We ask the CEOs: what big industry story are you following this year?

Mumbrella had a chat with some of the biggest names behind the key agencies, brands and organisations and we bring to you the first in a two-part series entitled, We Ask The CEOs.

As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe, the marketing, advertising and media industries are working hard to continue to function – and in some cases, thrive – in uncertain times.

It’s not been easy, but it’s important to look for the light and work on roadmaps to success.

The challenges of 2022 are varied, and we spoke with a variety of CEOs to get their take on the big industry stories they are most interested in this year.

Laura Aldington | Host/Havas

Laura Aldington, CEO of Host/Havas and h/commerce. Board Member at the Advertising Council Australia:

When I wished for a positive start to the year, I didn’t mean for it to take the form of my son’s positive PCR test the day before departing from Fiji. Or my own, 12 days later. Now, too many days, two solid bouts of quarantined isolation, a cyclone, a nearby volcano/tsunami and virtually no internet access later, it’s fair to say 2022 is feeling decidedly 2021-ish so far. That said, being separated from the industry by an ocean, a quarantine (or two), some natural disasters and a dicey connection has also been a strangely edifying experience. It doesn’t take much to make one realise the disproportionate distraction ‘the industry’ can be if you allow it. Once you switch off the noise about the day-to-day antics, it does allow the industry stories we should be obsessing over to bubble up in the silence – are we really making enough progress on DE&I and if not, how will we? How are we doing on the journey towards Reconciliation? How are we addressing talent burnout and the mental health crisis we collectively face? How will we retain our best talent in an increasingly competitive employment landscape? How will we finally change the gruelling nature of new business and the toll it takes on our P&Ls (not to mention our people)? And last but by no means least, how can we continue to advocate for the commercial advantages of brilliant creativity? If they aren’t the big industry stories we all follow avidly this year…perhaps they should be?

Currently reading: ‘Atlas of the Heart’ by Brene Brown, which explores eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. The premise is that the more nuanced our understanding of – and ability to describe and share language about – our experiences (in her research, most people can describe only three emotions – happy, sad, or angry), the more empathetic and connected we can all become. If there was ever a time for better empathy and connection, supported by an enhanced ability to communicate clearly about the ever more complex emotions we are all dealing with, it’s right now.

Laura Nice, Co-CEO | OMD Australia

Laura Nice, Co-CEO – OMD Australia:

Over the last few crazy years, it’s been hard to avoid the stories and conversation about the ‘Great Resignation’. Data from PwC Australia suggests that almost 40% of the workforce will be looking for a new job in the next 12 months. Further to this, six in 10 people who have left a business in the past year are also looking to leave their current employer in the next 12 months. You just need to scan LinkedIn to feel the buzz of ‘New Year, New Job’ as friends and colleagues celebrate their career news. It’s interesting that through so much change and uncertainty, people are then making further significant change to their lives in the hope of something ‘better.’ But is the grass always greener and will a job change fulfill our purpose and values as we reflect on what we want with our lives? Perhaps, and in the case of a lot of people, they will be using this as an opportunity to discover their purpose and it’s great to try new things as a way of exploring this. My advice would be to make the change for the right reasons and not for a short-term financial hit. At OMD, we’ve changed the narrative and focus from the ‘Great Resignation’ to the ‘Great Return’, which builds on our consistently strong culture and doubles down on two of our values – ‘Stronger together’ and ‘We care’. The Great Return supports our people with initiatives that recognise great work, elevates our up-and-coming leaders to have a more active role in the business and provides resourcing support and automation. OMD has the breadth and depth for everyone to explore new opportunities and fulfill whatever they’re looking for next.

Currently reading: I am terrible at reading books, unless I’m on holiday. In the absence of a sunny trip to Fiji, I’ve moved to podcasts and a friend recommended ‘The Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett’. I’m a big fan of Bartlett and excited to see he’s just joined as the youngest ever Dragon on the UK’s Dragon’s Den. I’m expecting to see him mix things up a little! His latest podcast is with guest Johann Hari and talks to how we can fix our focus and stop procrastinating. Our attention is under threat, we are constantly distracted and, according to Hari, I need to reclaim my mind! Now you know why I can’t focus on reading a book! Have a listen, the whole series is really thought provoking.

Richard Brett | Ogilvy Network

Richard Brett, Chief Executive Officer, Ogilvy Network:

I’m very interested in how, as an industry, we embrace and manage the new approach to work. While we had a good culture around agile work before the pandemic and have embraced hybrid – navigating how this transpires for our people and our clients remains paramount. So much of what we do is built on idea sharing, collaboration and connection – replicating that in this virtual world has had challenges and we’ve tried on a lot of different ways – some work – some don’t and being conformable with trial and error in a client service industry is something we are all learning to evolve and adapt. Equally, how can we continue to build great company cultures, and great places to work, whilst also building the right structures and processes that allow people to work the right way for them. We have to deliver both flexibility, good work life balance, but also a strong sense of culture and connectedness within the organisation. The way we used to work was designed in the industrial revolution over 250 years ago, and now we have a chance to fundamentally build a better way of working.

