Opinion

Why does Australia lack creativity?

Elle Green brand strategyIn this guest post, brand strategist Elle Green asks why at the 2012 Circus Festival of Commercial Creativity, so many voices were not Australian. 

This was the question I asked myself as the first day of The Festival of Commercial Creativity progressed. I know the purpose was to showcase the world’s most influential thinkers, innovators and artists. However, I couldn’t help but notice a startling lack of Australians in the mix.

I’d like to immediately excuse the company of Sarah O’Hagan CMO/President of Gatorade North America (Kiwi, honorary Aussie for the purpose of this conversation) and Rosanna Iacono Chief Brand Officer, Jurlique. However, that does bring me to my point.

One of the most exciting examples of commercial creativity was O’Hagan’s presentation around executing creativity in a social-driven world. It was fast-paced, invigorating and, goddamit, made me want to run a marathon (after a quick swig of Gatorade of course).

Rosanna Iacono knows her shit about brand. She knows where Jurlique has gone wrong over the years, through misjudging its customer and lack of a strong brand presence and is doing her best with a limited budget and local brand to rectify the damage. And she will succeed.

I’m not saying Aussies don’t have a creative bone, on the contrary. However, if you were a creative genius with an ounce of ambition, who would you rather work with? A global giant with a massive brand reputation, money, R & D at your fingertips and celebrity endorsement, or a local brand with huge potential and no money? Creative minds are rarely excited by localisation, so they run off to become leaders, rather than followers.

There’s no polite way to put it. Australian creativity is being stunted by parochialism. Creative geniuses are flying the coop because quite frankly, America and the UK are old and well-established compared to us and the of artists and innovators. The gravitas and financial backing that affords them leaves us eating their dust. They can afford to take risks.

The irony is, that when you’re young, you know no fear. You take risks without being aware. It’s only as you get older that fear takes over as knowledge of the possible consequences increases. So why then, are Australians so scared of doing things differently? Australians historically like things to be the same. Show them something wildly different to the way it’s been done before and they won’t understand. I am generalising here, a sweeping statement about the Aussie consumer at large sans target market.

Australia is changing. It had to change and I think on the whole, wants to change. It will still be a beautiful country that people would give their right arm to live in, but in terms of creativity, the digital, social world means that we cannot hide behind our beauty anymore.

Parochialism in the broadest sense isn’t favoured by today’s generation and certainly won’t be tolerated by the next generation. We are growing up incredibly fast and capable of our creative outputs out-doing our counterparts if there is the appetite for it. I’m not suggesting we are more aggressive in nature, before Satyajit Das accuses me of adding to the debt crisis.

I’m suggesting that Australian brands realise their potential and start providing a platform for Australian creativity and, subsequently, for their businesses to thrive.

Australia is becoming multi-cultural not just physically, but socially and brands and marketing need to adapt to that to avoid drifting out to sea. We need to think outside of our comfort zone of being a holiday destination with stunning landscapes and a very big rock, as looks can fade and rock erodes. We need to establish ourselves as a player and we can’t rely on our government for that. We are socially and community aware, we have a passion for life and are generally a contented lot as long as it’s within our shoreline. And with that attitude its no wonder creativity feels muffled. We need to recognise that our future generations won’t be Aussie-minded – they’ll be socially aware and wordly-wise. They want to choose local, but it needs to appeal to them. They like new, they like different and most of all, they want something that they can engage with.

We need to establish ourselves as a player and big Aussie brands need to recognise that our future generations won’t just be Aussie-minded – they’ll be socially aware and wordly-wise. They want to choose local, but it needs to appeal to them. They like new, they like different and most of all, they want something that they can engage with.

So I think brands needs to give Australian creativity a reason to come home and a reason not to leave. In a world where five year olds have iPads and see the world for breakfast, we really have no excuse anymore.

Elle Green is the head of brand strategy at HRX

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