WPP’s Rose Herceg on Aussies’ truthfulness, marketing to singles, and being over partisan politics

WPP’s Secrets & Lies report is back for its sixth edition, and Australia and New Zealand president (and author of the report) Rose Herceg told Mumbrella she is proud Australians are now “much more comfortable telling the truth to our bosses”.

“Two years of working from home, hustling and doing all the things that people have had to do; it has meant that people are just much more sophisticated and capable of having an honest conversation with their employer.”

Herceg is back with another Secrets & Lies report on Australian consumer behaviours

The report returns to many of the same themes from the past five editions, surveying 2,000 Australians and how their priorities and perceptions have changed over time, against an ever-changing political, cultural, and social backdrop.

“I love that our people can tell me the truth about what’s working, perhaps what needs to change, what they’re feeling, the kinds of ambitions they have, and how they’re feeling with their mental health.

“What’s happened in telling truth to power is that people are really good at doing it in Australia. If you look at the number of people who were fibbing to their bosses, it was 52% back in 2018 and now it’s down to 28% that’s huge.”

This comes with the caveat that the report found Australians to be lying more than ever before though, with 42% having lied about their whereabouts to family or friends, compared to 27% in 2018.

Herceg said the kinds of lies though have changed, with Australians being more comfortable telling the truth, “the lies we still tell are little lies about things that are harmless”.

Alongside being honest to your employer, Australians have also cut back on misrepresenting themselves on social media from 49% to 11%, largely thanks to the pandemic.

“It’s probably been hard to do,” said Herceg. “Because if you’re in your PJs for two years, working from home, how many glamorous parties can you actually post on Instagram?”

Australians are over partisan politics

The number two headline for Herceg out of the report she authored centred around national identity, and how Aussies are tired of partisan politics, wanting “this country to get bipartisan with its politicians”.

“For the first time, this country has spoken and said with the 15 independents that have come into the crossbench, ‘stop fighting each other with the stuff that doesn’t matter, come together as a country, come together as a government and represent the things that really matter’, like climate change, transparency, job security, and cost of living.”

“I think it takes a very smart populace and a very smart citizenry to step in together and say we are done with the bickering, get on with what matters, and I think that that speaks to an incredible democracy.”

For WPP, Herceg said this helps with the variance of work the group foes for the federal, and state governments, as well as for other holding companies and businesses working with the public sector.

“What it means is that we can really work with government, NGOs, and the public sector to work on only the things that bring the country together.”

This is also the case with the private sector she said, which is collectively speaking with one voice. “That’s not happened in a very long time.”

For banks, retailers, telcos and everything else, she added each should be talking to consumers with a unified voice on things that matter, in order to build back up lost trust.

Part of this trust, for marketers, comes with conveying fairness to consumers. “There has to be a fairness in pricing, and a fairness in product offer.”

“I think Bunnings do it really, really well,” Herceg continued. “They always have these four categories of pricing, the entry-level, the next level, the next level, and then the Uber level. What I love about the way that they talk to their market and given that every one of us has been inside Bunnings, there’s always a price point that’s really fair.”

“I love that they’ve never stepped away from ‘what does it take for the average Australian on the average working salary to buy stuff from Bunnings?'”

“So I think that every single brand should get really real about what it takes to make ends meet.”

Party for one

An area Herceg said many brands haven’t quite nailed down yet is marketing for the many Australians that find themselves outside of a relationship, often by choice.

“I actually think there isn’t a marketer who has nailed how to sell to somebody who lives on their own. I’m always fascinated with the fact that a lot of Australians embrace being single. They love it. It’s not lonely, they’re just alone, two very different things.”

She said often wandering through the supermarket, she will think to herself, “why aren’t they creating things that are really useful for a single person, that aren’t wasted, are at a reasonable price point, or in turn are incredibly indulgent for one person. And no one has cracked it.”

“I often think if a third of the country is living on their own, who is doing it really well for those people?”

“Even in the traveling industry, it’s more expensive to get a hotel room on your own than with two people. That’s got to change. So I think there’s a whole industry for single people that no one’s cracked.”

Simple English

In the report, distrust from Australians can partly be attributed to a rise in the use of buzzwords. 81% previously said companies using buzzwords or unnecessary industry makes it hard for consumers to get to the bottom of what they are actually selling, with this figure in 2022 now reaching 87%.

“I actually think it’s not hard to write like Hemingway,” said Herceg. “Hemingway was one of the world’s greatest writers, and he wrote so that a five-year-old could understand what he wrote.”

“I can sometimes look at a company’s website and string together so many buzzwords in one sentence that I actually don’t know what they mean. I think that it’s pretty easy to strip things back to simple English, and get rid of the buzzwords.

“If I look at the banking industry at large, all of the words around finances: compound interest, what is it to define it? How do you actually define a diventure, an unsecured note, share trading, or collateralized debt? These are all buzzwords that you could just do and rewrite in simple English.”

You can read rest of WPP’s insights and findings from the Secrets & Lies report here.


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