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Managing Marketing: Creativity in Advertising, Tech and Business

Andy_McKeon

Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Andy McKeon is the newly appointed Global Creative Director of tech platform Safety Culture. Following a successful career in advertising, working at Wieden + Kennedy, Goodby Silverstein and more, he moved into the world of tech, with senior roles at Apple and Facebook. Today, he is also a non-executive director on several global businesses. Who better to share the role that creativity plays in his life and the journey it has taken him on.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Follow Managing Marketing on Soundcloud, Google Podcasts, TuneInStitcher, Spotify, Apple Podcast and Amazon Podcasts (the USA, UK, Germany & Japan only)

Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast, where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media, and advertising, with industry thought leaders and practitioners.

Today, I’m sitting down with Andy McKeon, Global Creative Director at SafetyCulture. Actually, the newly appointed Creative Director, is that right?

Andy:

It is.

Darren:

Welcome Andy.

Andy:

Thanks, I’m glad I could finally connect and be on your podcast. Yeah, just signed up, just getting on board. I’m excited to be back in Australia and working for an Australian technology company with global domination, aspirations!

Darren:

Now, we actually go back quite a long way, the last century. But let’s keep our conversation to this century, because we have tried a couple of times to connect and have this conversation.

And I’ll say upfront the reason being that I absolutely admire your career of going from advertising into the world of Silicon Valley, and now, into boardrooms. And I’d love to explore some of that with you today.

Andy:

Yes, absolutely.

Darren:

It is a plan though?

Andy:

I think the consistent element is I’m curious, I like to learn, and I like to be in the middle of the action. I don’t necessarily have to be the centre of attention, but I like to be in there.

So, I work to position myself to end up in interesting places and do interesting things because I guess, it sounds more fun than the opposite!

Darren:

Going to boring places and doing boring things. You use that word “curious” because it is a word that’s often associated with creative people. Was that something that has always been part of your nature? Do you remember as a kid being that curious kid?

Andy:

I think I was always kind of energetic and passionate and got bored easily. I was always out there looking for new things and new stimuli, new locations. I was lucky enough to travel a lot as a kid. My family travelled a lot, my dad was an importer. We used to go along on business trips to Europe and the US.

And then, when I was a teenager and early 20 something, I was a horrible but enthusiastic ski racer. So, I got to travel around Europe and the US and train and race. So, I guess I was kind of used to being on the move and being around different and interesting people.

Darren:

It seems interesting, doesn’t it? Because when you get to that point of having to make a career choice, often it used to be that advertising was one of the few careers or areas that you could go to if you were that sort of curious, interested (to your point)person — you didn’t want to go for the boring jobs, you wanted to do something that was exciting, and advertising was that choice, wasn’t it?

Andy:

Yes, I’ve actually been talking to a few people about this because I felt like when I was growing up, the ‘traditional’ smart kids went into law and medicine. And I guess my brain didn’t really work like that. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough to do that. Those kinds of more traditional things didn’t really interest me.

I studied economics at university, so I could keep skiing. That was kind of the deal I had with my parents. And I guess it was a good general degree to have, although I clearly had no interest in being an accountant or a banker or something like that. Although, I look at some banking friends now and I think that probably would have been a pretty smart decision back in the day.

But the kind of modern-day banker didn’t really exist back then. So, I kind of stumbled across advertising and I think back in the day, it was a place that was super interesting. There was a lot of money around then. You felt like you were an important member of the economy, I guess.

Darren:

But now, there’s a lot more choices, aren’t there? The idea of just going into advertising these days. If you were your younger self then (10, 20 years ago now), what areas would get you interested, do you think?

Andy:

I think if I was younger and just coming out of the pipeline of education now, I’d be interested in the technology start-up world. I feel like you can have a lot of the benefits of advertising, starting with a blank sheet of paper and creating something. I think that’s a really satisfying feeling, building something that’s tangible. And it seems like you can have a lot of that experience now in a startup.

But, the infrastructure around technology in start-ups didn’t really exist, I don’t think even 10 years ago — it was right in its infancy. I feel like now you’ve got all these great Australian examples, you’ve got more creative companies like Canva and then more kind of SaaS, B2B ones like SafetyCulture or Atlassian. I’d jump on something like that.

