Mumbrellacast special: Russel Howcroft on the consultancy disruption and everything else

In this special edition of the Mumbrellacast, Russel Howcroft joins Calum Jaspan to speak about the many feathers to his professional hat, including 3AW, Sayers, The Grid, and AFTRS. Over the course of the extended discussion, he also speaks about his disruptive move to PwC, why consultancies have been a good thing for the Australian creative industry, the standard of advertising at the moment, how Melbourne may wrangle back some head offices from Sydney, and more.

Up for discussion in this extended conversation, Howcroft says that after it was posed that consultancies has “breached the walls” of the creative industry in 2016 when he joined PwC, the assessment now is that it was certainly the case, and it has only been a good thing for the industry.

“The reality is that if you are a senior partner at these organizations, you are talking to the board, you are talking to the CEO, and the C-suite, and if via those conversations, you then are talking about the power of marketing and advertising in order to build businesses that’s a good thing.”

“Those of us that love the ad world, the reality is, the advertising industry has fallen further down the org chart, and so there’s no doubt that it’s good for everyone in advertising to get the conversation, whether you’re at an agency or whether you’re at a consultancy, there’s no doubt that getting the conversation happening at the highest level of organizations is the right thing to do or is what we all want.”

Howcroft continues that during his time at PwC, he was very proud of speaking to boards and CEOs, showing evidence of why they had to build their advertising budgets.

“We’ve had a decade, 2008 really until now where you’ve got advertisers continuously looking for the so-called 50% that’s wasted, which is complete and utter nonsense, right?

“It’s the most damaging quote in business,” he continued. “Obviously it damages the advertising industry because clients are trying to spend half as much, but it damages the businesses because they should be spending twice because advertising works, it works to grow your business. So why wouldn’t you advertise? It’s mad.”

Howcroft, now partner and brand design advisor at Sayers, founded by former PwC Australian CEO, Luke Sayers in 2020, says he loves working with Sayers and the others involved in the group because “they love the power of brand, and the power of ideas”.

He says groups like Sayers operate at the C-suite level, introducing the discussion around the power of the brand and the power of creativity, the important of marketing and advertising at the most senior levels, and that is what he is continuing to do.”

Over the rest of the conversation, Russel speaks about how he has settled into his 3AW gig, how he stayed positive on air during a grim 2021, the show’s “unashamedly Melbourne approach”, how he loves talking to the shows advertisers, the standard of Australian creative advertising right now, how political parties should be advertising themselves right now, and why Melbourne’s growing population may open it up to becoming the head office for brands and media once again.

Listen to the full conversation with Russel Howcroft below. 


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