Telum Talks To… Richard Brett, Managing Director, Pulse Communications

Telum Talks To… Richard Brett, Managing Director, Pulse Communications
October 13, 2016 Richard Brett

Can you tell us about Ogilvy Consumer and the work that you do?
We have a team of about 35 – 40 people in Ogilvy Consumer, the biggest part of that is in Pulse Communications, but we also work with an integrated agency we have with Westfield. We work across a number of clients: Ford, Microsoft, IKEA, Netflix, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Mars, eBay, Amex – we have 20 or so clients.

A lot of the work we do with Pulse is around this idea of “brave creativity”, often using new tech to do things that have never been done before. A really good example of that is when we launched the world’s first virtual reality department store for eBay in May. So that was a big idea that we had been working with eBay on for over a year and is a really good example of our approach to creativity.

What are some of the big changes in the industry you’ve adapted to over the years?
Everyone is going to say social and digital and obviously that is a very big change that everyone is still grappling with. What is interesting is over the last year social has increasingly become a paid channel and obviously we play in that space as well but we still see a really strong organic reach from great ideas in social. But I think that this has really put the pressure on coming up with very creative and impressive ideas and campaigns. We’re able to quickly react to the news agenda – we have a meeting every morning called “read and react” where the team gets together and we look at all the newspapers and trends on socials and brainstorm for our clients that day.

We’ve noticed the quicker you can react and get new content out, the more effective it is. So we’ve just recently published our new trends report and one of our insights in there is all around quick-response comms and how brands can leverage the news agenda and plan for cultural moments and get really strong and interesting content around that cultural shift.

The second thing is technology. Things like VR, augmented reality, motion analytics, 360 video – it’s a really interesting time to be in the creative space. Because all of these new technology areas allowing us to come up with new ideas there are things we can come up with now that we could never dream of doing five years ago.

You migrated from the UK several years ago. How do the industries in London and Australia compare?
I was probably quite surprised about how similar they were. What I found interesting were the cultural differences, because for me Australia has a far more positive culture than there was in the UK. I think part of that was probably because the UK went through a really bad recession. Although it was bad here, it was terrible in the UK during the GFC. We certainly noticed that clients were not willing to take any risks whatsoever, whereas I think here clients are a lot more willing to take a risk, have a go and give things a chance. So I think there’s a cultural difference that actually makes Australia a far more interesting market to work in than the UK.

From my own experience, the work that we do in Australia is much more Australia-focused whereas in London the work you do is far more European-focused. So you end up doing more tool kits, frameworks and documents whereas here you’re actually doing the work instead of just talking about it and letting others do it.

In terms of campaigns success, how do you measure the effectiveness of your campaigns and introduce that same methodology to clients?
We launched a measurement tool in 2014 called “Impact4” and the idea behind that is that there are four measurements that we try and put against every single campaign. The first is input – defining what success looks like. The second is output – the traditional ways that we measure PR and social, so the output of our work, the reach, likes etc. The third is impact – changes in attitude, changes in lifestyle and any other changes that come out of our work. And then finally, the outcome – the business outcome of the work that we’re doing.

We find that most clients don’t expect us to measure the relationship between a campaign and business outcomes, but by training and coaching our team to ask the right questions, we can understand how / if / whether there was a business result from our work and often we find that if we push hard enough and dig hard enough there often is a business impact that we can talk about as well.

We are committed to focus on the business outcome and the communication impact of our work and half of the battle is changing the way we talk about measurement as an industry. I think all agencies are having these conversations with clients (about the benefit of traditional media clippings, circulation reports and social reach) because ultimately that is one of the main things we can measure. But, then we need to push hard to understand deeper and more meaningful measures. We use some simple statistical analysis to understand the causal relationships between outputs and outcomes for example.

Having been in both in-house and agency roles, what advice would agency-land you give to in-house you and vice versa?
The first thing I’ll say is that everyone during their career should do both because it gives you a really good insight and empathy into what it’s like to be on both sides of the table. If you love marketing and communications, I think it’s actually very powerful to have worked client side and I was very lucky, because in my role at Samsonite I looked after all the marketing and comms, the advertising, media buying and website.

I think it’s all about empathy. It’s about clients understanding and respecting the agency and the people who work at the agency also work for you. Our teams respond best when the client recognises us as a true partner, as one team. And I think clients get the best work out of people when the teams are motivated to work in a true partnership.

Also, when I was client side there were whole other areas of pressure around people not understanding what marketing is and why people are spending money on marketing. People that don’t work in marketing think you can just cut the price, so there’s this constant uphill battle of justification and it’s quite political sometimes as well. We, as an agency, can set our own clients up for success by fighting some of those internal battles. It’s all about empathising with each other’s challenges.

Most memorable campaign or project you’ve been involved in?
I would say the eBay VR project. Just because that was something we’d worked on for so long and the client was amazing and very brave in pushing that through the business on their end. It was the first time we’d ever actually seen a company have an effective VR store where you could shop, browse and buy. So that, to have come out of Australia, was a great moment for everyone.

Another campaign I’m really proud of was one that I did at Shine for a charity in the UK called Plan. Which is an amazing charity that helps support education programs for girls in developing countries. They basically wanted to up their fundraising donations and we basically received a brief to help them do that. They talked a lot about econometric modelling and they wouldn’t give us the budget unless we could prove we’d raise more funds than the budget. We had no idea what econometric modelling was so we did a week’s research, figured it out and won the pitch. We came up with, at the time, what was the only gender recognition ad. It was basically an ad that could tell if you’re a man or a woman and it would then only play the ad if you were a woman. If you were a man it said that your choice had been denied like so many women who are denied the choice of education. It was a very small media buy but because of the technology it generated huge amounts of press and social buzz. And then we were able to give them back the budget plus 10 per cent more than they had spent.

A lot of what we do isn’t necessarily doing great things for the world and it was really powerful giving something back and working on a cause that mattered.

Where do you get your news from?
I was lucky enough to go to Cannes this year – so Cannes. I get The Economist every week which I find really interesting. Obviously the BBC, being British, and for the podcasts, TEDtalks are always really interesting to listen to in the car.

Favourite blog or online influencer?
We had an amazing person here named Jaharn Giles that went off to start her blog called Mister Weekender which is an amazing travel blog. I always go to her for inspiration and her story is a really powerful one. She gave up this world on a hunch and has only succeeded.

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