Darren:

Yeah. Let’s go back to advertising because you started off in Melbourne, working at Clemenger, wasn’t it? Clemenger BBDO?

Andy:

Yes.

Darren:

What first got you interested in going overseas? Because it was very, almost traditional or expected that if you were a good talent that you would go overseas. There was still that mindset of, yeah, you can be the best creative person in Australia, but why not go and see how well you could do in the US or the UK? What got you motivated to go overseas?

Andy:

I did Award School, and I actually remember being in award school and I didn’t do particularly well, I think I was just an average student. But, I remember saying that I wanted to go to the US, and I think it was a woman Flavia Mazdon, said to me, she’s like, “Hang on buddy, just try and get through Award School first before you start thinking about going to the US to go do advertising.”

But, I think I already had it in my mind. I had travelled to the US pretty extensively skiing, ski racing, and training. And, then I did a ridiculous trip with a bunch of friends in a $750 van where we, I think visited 34 States, in about six months. Good stories were generated from that trip.

So, I think I always just wanted to do that. And Jim Riswold who is one of the partners at Wieden+Kennedy came out to Melbourne and did a presentation. And at the end of it, he said, “Anyone want to take me for a drink? I’m up for it.” And I was just a young punk, and I just assumed that everyone else would take him out for it, but no one else did.

I volunteered and took him out and had a very funny night with a bunch of random friends who weren’t in advertising and we kind of built that rapport. And then I actually targeted Goodby Silverstein & Partners, BBDO New York and Wieden+Kennedy as agencies I wanted to work at. And then I wrote to them all and said, “I’m coming from Australia and I want to work free for a week.” And they all said, yes. I went and I did that.

I travelled with a girlfriend, who was not impressed, because I didn’t really tell her that part of the plan. I was leaving her in the morning and coming back late at night and working on ads. And that was not really her vision of a good holiday, so sorry about that.

But out of that, I actually ended up working at Wieden and Goodby, and got offered a job at BBDO New York.

Darren:

Interesting because you targeted those three, why?

Andy:

I mean, I used to sit in Australia and look at Lürzer’s Archive Magazine and Shots Reel, and follow award shows and things like that. And I just thought they were doing the best work in the US at the time, work I really admired. I just wanted to get over there and I guess, learn from the best.

Darren:

So, I know it was fairly early in your career when you did that, and as you said, you’d already had the experience of the US culture. So, it wasn’t like you were going to experience culture shock, I guess. But was there anything that was sort of dramatically different or surprising about working in one of those hot shot US agencies, compared to your experience of working in advertising here?

Andy:

Well, I mean, Wieden was fascinating and I still think that is the greatest agency in the world. And probably, the greatest job I’ve ever had. And what was interesting about it, well it felt like in Australia, advertising was cool. The cool kids did it.

At Wieden, it wasn’t particularly that way. It was in Portland, Oregon, which it’s a bit cooler now… if you’ve seen Portlandia, it’s actually a documentary. It was probably the equivalent of Hobart back in the day.

No one was cool there or anything like that, and they wouldn’t go to the cool bars and no one was dating all the models or anything like that. It was kind of just regular people who put all their passion and energy into the work. So, no one was trying to be a rock star, it was more just trying to do amazing work.

That was kind of a bit of a difference I noticed. And then it was a bit more open-minded in a way. I remember there was a guy who used to walk around in mesh half tops and had painted fingernails and everything, like super flamboyant and just no one said anything. And I just thought if that was in Australia, I don’t know, it would have been…

Darren:

Commented on or made to feel awkward or…

Andy:

Yeah. So, people were just allowed to be themselves. And Wieden is an interesting place where they get people that maybe might be too eccentric or a bit off for a regular kind of big network role, but they go there and they’re just loved and protected, and they’re able to do the best work of their life. They remove all the barriers and the clients that go there are actually looking for great work.

No one was trying to do cool ads to win awards or anything like that. They’re trying to do great ads because they actually think that they work. It’s a very different starting point.

Darren:

Now, I had this conversation with Rob Campbell who was a strategist at Wieden+Kennedy in Shanghai, and he didn’t actually articulate it that way. But if you know Rob, he wears Birkenstocks with socks and he’s not exactly sartorial splendor, but he absolutely fitted in. And he does nothing but speak fondly of his time with Wieden+Kennedy. So, it’s interesting.

