I’ve recently left Switched on Media, my (second) home for the last three years. The change comes because I’ve relocated to Hong Kong, ready to embark on a new adventure!
It’s a bitter-sweet time as I say goodbye to a talented team of search & social marketers at Switched on Media. Particular shout-outs to Andy Jamieson, Scot Ennis, Dan Richardson, Kevin Lo, Hannah Gandevia and Chris Hitchcock who are taking the agency to new heights, already evident with the announcement that STW will take a majority share!
Change is often a time of reflection and it is, as I am in this middle-ground, that I’ve been thinking about traits of the Australian digital marketing industry from an outsider’s perspective.
Here’s a few thoughts:
1. Australia is more digitally innovative than Europe and USA recognise.
Before I went to SXSW earlier this year, I held this belief (and I know many other Aussies believe it too) that the thinking about social media and social business would be far more advanced that it is in Australia … but it’s not. The content marketing strategies, social media core principles and digital campaigns are all very similar to what we do down-under. We just don’t have the scale of audience to really drive huge campaigns so the hard campaign results may not sound as impressive, but as percentages our results are often just as good, if not better (in some cases!). I think us Aussies need to be more confident in letting our work compete on the international stage: you’ve got to be in it to win it.
2. Australia is an expensive market to run – and that can’t last.
Recently, I’ve spoken to agencies in the US, UK and Asia who have been open about their growth and operations. It’s clear that Australia is a very high-cost, low-margin market; that’s a combination that is not sustainable over the long-term. It seems we’ll see (more) Australian agencies sending more and more executional and delivery work offshore, to compete with emerging markets.
3. All agencies want a piece of social media pie & competition is (still) heating up.
I believe social media should have been owned by PR agencies; it makes sense: they are normally the voice of the company; they understand how to write for different mediums; they are longer-term thinkers than creative agencies; and they focus on the message, not just the platform. In Australia, I think PR agencies missed the social media boat at first so it became a free-for-all amongst creative, media and specialist agencies. The big PR agencies have well and truly caught up now, and their continued investment in talent who understand digital will put them in a strong position to take back more social media work. The other agencies should watch out!
4. Clients don’t know where social media should sit.
In my former role, consulting on social media, I worked with eBusiness specialists, Marketing Managers, Corporate Communications & PR Directors, Customer Service Representatives, Business Development Directors, CEOs and Creative Directors. There is not a ‘typical’ place for social media responsibilities to sit (see below) – that’s because social media is truly cross-functional and touches all aspects of a business. It’s what I now call social business – and that is a topic big enough for a whole series of posts (I’ll get to it one day!).
5. Global strategies & localised execution will lead to more talent shortage.
All agencies seem to struggle with getting clients to pay for a strategy. It’s an unfortunate part of agency business and an issue that the old time vs value billing and pitch payment debates constantly cover so I won’t dwell on it. I see one of the major implications of it being that large corporations will continue to move towards global strategies and localized content/execution. This will undoubtedly lead to a (continued) talent exodus in Australia as the strategic thinkers move to regional hubs where they can do this work. Agencies and clients will need to start preparing for this: will you fight it or adapt to it?
6. Australia is playing catch-up to Asia in making digital truly relevant.
Integrating online and offline consumer experience is the holy grail for Australian agencies and clients at the moment. Some have started to discover it: retailers like Sportsgirl who introduced virtual shopping while they renovated a bricks-and-mortar store; restaurants who let you order via an iPad or coffee shops that let you keep a virtual loyalty card; and of course, CommBank who’s new app Ka-Ching will make the social/mobile banking dream more of a reality. These integrated digital experiences have been happening in Asia for a while now so Australia can look to other markets first for key learnings and then (once we’ve played catch-up) for how to take these ideas to the next level. The work is cut out for Aussies.
This list is by no means comprehensive so I might keep adding to it as I keep reflecting on the differences in Australian digital compared to other markets.