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Managing Marketing: Santa on the Marketing of Christmas

Marketing of Christmas

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.

Ho! Ho! Ho! He is the Production Manager of Toys. The Strategy Planner of Distribution. And the Chief Creative Officer of Christmas. Santa Claus is coming to town. And he knows in media, marketing and advertising, who has been naughty and who has been nice. After the past two years of pandemic blues, we talk with Santa and find out how he sees the current situation in marketing.

Please note, Santa was particularly merry at the time of this recording and Santa’s opinions are his alone and delivered in the spirit of satirical frivolity. Happy holidays from all at TrinityP3 and from Santa Claus, Merry Christmas one and all!

You can listen to the podcast here:

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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.

But today, I’m sitting down with a very special guest. He’s known as the Production Manager of Toys, the Strategy Planner of Distribution, and the Chief Creative Officer of Christmas. Today, let’s welcome, Mr Santa Claus. Welcome, Santa.

Santa:

Ho-ho-ho-ho! Thank you, thank you!

Darren:

Look, Santa, it’s great to have you here. I imagine this is the busiest time of year as you prepare for the big night.

Santa:

This is full-on. December is my busiest period, obviously. And then I relax the other 10 or 11 months. But yeah, no crazy, absolutely crazy.

The Coca Cola Global Pitch

Darren:

Well, I was just reflecting Santa on where we were a year ago, and I remember the big sad news for a lot of agencies that time, was the Coca Cola company had announced that they were doing this global pitch review of all their business. And in fact, it’s taken them a whole year.

Santa:

I’m to say a whole 12 months. I think I understood 200 markets or something – but I know it was global. But it was literally a crazy brief … can you imagine the amount of money that was spent on that pitch?

Darren:

Ridiculous. But then it’s worth several billion dollars in advertising.

Santa:

And did you think WPP had a good chance?

Darren:

Well, I didn’t actually have them in my top three. I thought it was going to go somewhere else, but clearly, it’s not called horizontality anymore. That’s the-

Santa:

No, that’s right. Martin is gone, totally right.

Darren:

What do they call it now?

Santa:

Actually, I don’t think he has a name. Mark Read doesn’t have a name. But I think they’ve created a special division, haven’t they? Like this special group where they’re bringing … I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s some trendy name.

Darren:

Maybe going on past exciting names, creativity is certainly rife at WPP. For Ford, they had the Blue Team-

Santa:

It can’t be the Red Team because that was Vodafone.

Darren:

Can’t be red. And then they had Team America from the Bank of America. I mean, they have very creative-

Santa:

Oh, very creative. You’ve got to brief that out.

Darren:

So, what could this be called? The Fizz Team?

Santa:

The Fizz Team, Refreshment Team? Yeah, I feel like it’s a combination of bringing things together, like a trio or something.

Darren:

So, Santa, was that a part of your plan to bring an early Christmas present to Mr Mark Read?

Santa:

Well, why not? It’s that time of the year. I mean, I think it’s good they made a decision prior to Christmas because imagine waiting — because normally, someone runs a pitch over Christmas. They’re normally the bad guys. Like “What did you do Christmas and New Year?” “I rehearsed on a pitch.” So, yeah, some nasty client normally calls a pitch now. And unless they spend a lot of money, and you’re really desperate-

Darren:

Well, I know last year, that when we called around a few of the global CEOs of the agency networks, they were very keen to work right through Christmas for a big prize like Coca-Cola. So, as you said, Santa, they’ve probably spent a lot of time and money in the past 12 months, but the rewards and the gifts go to WPP.

Hey, this year though, the other thing is we’ve got in some ways a positive thing, but also quite a negative thing. The great resignation; how are you feeling about that, Santa?

The Great Resignation Impact

Santa:

Well, firstly, it’s real. To start with, when someone says the great resignation, I’m going, they’re over calling it, or it seems like a big deal. But the more I talk to people — in Israel, it’s happening in Australia, and obviously, with COVID, you’ve got less overseas talent. So, I think that takes out 10 to 15% of the marketplace. You’ve got people who are finding new lives, maybe a side hustle. Is that the main hustle? Maybe you’re living in Byron Bay or somewhere.