Do you think that’s a culture that’s built into the company, and does it come down from the top, from Dan and the senior management?

Andy:

It’s a function of that. Dan’s an incredible person. People used to say it was just like having this magical school principal. We used to have meetings in a basketball gym on these stairs that would fold out into bleaches. And I was just so excited to hear Dan talk about anything, he’s so wise and mindful.

And he wasn’t playing the game. He wasn’t trying to be famous or anything like that. He just really believed that the best way to sell more stuff was to do work that really stood out and connected with people.

Darren:

And you’ve had the opportunity, I should say, you worked at three of the really top creative agencies in the world, all in the US. What was your fondest memory of that?

Andy:

I mean, I’ll probably go back to Wieden again, and I’ll just say the talent you were surrounded with, the people that were there at the time were some of the world’s best creatives, and they might’ve even been juniors or mid-tier people at the time.

The person at reception might’ve been an amazing artist in their own right. There was a girl who, I believe she was a studio art buyer, Janet Weiss. I remember one time I was looking at Rolling Stone Magazine a couple of years later, and she was in there. She had one of the top albums of the century as the drummer for the band Sleater-Kinney.

You were just surrounded by all these people that were smarter than you, and they just made the work better. I was a writer and I had an amazing group of art directors that I worked with, and they just took this stuff and made it better. And then the creative directors would just plus it again, and the people in the studio, and then the production company could get the best directors on the phone and shoot your stuff.

I felt like a lot of work, doesn’t necessarily turn out as well as you would hope it would, when it’s kind of concept stage. But I felt like pretty much everything there, turned out better than you could have dreamed of, because you had all these amazing people helping you.

Darren:

The Midas touch, everyone was adding gold to the concept.

Andy:

Yes, it was pretty magical.

Darren:

A lot of people talk about the importance of diversity, and I get from the way you’re describing it, that it’s diversity that goes beyond things like cultural diversity or gender diversity and things like that. That it sounds like Wieden almost created a community that was diverse in sort of creativity. People that were great at design or great at art or great at music, that their diversity was actually just drawing people that were incredibly creative in their own right.

Andy:

Yeah absolutely. And I think one thing that was kind of special and unusual about it, was the location. Again, it’d be like having these really interesting world-class people all stuck in a place like Hobart. You didn’t have your friends from high school there, or from university, or family members. And most people, I think, were probably aged around 27 to 33, kind of in that sweet spot.

You’d been around, you’d done enough ads to get hired at Wieden. You weren’t expensive, you still liked to work all weekend and all night. And so, your work mates were your whole family and life.

Darren:

During that period, what was your favourite campaign or favourite piece of work? Do you have one or are there too many?

Andy:

Some of the fun stuff which I did, which I enjoyed, was the Nike Australian Open Tennis campaign. I actually got to come back to Australia and shot that with Alan White, an Australian Director who’s living in the US and works with Linda Knight and we just created a lot of work that I really enjoyed and kind of, I think, stands the test of time.

But there were so many amazing campaigns that the agency did at the time, all the big Nike people; Jordan was at his high. You had Agassi, Sampras, Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods. All the ads that came out then were ridiculous.

But then there was stuff like Miller Genuine Draft and Miller High Life work. Jeff Kling and a few other people that worked on that. And there’s so much recent work, that has that, as its genesis. It’s interesting guy insights. There’s so much work where you can hear that voice in there – that probably inspired generations of people.

Darren:

What made you get to the point of wanting to jump across to working inside? What would be considered a client side? I mean, today they’d call it an in-house agency, but it wasn’t really, was it? Or was it? And I’m talking about Apple and also then, you went on to Facebook.

Andy:

Yeah. I guess it got to a point, I’d worked for nearly 20 years in agencies around the world.

Darren:

Oh, you don’t look that old.

Andy:

I don’t feel a day over 700.

I mean, I’d worked at those great agencies and I’d worked in New York and I’d started my own agency, which was fun, but I didn’t really make any money doing that. I judged Award Shows, I just think I was kind of over it. And I was like, “Been there, done that.” I was looking around for something else.

I was thinking, “Do I become a train driver, that seems kind of like nice and peaceful” or “Do I go do an MBA or become a banker?” I was really scratching around and then I was fascinated by technology and the digital side of it. But I hadn’t really explored it because I think there was still that big digital divide back in the day, and the kind of glory and the money was still in traditional advertising.

