Optus CMO: Clever Buoy is a brand evolution not an ad campaign

(l-r) Roberta MacDonald (Google), Ben Cooper (M&C), Hamish Jolly (SAWS), Nathan Rsenberg (Optus), Justin Graham (M&C)

(l-r) Roberta MacDonald (Google), Ben Cooper (M&C), Hamish Jolly (SAWS), Nathan Rsenberg (Optus), Justin Graham (M&C)

The Clever Buoy shark detector project has made people “proud to work” for Optus again and is the first step towards the company’s move towards more technology solutions to help people, according to its chief marketing officer.

At a Google Lightning Talk on the project, devised by M&C Saatchi, the telco and Google, chief marketing officer Nathan Rosenberg said they were pulling back from traditional sponsorships and investing more in incubating technical ideas.

Talking about Clever Buoy he said: “This is not an ad campaign, it’s about taking our brand into another place and saying every client should think about what they can do in terms of making things happen, and that’s why work like this will change the world.”

Later he added: “Regardless of whether or not there are media impressions we did it to make the beaches safer. Shark detection in Australia is still done by the eye.

“We’re relying on a fisherman ina  boat saying I think I saw a shadow in the water, you should probably clear the beach. And the fact is we as Australians love the beach and spend a lot of time there.”

Clever Buoy is a system which detects sharks by sonar and then relays a signal to lifeguards on the beach via the Optus network to alert them to their presence.

Hamish Jolly of Shark Attack Mitigation Systems, which collaborated on the project, said it was about six month from being ready to deploy, adding they were looking at partnering with “friendly” local councils to trial it but said it needs to “stack up commercially”.

Rosenberg went onto explain the effect the project has had on the traditionally conservative telco, saying: “From a people point of view it’s been amazing. People have been coming up to me in the corridor and saying they are proud to work for this brand again. That’s just gold.

“You should try and find other people to do cool things with, because what you do with other people is much much cooler than anything you will do by yourself. And the response from people who work in the company will pay you back in dividends.”

M&C’s group head of innovation Ben Cooper said they had learned a lot working on the complex project, including the necessity to keep the ideas as simple as possible.

“We could have done a million things with this, but in the end we realised we just had to focus on shark detection for now, and the rest will come later,” he said, likening it to a “brain in the ocean”.

Data from the buoys when the system goes live will also be shared with a Google Plus group for lifeguards and marine biologists, which it is hoped will help gain a better understanding of shark behaviour.

Answering a question about intellectual property sharing Rosenberg said it was a “collaborative” process, adding: “There are obviously contracts in place, but this is a different way of thinking. You have to be open to the idea you may not know where you end up or how it’s structured and be OK with that.

“We have an incredibly strong relationship where that’s OK. It’s new for some of us.”

Alex Hayes in Cannes

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