An open letter to the South Australian ad industry

Following Melbourne-based TBWA's appointment to the SA Tourism creative account, ex-adlander Sputnik believes it's finally time South Australia got the chip surgically removed from its shoulder.

Personally and professionally, I’d like to say how much I feel for any agency who loses a significant piece of business. Because agencies aren’t ‘things’, but rather, a collection of humans who usually bust their arses to do their very best for their clients.

And as we all know, losing a piece of business of this size, almost always involves ‘letting people go’. Which is pretty fucked up. Especially for the ones who then have to find work somewhere else to survive. And trust me, I know the feeling.

So to KWP and the people who make that agency up, whether they manage to hold onto their jobs or not, I sympathise. I’ve personally been sacked, retrenched, fired and let go more times than I care to remember. Sometimes by my own idiocy. More often than not, ‘just because’ – <insert reason here>. And it’s always fucked. You never get used to it. Sometimes you cry like a baby.

As a small business, I’ve also lost clients that were the literal life blood of my business. When losing them meant putting my hand in my own pocket to pay bills and staff, and literally emptying my own personal bank account, selling my house and using that money to stay afloat.

So if I ever sound flippant or brutal or disrespectful when I express my ideas about an account like this moving, it’s never, ever to the people who lose business, or lose their jobs. Or those who fought hard to keep it. That part of things is completely and utterly fucked.

But… and with me there’s so often a but… this “laughing stock” stuff is bullshit. As an industry, when are we going to get the chip off our shoulder?

The only reason we would ever be the “laughing stock” of anything, is because we still think borders matter. What is this, 1975?

Expecting protectionism from our state government is lovely, but in almost every other part of our lives we accept globalisation with open arms. Whether it’s the books we buy from Amazon instead of our local book store, or the cars we buy from overseas instead of… oh wait, that’s right, so many of us bought cars from other places, our local car industry disappeared. Go figure. Hypocrites. You can’t have it both ways when it suits you.

To have our industry group express their disappointment that the account went interstate is completely fair enough to me. Because it’s disappointing. But to self label us as the “laughing stock” – that’s fucking cringeworthy and humiliating.

Do we not even wait to be criticised by others before we do that to ourselves these days? Do we actually put out messages to the media describing ourselves this way?

Call me old fashioned, and a bit of an asshole if you want, but where I come from that isn’t great marketing. And if that’s the best we can do as an industry, it’s probably no wonder we don’t keep our own accounts.

I’m personally outraged and disgusted to get an email from the club I am a life member of, describing me, by default as part of our industry, as a “laughing stock”. And then we have the gall to blame the brain drain on others, when we can’t even be proud of who we are and what we achieve?

We are not Melbourne. We are not Sydney. And that’s OK. We’re still crying about “Melbourne stealing our Grand Prix” and it’s exactly that sort of attitude that makes us a “laughing stock”.

Not the fact that an account went to pitch, and after 20 years of the same SA agency handling it, it went interstate. It’s not forever, it’s for now. The challenge is on. Maybe instead of expecting favours based on geography, we just need to find ways to be better and compete.

And for the record, for those of you who don’t know, we already do in fact get favours in pitches like this. The evaluation of the pitch process is based on points system, and local agencies get a points advantage by default. I have no idea if I’m allowed to say how many points it is, but it is “significant”. So if on a points system we still can’t win a pitch, maybe instead of pointing fingers, we should be having a good long hard look at ourselves and what we’re capable of. And that might start with how we describe ourselves to the media.

To also say: “There are several highly capable, local companies that could have, and should have, been considered for such a lucrative account” is the height of stupidity. Any agency was welcome to pitch. Every agency who did was considered. To imply otherwise isn’t just stupid, it’s just a complete untruth. Wow, I really am sounding old fashioned now expecting truth in/from advertising now, aren’t I?

The local agencies (Black Sheep, Showpony and Fuller) who did put their hand up and managed to win parts of this account, well done. Congratulations. Where I come from, that’s the bit we could spend a bit more time discussing. Their part of the work that will stay here. Their feet that are in the door.

Let’s stop the whinging and make Adelaide great again. Oh, wait… may need to come up with something a bit more original than that.

Sputnik is the owner of MadTownAus.

PS To whoever wrote that AADc statement, I fully expect I’ll end up finding out it was a friend of mine and I’ll be on another shit list and off another Christmas list.

Let me say, I do stupid things all the time. (Possibly, like writing this.) So no hard feelings that you’ve written this. I’m sure your intentions were good. But it would be nice if we could give the media a better headline next time. Fuck. Me.


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