So, I was curious about that and I thought, “I just want to go work for Steve Jobs.” So, I went and I moved back to America and worked at Apple in Cupertino and was one of the people running the internal marketing communications team. It’s a pretty big team. I think then, it was maybe about 400 people.

Darren:

Wow, that’s a decent size agency, isn’t it?

Andy:

Yeah, I think now it’s about 600. And I just thought it just seemed way more fun to work for Steve Jobs than working for me.

Darren:

So, because for a long time Apple had their own agency.

Andy:

Media Arts Lab or MAL.

Darren:

MAL. So, what was that like?

Andy:

So, MAL was set up – that was a relationship that Steve had with Lee Clow. And MAL basically did 30-second TV ads, magazine and print. And then the internal agency did longer format things, like launching all the hardware and software of iPhones, iPads, all that kind of stuff, or new versions of iOS.

One of the things I worked on which was pretty fun was the launch of Siri. Siri was actually a company that Apple acquired. So then, I got to meet with all the engineers, try and work out what Siri was. And then Apple was really good about really focusing on the benefit to the consumer.

I’d also worked on Microsoft’s advertising earlier and that was more about just product features and just more and more stuff you could do. And then Apple, was more, let’s start with the consumer and work backwards – unpacking Siri and conveying what people could relate to and understand and get excited about.

So, it was pretty a fascinating time to be there, especially when Steve was still around.

Darren:

Because there’s a few stories about Steve Jobs, and one of them was an agency told me, media agency told me that he flew to New York and he wanted to be taken around and be shown the actual outdoor sites in New York city when they launched Apple music.

And he actually wanted to see particular sites, and to make sure that they were the right sites based on viewability and the buildings around them. I mean, that sort of level of detail from someone who is the CEO of such an organisation, it’s just unbelievable.

I mean, I wouldn’t know many CEOs that would even bother doing that? They’d delegate it to someone else.

Andy:

I mean, there’s a lot in that. Steve was the greatest Creative Director, I believe, that’s ever lived. He was involved in every part of the company. It was really interesting the way he had his week set up. He had different days dedicated to different parts of the company, and Wednesday was the marketing day. He’d only deal with marketing on a Wednesday.

My boss would go meet with him every Wednesday and they would kind of run through everything and Steve, he’d even choose the voice-overs. There’s a lot of funny, crazy stories I could tell, but he liked to see everything finished. He didn’t like to look at animatics or read scripts or anything like that.

People would go out and shoot a whole load of different campaigns just to present to him, to get his approval. And then if he’d approve it, then they’d go back and usually remake it for even more money. They would just spend millions and millions and millions of dollars. But I guess, the company’s now worth over $2 trillion. So, you can kind of get away with it.

But there are so many stories. Like there’s another one with Chicago, they were trying to work out the grey slate out the front of the Chicago Apple store. And we’re out in a parking lot and someone had laid down something like 50 different shades of grey, but that sounds like…

Darren:

50 shades of grey. Shouldn’t that be a book or a movie?

Andy:

And I was just thinking maybe it wasn’t 50, but it was a substantial amount of…

Darren:

Options.

Andy:

Options for him to look at. And he’s walking up and down and then he’s like, “This is all bullshit, someone get me a hose” and everyone was quite intimidated by him. Someone ran off and managed to get a hose that worked and he said, “It’s always raining in Chicago.” So, he hosed them down to see what the grey would look like when it was wet. He was involved in that level of detail across the company. It was remarkable.

Darren:

And I think that’s why it’s interesting when — I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but the number of people that use Apple as a reference point; they go, “Wow, if we were Apple …” And you go, “No, it’s not even comparable” because there was something about what was created in that and the attitude and the culture. Which some people could argue was dysfunctional but it just worked, and to actually be able to replicate that in any organisation would be incredibly difficult.

Andy:

Yeah, you basically need him. It’d be interesting to see … I think they’ve done really well with Tim Cook kind of optimising it now, but it’d be interesting to see how innovation goes over the next 10 years.

Darren:

Yeah, what is the next big leap for Apple in the future? And then you went from there … did you go from Apple to Facebook?

Andy:

Yes.

Darren:

And how did that come about or were you just looking at the stock exchange and going, “Which one next?”