Currently reading: My wonderful friend Kaz Scott got me onto Impact Players by Liz Wiseman, which I am just starting.

Peter Bosilkovski | Ex-CEO Clemenger BBDO Sydney, Leo Burnett

Pete Bosilkovski, Ex-CEO Clemenger BBDO Sydney:

The metaverse and NFTs space. Both have become inescapable topics in the marketing world and I’m very curious to see if brands get serious in these new virtual spaces. It’s hard to keep up with all the buzzwords, at times it feels more whimsical than a real space for brands to engage in. Brands and celebs have jumped in from Maccas to Gucci – creating virtual sneakers for gaming avatars. There is much scepticism as to whether we are approaching a disruptive moment in time, the new internet, or if it’s just a fad like Second Life, time will tell. There is a lot of NFT activity, and some companies have jumped in to either experiment or to be opportunistic, however, I don’t think I can ignore it. If it’s an opportunity to drive deeper brand engagement, I’m keen to stay close. I’m no expert, but I’m learning.

Currently reading: I’m reading two books at moment. Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. It’s a fascinating perspective on the values that drive happiness now and in retirement. And Ronda Rousey Autobiography. Ronda was the unicorn in the MMA world, essentially turning the male dominated sport on its head becoming the highest paid and most famous combat sport ‘athlete’ in the world. I have two young daughters, and to read about a fearless woman like Ronda crushing the word “can’t”, is very inspiring.


Julie Flynn | AANA

Julie Flynn, CEO at AANA:

The role of advertising self-regulation has never been more important with Governments’ appetite to regulate evident here and around the world. Domestically that includes recommendations from the ACCC’s Digital advertising services inquiry, proposed changes to Privacy legislation, and the National Obesity Strategy. These have the potential to materially impact the way our members and the wider industry, do business. We are leading two major industry Code reviews this year – the Children’s Code and the Environmental Claims Code.

Currently reading: On a personal level, and for fun, I’ve been reading books about places I haven’t been able to visit for a few years. Love the aspect of place and history in Jan Morris’s classic book, Venice as well as Judith Herrin’s Ravenna. From a work point of view, I read UK’s David Lancefield’s blogs on leadership, strategy, and transformation – he has amazing insights.

Damian Keogh | The Hoyts Group

Damian Keogh, CEO Hoyts Group – includes Val Morgan Cinema, Outdoor and Digital:

At a broad level the ongoing impact of COVID and the health, economic and geo political fallout is all consuming and inescapable. At a media level I am really interested in the work being done by Karen Nelson-Field around attention metrics in media. It is well overdue for the media industry and has the potential to be a game changer in the future.

Currently reading: ‘Think Again’ by Adam Grant and recently finished ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. Coming into a New Year it is always good to open the mind to some new learning. Also listen regularly to the ‘All In’ (Venture Capitalists & Tech investors) podcast and the ‘Pivot’ with Scott Galloway. Both via Spotify.

Darren Woolley | Trinity P3 Global Marketing Management Consultants

Darren Woolley, Founder & Global CEO at Trinity P3 Global Marketing Management Consultants:

There are a group of stories all related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the impact they are having on society, particularly in regards to gender equality, reducing inequality, climate action, which are already impacting marketing, media and advertising. With a declared deadline of 2030, it will be interesting to see how Australian marketing moves beyond discussion to action in the coming year.

Currently reading: Just finished “The Status Game” by Will Storr on the role and impact of status on society and the mechanisms of maintaining the status quo and the need to shift our focus from dominance hierarchy and virtue status to a much broader definition of success status, beyond the financial.

Rich Curtis | Futurebrand Australia

Rich Curtis, Chief Executive Officer at FutureBrand Australia:

The Federal Election ought to be the biggest story of the year for all of us. What will be different about this year’s election will be the rising number of Independents challenging the incumbents in their local electorates – not only to win seats but also to disrupt the established conventions of party politics. How will the political mood mirror the business landscape? Will these ‘start-up’ politicians bring new ideas and positive energy to politics and win the hearts and minds of their communities? Or, will the ‘big brands’ of politics leverage their incumbency to their advantage? And will we the people be better for the experience, one way or the other?

Currently reading: Actual Air by David Berman – yes, poems! Originally published in 1999, long since out of print but then reprinted following his sad passing a couple of years ago. It’s one of those books where I might read a couple of pages at the start or the end of the day. So much more interesting than doomscrolling…that said, Berman’s never been a barrel of laughs if you happen to read his words or listen to his band, Silver Jews.

Anthony Svirskis | Tribe

Anthony Svirskis, CEO at Tribe:

Web 3.0 – it’s early days and well and truly needs years to develop, but the decentralisation movement is a bold vision that has the capacity to completely modify the way we create, buy and consume anything digital. If we look at the positive impacts of the pandemic, rapid digitisation and accelerated innovation in areas like this are a silver lining.

