne is the new Adelaide.”

CumminsRoss boss Sean Cummins argued that Sydney’s dominance was more perception than reality, and Sydney enjoyed more exposure because most ad trade titles were based in Sydney.

“The proliferation of advertising media in Sydney has created Sydney as a hotspot. Naturally the Sydney media fraternity have access to it and so their stories are more pronounced. If I read another fucking thing about Droga doing this or BMF doing that…”

“But you’ve got to ask yourself do we care that much anyway? Do we want that sort of attention? With the greater profile and the greater perception comes the scrutiny as well. And I don’t know if I want that scrutiny,” he said.

Cummins conceded that Melbourne had a perception problem. “But maybe it’s not a bad perception. Because also the perception is we’re a lot more creative, a lot more settled, less transient – and we are.”

“We’ve got good long corporate memories in this market as advertisers for brands, and we do it better. Sydney is extraordinarily transient, where there’s a revolving door of the next wunderkind from Britain,” said Cummins.

Cummins later said that the tide would turn back in Melbourne’s favour, using Aegis boss Harold Mitchell as an example to follow.

“People ask me, well, what do you want to do? And I’ve been saying to people, I want to be the next Harold Mitchell. Someone has to be. It might be one of you guys. But if not, I’ll do it,” he said.

“There’s no rule book. There’s no mission. There’s no anointment. There’s no entitlement. Harold Mitchell is someone who just went out there and did it.”

  • Mumbrella Question Time also featured Carlton Football Club communications director Ian Coutts and Maxus Melbourne COO Mark McCraith. Full audio from Mumbrella Question Time Melbourne to follow next week


  1. Greg Smith
    13 Aug 12
    12:18 pm

  2. Melbourne once the centre of business in Australia? Maybe in the gold rush days.

  3. Mat R
    13 Aug 12
    12:42 pm

  4. The fact they’re even discussing the subject says it all.

  5. Jay L
    13 Aug 12
    1:07 pm

  6. Why do people from Melbourne constantly feel the need to compare whether they are better at this or better at that than Sydney-siders? I’ve never heard a Sydney-sider get hung up on such things…..

  7. peter
    13 Aug 12
    1:14 pm

  8. Another “typical” head up bottom comment, especially the slur against Adelaide. Funny thing is, on a world standard, Sydney doesn’t even rank! Get over yourself mate :-(

  9. Rodney A Smith
    13 Aug 12
    1:18 pm

  10. There has not been that much good news for Sydney of late, but I agree the city has been working hard in all areas media and creative, and you feel this in many parts of AdLand. The energy comes from a great new generation. Lets just keep this news from our Barry, other wise Mr Do Nothing might put a jinx on us all.

  11. Anonymous
    13 Aug 12
    1:39 pm

  12. where is the best agency in Australia?

  13. I know
    13 Aug 12
    2:08 pm

  14. Pyrmont

  15. Sue
    13 Aug 12
    2:27 pm

  16. If Sydney is about ignorance and arrogance then – yes you win. As for your slur on Adelaide – had it occurred to you that we don’t want to be the new or old anyone – just like every other city – we are unique!

  17. Jay L
    13 Aug 12
    3:46 pm

  18. Sue, for the record, the person who made that slur against Adelaide was from Melbourne rather than Sydney…..

  19. Justin
    13 Aug 12
    5:44 pm

  20. If people think Sydney is the only place in Australia to do business then that really shows how narrow minded people from overseas are. The only reason why they are in Sydney is they won’t get out of their comfort zone and realise there is so much more to Australia than one city with a la la la house and a grey bridge. Im pretty sure Melbourne will dominate again soon.

  21. JB
    13 Aug 12
    6:24 pm

  22. I think the fact that most multinational companies are situated in Sydney is due it to being the main hub for international flights, and that has a snowball affect.

    As Sydney increased it’s No. of international flights over the years due to it being the main cap city closest to Canberra, more multinational businesses decided to settle there.

    I would like to think that even though the transfer of economic power has gone from Melbourne to Sydney, this has had reverse effect on Art/Entertainment/Culture.

    As Melbourne is clearly rated as the Art/Entertainment/Food culture of Australia (it is already the sport capital).

    It was always known (and still is) that Sydney is aesthetically better looking than Melbourne. But Melbourne always had the better character and substance.

    It is like comparing Los Angeles (Sydney) to New York (Melbourne).

    Just my opinion.

  23. Nigel
    14 Aug 12
    10:05 am

  24. It’s simply a population result. Sydney is the largest cap city in Australia & will attract more mulinationals & national advertisers.
    Melbournes population will overtake Sydney in the next 5 years & the swing in business relocation will follow.

  25. Spagoni
    14 Aug 12
    6:33 pm

  26. I was born in Melbourne and have lived and worked in Sydney. I’ve lived in a bunch of really big cities around the world. I live now in Adelaide. It’s funny, but despite all of the mudslinging over who’s the most creative and the biggest or the best, I know where I’d rather be.

    I actually do much of my business online and I connect with clients and colleagues alike using the contemporary tools that I thought we all took for granted. I don’t need to commute. I did that in Sydney and in Melbourne. I know the Williamstown to Flinders Street line backwards. And forwards. And backwards. I still like to visit though. For a bit of business and big city kulture, When I do fly over to Melbourne or to Sydney it actually takes me longer to get into the CBD of either metropolis than it does to fly there in the first place. Small is kinda good that way. It gives you something to laugh about when you’re over east visiting your chums.

    Despite our teensy size, here in Adelaide we still do have arts, entertainment and culture in spades. For a city of its size (think Seattle, San Francisco or Dallas if you need some kind of big city yardstick) in every respects we punch above our weight. Most of us in fact, have gotten over any mine is bigger than yours chest-beating and the inevitable Sydney-Melbourne comparisons. We do think it funny how Brisbane doesn’t even rate a mention, seemingly as if it doesn’t even exist when we’re talkin’ about all the action happening on the east coast.

    For many here in Adelaide we like it just fine. Whilst we may lack some recent success in the crass and often quite mindless world of commercial advertising (referred to by some as a kind of true measure of ‘creativity’), it is in the production powerhouses of Adelaide i.e. Rising Sun, Resin, KOJO et al, that some of the truly great and yes, cool work slips in and slips out like a fine Grange on the palate. They make that stuff 2 Kms from my house, you know? Shaw and Smith is just up the hill. I can walk into the city from my house. Just thought I’d let you know.

    Anyway, big shmig! Get yourself one of them electronic laptop things and hook yourself up some of those fancy electricity data pipeline things. Then, sit under a gumtree with an Adelaide Hills sav blanc and wail, “Poor, poor me. My life is just crap!”