Andy:

Yeah, I was pretty lucky, I have to say. That was my economics…

Darren:

The S&P, which one?

Andy:

It was my economics degree that had me thinking about that kind of stuff. I mean, I was mindfully thinking about trying to make money, I guess, which might set me apart from some creative people. But there was this wonderful, really great friend of mine (Rebecca Van Dyck). We had worked together before. She headed up the Nike account at Wieden+Kennedy, and then she went to Apple and then Facebook. So, in a lot of ways, I’ve just been kind of following her around!

Darren:

Alright, okay, stalker. Professional stalker.

Andy:

Stalker, yes. There’s, “What would Jesus do?” Then I’m often thinking to myself, what would Rebecca do in certain circumstances? She’s wonderful. She’s on the board of the New York Times now and Strava, and still has a big job at Facebook.

I guess creative people do it as well, but you kind of collect your team and then you might move from enterprise to enterprise.

For instance, a lot of people who used to work at Facebook, have now gone to Tik Tok. A key person comes over and they might bring 20 people in their team and they kind of build it up, then move on to the next thing.

Darren:

Because it’s also another company, it’s a technology company, but it’s also a company with a very high profile and quite a unique character as the CEO, with Mark Zuckerberg. Did you find working at Facebook, that that was also part of it? That the CEO set quite a culture or an agenda for the company? Because he’s reported to be quite a hands-on CEO.

Andy:

Yeah, it was interesting to work at Apple and then at Facebook where you’ve got celebrity CEOs within, they are not just the CEO — they’re rich beyond all belief and they’ve both been Time Magazine Person of the Year and everything else.

And America has a different relationship with celebrities than Australia does. Australia is more like, “Oh we’re friends, we could be hanging out.” In America, there’s probably more reverence for people like that.

Darren:

Well, there’s a culture of celebrity, isn’t there? The Americans, you get almost a deity-like status for being a celebrity, even if you’re a lesser celebrity.

Andy:

Yeah, it’s a different thing, yeah. Australians have a different relationship.

Darren:

Well, we also have the tall poppy syndrome, which is quite toxic for celebrities here, because if they perceive someone to be too big for their boots, there’s a backlash that sort of tries to cut them down to size.

Andy:

Yes absolutely. And I think that that probably hasn’t helped Australia in the entrepreneurial world. Like someone will try something and it doesn’t work, and it’s, “Oh, I told you it wouldn’t work.” Whereas Americans, it’s, “Oh, well, I learned something from that and I’ll go back at it again.”

Darren:

I was told once by an Australian guy that — I can’t remember his name because it’s a while ago. He said, “Unless you failed three times, no one wants to talk to you in in Silicon Valley as far as being on a board or whatever.”

Andy:

At Facebook we used to like to hire people that had worked at start-ups that hadn’t started. There’s a saying, ‘you learn more from the bad days than the good days’. And I think a lot of people who might’ve worked at a Facebook or an Apple don’t understand how they are successful … they just kind of happened to be in the right place at the right time.

You’re on this rocket ship and you really, whether you turn up to work or not, it doesn’t really matter. The company’s going to blow up; blow up in a good way, not in a bad way!

Darren:

Andy, does that make being creative easier, do you think, with that attitude of fail fast is another saying or you’ll learn more from the bad days than the good. Is that a sort of culture that encourages creativity?

I mean, I understand it would from a product development, coding, technology point of view. But you’re working in both companies more around marketing comms, that type of thing. Did it extend to that area as well?

Andy:

Apple was very measured. They only have a couple of products really. For a massive company, they don’t have a lot of options. So, everything was very thought out and measured. And Facebook was a lot more experimental. I think at any given time, there’s about 50 different versions of Facebook running around the world. We were just testing different algorithms and everything else.

We used to experiment a lot on New Zealand, which always brought me a little bit of joy. But I think as a creative person back in the day, we used to try and make something that was perfect and then release it to the world and then get onto the next project. And there was a lot of high stakes. You’d make your perfect 30-second ad or 60-second ad or campaign.

Whereas now, I think you get a lot more ‘at bats’. You get a lot more opportunity to make stuff. You might have to make it quicker; dirty or faster, everything else. But I think that’s an interesting opportunity for creative people if you embrace it.

Darren:

And so, what happened with Facebook? I mean, how long were you at Facebook for?