Currently reading: I’m reading Any Human Heart for the third time, it’s my favourite novel and have been chipping away at it over summer. My go-to podcast is The Tim Ferris Show, the back-catalogue of interviews is endless. I’m also big on business and tech blogs like Scott Galloway, Anand Sanwal for CB Insights and Tomasz Tunguz for Redpoint VC.

Shona Martyn | Walkley Foundation

Shona Martyn, CEO at the Walkley Foundation:

In an election year in the time of COVD-19, it is never more important to ensure that the media is independent, incisive, balanced, clear and considered in its coverage. Providing the “real news” is a responsibility for all media organisations regardless of their different audiences.

Currently reading: Debut Australian author Diana Reid’s novel Love & Virtue (Ultimo Press) tackles timely issues of power and privilege, consent and sexual violence, campus culture, friendship and betrayal. It’s a highly readable and thought-provoking book that makes the most of its sparkling Sydney location. I agree with Helen Garner who has called it “an absolute cracker”.

Kurt McGuiness | Primal Storytelling

Kurt McGuiness, CEO at Primal Storytelling:

Climate change and sustainability is perhaps THE big story for all us right now, and continues to be the one that defines this generation. Expect to see new thinking and innovation in this space this year as we all move to reduce our impact on the planet.

Currently reading: I have just finished reading Foo Fighters front man/Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl’s first book, The Storyteller, which I absolutely loved. Aside from just being a great writer, Grohl’s approach to life and art makes for a blueprint to thriving in a creative industry; by riding the wave of loss and opportunity with humility and humour.

Vuki Vujasinovic | CEO, Sling & Stone

Vuki Vujasinovic | CEO, Sling & Stone:

It’s going to be the year of the Great Recalibration in Australia. We’re figuring out how to get on with living, and for our industry the most interesting thing this year will be the return of international talent. One of the things I’ve most loved about running Sling & Stone has been that we had global ambitions from day one. Those ambitions are now a reality — and getting the chance to work with international colleagues from all walks of life (and for our Australian team to be doing regional and global work) excites us all.

Currently reading: I’m reading Walter Isaacson’s biography on Albert Einstein. I love learning about creativity in other industries. And I’m listening to the “Acquired” podcast series — an incredible show that goes deep on the founding and scaling of some of the world’s best and most impactful businesses. You learn more in a couple of hours than you could spending 20 hours researching a company. The hosts Ben and David have distilled so much information to help make each story comprehensive but accessible.

Chris Ellis | Finder Australia

Chris Ellis, CEO at Finder:

The rise of web3 and the premise of a decentralised web underpinned by crypto and blockchain technologies. Having lived through web1 at Netscape and AOL, web2 at Myspace, I am extremely excited about what blockchain and crypto technologies are and more importantly, what they will enable. I believe this will drive multiple waves of innovation, particularly in the way consumers pay for and own things.

Currently reading: Working Backwards by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr, which is a collection of insights and stories from working inside Amazon. We already have a strong culture and values at Finder (go live, be straight up, master your craft, 1crew and empower people) and have gone further, inspired in part by this book, by defining our leadership principles, our flywheel, replacing PowerPoint decks with six-page narratives and focusing on controllable input metrics. Highly recommend this one. I’m watching “#thisisnotadvice”, which is a series of short (~5 mins) videos exploring, questions about work in layperson’s language, from experts. The series is published by the head of Bloomberg Beta (and former boss of mine) Roy Bahat, Mon-Thurs each week on most platforms (just search on Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn). Songs+art+people curated by Christophe Neff. An 800+ page, 5 year long fan project chronicling the music, art and stories from the best band you’ve never heard of, James.

Elgar Welch | Streem

Elgar Welch, CEO at Streem:

Earned media measurement, that is, demonstrating the enormous value of news content within communications. Paid and social media are so far ahead of our industry on measurement that the opportunity to solve that problem is enormous and in such demand from comms teams who use media monitoring every day. It may not be a big global problem, but it’s one that will fundamentally underpin the value proposition of media intelligence, publishers and the work that comms teams do each day. Avoiding the pitfalls of disputes over metrics, what constitutes success or conversion will be key and ensuring publishers and media companies are well recognised for their audiences, impact and high quality engagement in their content.

Currently reading: Each couple of weeks I get the Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine delivered which has an excellent and very fair global view on the world.

Phil Benedictus | Benedictus Media

Phil Benedictus, CEO at Benedictus Media and Co-Founder of Net Zero Media:

I’ll again be following what happens to the tech media giants, in particular Meta and Alphabet, on multiple fronts, along with the associated ramifications for privacy, cookies, monopolistic entities, disinformation vs freedom of speech and general ethical governance in digital media. I’ll also be keeping a close eye on how our industry deals with the issue of Climate Change in 2022. I believe advertising for fossil fuels should be banned, just as tobacco ads were banned some time ago. This in turn is perhaps part of a larger conversation around misinformation in advertising.

Currently reading: The Timewaster Letters by Robin Cooper, aka Robert Popper, author of the wonderful sitcom Friday Night Dinner. Quality silliness: very funny. Humour is just the ticket in ‘interesting times’ like these!


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