Big dogs, yes. Old dogs, definitely not.
The conversation as to who would write a wrap of the Young Turks, Big Dogs panel discussion on Wednesday evening coincidentally took place around my desk an hour before it was due to commence. No hands immediately went up. Not even my own. In fact, I tried my hardest to keep my head down and avoid the conversation as to not get assigned the job.
It’s not that I didn’t have the time or that I don’t enjoy writing. The honest truth is, I couldn’t think of anything more intimidating than composing a creative piece reporting back on the past, present and future careers of – as we were most fervently reminded over the course of the evening – the most creative and celebrated minds in our industry.
As luck would have it however, my name was thrown amidst the conversation, unwilling eye contact was made and ten minutes later I was begrudgingly heading down to the conference clad with pen and paper to take notes for my impending piece.
Five minutes into the panel discussion, I was more stressed than ever – and we were merely being introduced to the Panel: Brett Howlett, Executive Creative Director, Ogilvy Australia; Anouk Darling, CEO, Moon Communications; Gerry Cyron, Head of Brand Planning; Ogilvy Australia, Jonathan Pease, Managing Partner and Executive Ideas Director, Tongue; Brian Giesen, Director, Social@Ogilvy; and Kieran Moore, Chief Executive Officer, Ogilvy Public Relations, Australia.
As I listened, phrases such as “won countless Effies”; “recognised and awarded in Cannes”; and – my favourite – “Kieran Moore, one of Australia’s top ten most influential women in media in 2011”, were flanked by mentions of the most recognisable brand names in the world. Throwing a quick glance over my shoulder I could see that awe had been slapped across the faces of the other thirty or so other Young Turks in the room. To us there was no doubt: here before us sat a panel of media heroes.
The ‘Big Dogs’, who had literally been placed on pedestals before us, kicked off the discussion with a simple question: who inspires you most? The collective answer could possibly have been a world first to have self-made billionaire Warren Buffett, Advertising legend Dan Wieden, renown blogger Leo Babauta and charitable investment banker Richard Blum named in the same sentence. Although it turns out they have a lot in common. Entrepreneurial to the core, each leader was renowned for their innovation, creativity and ability to look beyond the bottom dollar to contribute their influence and talent to better society. By the time film director Quentin Tarantino and film producer Ridley Scott had rounded off the list for their “awesome story telling” ability to “stuff as many ideas into an hour and a half as possible on no budget”; I realised that my head was slightly nodding in agreement. After all, what are PR and advertising professionals if not storytellers?
By the second question: What was your first role in the industry, my head was shaking in disbelief. It came as – perhaps too much – of a surprise that such successful careers stemmed from humble beginnings. At Jonathan Pease’s answer, I literally dropped my pen. “My first job was actually in dispatch,” said Jonathan, a man credited for helping to bring Australia’s Next Top Model to my lounge room and not for distributing packages from a corporate mail room. “It was the kind of job where just turning up some days was a challenge,” he said with a laugh. To a room of Young Turks, this was top quality reassurance that we are on the right track.
By the third question: what were the biggest mistakes you ever made, it was clear that here before us sat not only the most influential people in the industry, but possibly the most entertaining. I found it necessary to remind myself that the following comments came from the same group of people responsible for launching one of Australia’s most recognisable budget airlines, the Share-a-Coke Campaign and for the first use of foursquare and a blog in commercial campaigns.
“Oh man there’s just been so many” was followed up with “I forgot to make sure my phone was on mute before going on a full rant about certain people’s incompetencies during a conference call” and “there was this one time when I accidentally CC’d a client into a group email that complained about how difficult they were.”
After wiping away my tears of laughter, I wrote the following as a key learning on my note pad: it is fine, if not expected to make mistakes. “You will learn more from your failures than your successes,” summarised Anouk Darling. “You will mess up a lot but learn through your adversity, keep putting yourself out there and stay hungry.”
Suddenly, the pedestal didn’t seem so high. It is not that by admitting their faults, the panel leaders had suddenly sunk to my level. It was that I had subconsciously sat up straighter in my own chair, as I sponged in what the panel had to say. Including this pearl from Gerry Cyron: “Your career and, actually life in general is just like Angry Birds. You see your target, take aim and you throw everything you have at it. If you miss, you just readjust and try again.” As easy as it is to laugh off the mistakes of others and hope they don’t happen to you; success only comes to those who seek success out and keep evolving their tactics in order to reach it.
“While this industry used to be about knowledge, now it is about the willingness to evolve and the drive to become an expert,” said Anouk. Put your hand up for everything, come up with another creative idea every time one gets shot down and love your work beyond the dollar sign.
The biggest surprise of all came with one of the most standard questions asked in a work environment: Where do you see yourself in five years? “Geez, I have no idea,” was the resounding response from the panel. The catalyst for such uncertainty can be attributed to technology which is causing everything to shift and change at such a rapid rate that the panel experts such as Brian Giesen believe that speed is the key to remain competitive in media moving forward. Media agencies will also need to be smart and come forward with big ideas, not big numbers of staff to win new business in the future.
“Technology is set to blow our minds and for that reason, I see the industry moving to a hub and spoke approach,” said Kieran Moore. “It is a commercial imperative for media groups to work together and integrate their offering or they will get left behind.”
This blog piece is testament to the insight and inspiration provided by the six media experts on the Young Turks ‘Big Dog’ panel. From now on, I will not stress about making mistakes, I will strive to keep evolving and most importantly, I will put my hand up first.
- “Do not confuse the ‘alpha’ with the ‘leader’. Leadership is not a popularity contest.”
- “Be confident, but not so much that you become a [censored word].”
- “It’s imperative to have a tight plan in life, but to live it as loosely as possible.”
- “The great distinction between creative people and non-creative people is that the former will always come back with another idea.”
- “You never know what your clients are thinking so don’t take shortcuts.”
- “Listen to that little voice inside your head and never be compromised.”
- “When negotiating, silence can be powerful.”
- “The biggest pitfall is taking yourself too seriously.”
- “Look to learn more from your failures than from your successes.”
- “Love your work beyond the dollar sign.”
Recommended reading list:
- The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche (1992)
- The Art of War, Sun Tzu
- Life’s a Pitch, Stephen Bayley and Roger Mavity
- Blue Ocean Strategy, Professor W. Chan Kim and Professor Renee Mauborgne
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell.
- Imagine, Jonah Lehrer
- Good old fairy-tale stories (namely, The Jungle Book)
- Anything written by Charles Bukowski
- Anything the Harvard Business Review suggests
NOTE: If you’ve ticked all these boxes, Anouk Darling’s personal reading list is available. Alternatively, turn on the television.