Andy:

I was there six years.

Darren:

That’s a long term really for Silicon Valley.

Andy:

Yeah, it was. I mean, it was always interesting. We used to have quarterly meetings, company meetings and I was probably one of the older people at the company, but I would always try and get there down the front row, just to be in the middle of all the action.

It felt like kind of being in Rome when the Roman Empire was at its highest – and it was fascinating. Like you’d look out the window working away… “That looks like Jay Z.” I’m like, “Oh, that is Jay Z!” Or, Prince Charles walked past, because Facebook was so important and so relevant to so many people from celebrities to companies.

Darren:

Politicians.

Andy:

Politicians, yes, totally. I was at work one day and I saw Malcolm Turnbull and it’s like, “Oh, okay, Malcolm” and I went and got a photo, which is just kind of fun. So yeah, everyone was really trying to work out how to utilize it. And, it is a very powerful tool and I think people have now kind of woken up to the power that these platforms have.

But eight years ago, when I joined in 2012, it was still not really understood. And I even remember being in a meeting with Zuck and he said, “We should become a mobile company” because Facebook was largely a desktop product. And those, are huge moments – no one was actually talking about mobile like that. It was still pretty early days in the smartphone. Zuck had this kind of ability to see around corners.

Darren:

Must’ve been exciting.

Andy:

Totally exciting!

Darren:

So, you mentioned earlier, Andy, that you had got to the end of sort of the advertising career and you were bored and you were looking around, and then you’ve jumped into the technology, and you’ve had some amazing positions and opportunities.

Can you see from your perspective the convergence that people talk about? Is there a convergence increasingly of advertising and technology? Do you think the tech companies — people talk about the tech companies are going to ultimately dominate the advertising market, but the advertising agencies are still hanging in there. Is it becoming more blurred?

Andy:

I don’t know if this is answering the question, but I would say one big observation and it’s probably not news to anyone really. But it’s just the fragmentation that developed in advertising.

So, just as an example, I used to work a lot with Visa when I was at Facebook, and they had BBDO New York as their above-the-line agency, Proximity as their digital agency, MRY as their social agency because apparently social is different from digital… And then they had OMD as their media agency and they had event agencies – and it was so fragmented. And the agency structure was actually replicated at Visa. You had all these people work in different divisions with different bosses and reporting lines. But then, they’d do something like sponsor the Football World Cup or the soccer.

And it’s like, “Alright, what do we do? Who owns it?” And no one could even wrap their head around, who was driving the project, which agency was doing it. The whole thing was just such a mess. I think that has been a real challenge for people.

I remember going back to Wieden and they were doing some amazing work with Chrysler and going back, it was hey, “Oh, we should be doing this on Facebook Live or all this cool stuff on Instagram.” And they told us, “We can’t touch that because that’s with a different agency on the other side of the country.”

The kind of world that marketers have created themselves in agencies, I guess, through holding companies and everything else… they smashed the China plate apart, and it was really hard work to like that, to jam it all back together.

Darren:

Glue it back together. And yet when you’re working within these tech companies, they don’t have that sort of territory as much, do they? Because it is the organisation.

Andy:

Yes. One of the things I did at Facebook was work with a lot of the global clients in their ad agencies. And we, I guess, had the lucky position. We could actually bring all these people together.

I remember going to The Home Depot, the big hardware chain in the US out in Atlanta. It’s a company where people work for 15, 20, 30 years. And there were all these people in the room that had actually never met each other, and they all worked for The Home Depot!

And they’re all involved in the advertising marketing world, but until we had this meeting, they’d never met. So, it was kind of reflective of…

Darren:

I’ve actually had that experience in Asia. In that we had a client and we got them all together, just the marketing team together. And they started introducing themselves to each other because even the marketing team hadn’t met. It was 700 people in marketing and they’d never met each other. And it was like, “Oh my God, no wonder the agencies have so much trouble because the marketers don’t know each other.”

Andy:

Oh, totally. And then, they might be competitive as well, like who owns the ideas, who owns the budget, everything else. I think it’s a tough world and then, it seems like Sorrell’s ‘radical’ idea, was building these teams for companies like Chanel or Colgate or Ford. It was a throwback, “Let’s put everyone back in the one building again.”

