Australia’s successful arts community offers a lesson to adland and creativity’s future

The arts community is thriving in Australia and adland should look to it for a guide to its own future says One Green Bean’s Carl Ratcliff .carl ratcliff

I read Tim Burrowes’ lament recently, in Mumbrella, about Naked’s facing, ‘the sad fact that clever doesn’t make money any more’. And he posed a reasonable question, ‘Where is the next model-busting agency going to come from?’

Tim’s enquiry got me thinking because I worked at Naked (and loved it) and because now I work at One Green Bean (and love it). Appropriately, both agencies enjoy a healthy regard for the future. And its potential.

It got me thinking also, because of course, Tim has a point. The paid creative model is creaking. There would seem to be lots of ‘creative’ businesses doing the same thing, more or less, similarly. At last count, across Australia, there were 1,250 businesses trading as marketing experts; thinkers and makers, thinking and making.

I’m uncertain as to which is the best creative register to reference, but if Cannes remains relevant, Australia – as a market – had its lowest Lions haul in four years, this year gone, in spite of a crowded sector.

Meanwhile, outside of marketing, creativity is killing it. Or – rather – originality is reaping what it sows. From music, to cuisine; from art to film, there’s an original boundary at work; one that is thriving. And, earning attention in Australia; for Australia.

In fact, a recent study published by The Business Insider revealed that Australia is the most creative country on earth on the basis of an index across three criteria: technology, talent and tolerance. According to the study, a nation’s creativity is closely linked to its economic strength, prosperity, productivity, and levels of inequality. Encouragingly, for Australia, tolerance is defined by a country’s “openness to ethnic and religious minorities and gay and lesbian people”.

Within our thriving Arts & Culture community, creativity runs riot in Australian Art, Design, Fashion, Film, Music and Theatre. From Justin Kurzel, to Jagwa Ma; from Glenda Nicholls, to Courtney Barnett; from Kym Ellery, to Emily Bitto; from Anthony Lister to Matt Lindsay; from Aaron Pederson, to Andrew Bovell. And back again.

So, it’s curious that our creative communications industry is creaking; is missing a new or novel philosophy; that there is no easy or successful bleed, from the creative ‘thrive’ outside.

To be precise, it’s a missed opportunity given creativity’s effect on long- term brand performance and growth. As distilled and described by just about all and every decent marketing academic, from Byron Sharp in Adelaide, to Les Binet in London.

Within our industry, then, how might we advantage more from creativity at large?

In his recent John Peel lecture, Brian Eno suggested that society improves when we allow the creative genie out of its bottle; that art shouldn’t be restrained to luxury, therefore. It should instead be allowed to wreak positive effect everywhere, making humanity more rounded.

More interesting. More, well, creative. To paraphrase, brutally, enjoyment of creative culture begets creativity.

Pushing on this theme, I’ve come to appreciate how affecting it is, to have fans of art, arts and culture (or, in Mr Eno’s words, ‘everything that you don’t have to do’) in your agency population, beyond just those in a creative department. Affecting because their core enthusiasm touches everything: from how you celebrate the Melbourne Cup. To how you pitch your latest campaign.

There’s an interesting by-product, to boot. With such attitude at large, the business becomes more wired for today’s social age, because it takes one fan to know another. And by recruiting more fans – obsessives, vultures, geeks – a collective intuition emerges. About what makes people tick. And, which stories will travel farthest.

Where does this land any concluding thought?

Well, it’s possible that the biggest part of the slice Tim references in his close – ‘there’s a slice of territory to be had sitting between the media/creative agencies and the PR world’ – will go to those agencies that don’t just say they understand the curating nature of today’s consumers; rather, they will teem with passionate curators.

These fans – their endorsement of, and passion for, ‘everything that you don’t have to do’ – will help frame a personality-busting approach, versus a(nother) model-busting approach, in the Agency of The Future.

It’s funny because once upon a time, I would avoid the simmering grump of an elderly Copywriter. ‘There’s no point talking about creative difference, if there’s no passion within’, he used to seethe. In the last century.

A spit ever fit for now, however, in the quest for a future slice, of future’s slice.

Wouldn’t you agree Tim?

  • Carl Ratcliff is CEO of One Green Bean

Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.