Darren:

Team USA for Bank of America or Team America. But now, apart from your current job as Global Creative Director at SafetyCulture (which you’ve just started), you’re also bringing sort of this creative approach and curiosity to a number of boards as well.

And that’s really interesting from my perspective because there’s a lot of discussions about the need to have marketers on boards to keep boards focused on growth opportunities. But also, the idea of bringing creativity into the boardroom is such a great idea. How are you finding it?

Andy:

I’m really enjoying it. It feels very grown up. I can say there’s a couple of times in my life where I felt like a grownup and it’s having a kid, starting a company and being on a board, because there’s real consequences to your decisions, like hiring or firing people and funding and the direction of the company.

I think having the pedigree of an Apple or a Facebook got me onto the board, but I do think that there’s a fantastic position and role for creative people to play. I think a lot of boards are traditionally very left-brain people. They’re usually ex-CFOs or lawyers or bankers, finance people. Compliance and governance.

So, they don’t necessarily think about how consumers might make decisions. The emotional side of of buying stuff, or the storytelling – why do people care about Nike, but they don’t really care about Puma?

Bankers, would probably have a hard time trying to work that out by the numbers, or anything like that. I think we are particularly undervalued. I think it’s a great way for creative people, especially if you’re scared about aging out of the business, in your forties or fifties or sixties, to add value.

Darren:

To actually bring that visionable, that perspective to that environment.

Andy:

Yes, to join a board and to be able to add a different perspective to the left-brain thinkers. I think we get beaten up and maybe not as respected as we should be, and I think we should definitely have a seat at the table.

Darren:

Well, it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because so many people talk about the need for creative thinking; not just in advertising, but actually in business as well. It’s creativity that drives innovation, it’s curiosity that drives innovation. It’s being asked to say “why not” rather than “why” all the time, that is the thing that will actually drive businesses.

Andy:

Yes, and sometimes, it’s even just simplifying things as well. Sometimes these people can just add more and more stuff in there. I’ve been on a lot of calls with lawyers the last few weeks and just even the way they talk. And I was like, okay, well, that might…

Darren:

Let’s just pair it away and get back — what is the actual problem.

Andy:

Yes, let’s get down to the brief, let’s get down to the single-minded proposition or something like that. Like, “What the hell are you trying to do?” Apple was very good at simplifying, and, put a lot of time and effort into simplifying. It’s actually a lot easier to make something more complex, than it is to simplify something.

Darren:

And the other thing is that these boards — and not just in Australia, you’re actually working overseas. I imagine the pandemic has made that easier as everyone’s moved to a Teams or Zoom world. Is that right?

Andy:

Yes, exactly.

Darren:

Apart from time zones. Time zones are a bit of a killer.

Andy:

Yeah, there’s been a bit of caffeine involved. I think Zoom is super interesting, the whole Zoom culture. I heard an ex-Qantas exec being interviewed the other day and he was saying the biggest threat to Qantas moving forward is actually going to be Zoom, which I thought was interesting… the amount of travel we used to do in the US — I was on a plane every week, pretty much. And you just think about the whole ecosystem around executive travel.

But I do think it’s an interesting time for people to potentially, too, to be able to move geographically into different areas. People in the US are more scattered than they are in Australia. We’re very concentrated in a few cities.

But I’ve got friends now moving to ski resorts or beach towns or places like that. And they can still run their business or have an executive role where they’re just maybe in an office a week a month, versus 7:30 AM to 9:30 PM every day.

Darren:

Yeah, the idea that in the US, you’ve either got East Coast to West Coast because like you, now people are moving to Arizona or Utah just to get a different standard of living away from the rat race of the big cities.

Andy:

Yes, it’ll be interesting to see if maybe it does start to repopulate some of our rural towns that have been losing people over the last couple of decades to the city, if people actually start to go back the other way and maybe find a bit more land, or space or balance in their life.

Darren:

Look, I just noticed we’ve run out of time. Andy McKeon, it’s been great catching up and terrific to have you back in Sydney.

Andy:

Oh, so delighted to be here. I mean, gosh, I watch the news every night and I thank the good Lord that I’m back in Australia and for the people in Melbourne, you’ve done well, you do not want to be in the US right now.

Darren:

Just one final question before you go; as a Silicon Valley insider, any investment advice you can give me?

Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media, and commercial communications professionals, Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by Darren Woolley and special guests. Find all the episodes here

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Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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