So, people are evaluating their careers. So, it’s a real thing. Salary has gone crazy. And I think that’s the biggest thing going into next year, would be how do you keep people? Retention would be my big thing. And also, do you have the money to pay people what they’re worth? Because I’m not sure we do that as an industry.

Darren:

Well, it is true that we’ve now been tracking, TrinityP3, this is — has been tracking salaries and they’ve basically been static since 2008. So, we’ve had-

Santa:

Okay. So, we need some catch-up, right? So, we’ve been flat-lining and then also, as you say, you’ve now got a squeeze on talent. You haven’t been fairly paid. I know agencies are double-dipping and double charging people, charging them for higher levels than maybe what they are.

So, I think now’s the time they need to cough up some of their job keeper money or some of that revenue they made. Don’t give it back to the government, give it back to your staff.

Darren:

All the holding companies have been reporting-

Santa:

Do they all give it back?

Darren:

Not all of them. But the holding companies have been reporting double-digit growth in the last couple of quarters. So, perhaps there’s a bit of money to put back into talent.

Santa:

And also, I would say back into talent, but also, I think you mentioned it; don’t take advantage of them. Don’t exploit them. I honestly, hear where people are working crazy hours, being exploited and being underpaid.

Darren:

So, Santa, how has the great resignation impacted the elves up in the North Pole? Have you had some talent?

Santa:

Well, look, we pay really well up there, but we have a very limited talent pool. And if I can’t give them hard cash — extra value incentives; carrots, alcohol, anything else that adds value to their role.

Darren:

Ho-ho-ho-ho!

Santa:

Ho-ho-ho-ho! Whatever’s necessary, particularly when it’s cold at night.

Diversity and Inclusion and Cancel Culture

Darren:

Well, I was just wondering the other big issue that we’ve seen this year/well, actually the past two years is the rise and the focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. So, would you see yourself as a diverse and inclusive employer?

Santa:

An old fat white guy … look, I think so. We have lots of different elves, all different … as I said, inclusive nature, but we do have a talent shortage in the North Pole. It’s hard to get talent there. But I think I am an inclusive employer, but it is challenging. And I think a lot of agencies talk about this ****, but they don’t do it.

Darren:

Yeah, because there has been an accusation levelled at you from some of the agencies that you’re a hightist. That you only employee elves who are shorter than three foot six — that’s in the old measure, but whatever that is in metric. Do you think that they’re trying to undermine your-

Santa:

Cancel culture. Like what’s that about? Look, I mean, in that case, it’s a fair point. It’s a valid point.

Darren:

So, you’re now opening it up to very tall elves.

Santa:

Now, any elf I can get.

Darren:

No matter the height?

Santa:

All very inclusive. Doesn’t matter the height — very open is all I’m saying.

Darren:

Fantastic.

Santa:

But I think there’s actually a bit of cancel culture against me. Haven’t you noticed that, I think, because I’m old, white, and fat, I’ve been cancelled. In a lot of the Christmas ads, where is Santa?

Darren:

That is true.

Santa:

Where is Santa? I think they think I’m a stereotype, I’ve been around for a while. There’s ageism, for sure. But I feel like I’ve been cancelled.

Darren:

Probably obese lifestyle, a little too jolly perhaps, surrounds himself with children.

Santa:

Can you go there?

Darren:

For a long time. But going back to what you said before, a lot of people in this day and age want to be seen to be doing the right thing. You made this comment that you’re worried that agencies are probably saying a lot about what they’re doing, but they’re not actually living or walking the walk. What makes you say that?

Santa:

Because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people in a pitch who talk about their culture and their people, and they quote stats. In fact, in my career, and you know, it’s been a long one as Santa, I’ve never seen anyone lower than the average of some of these churn figures, like never.

So, for 40 years, I’ve only ever seen agencies that are better than the industry average or the industry benchmark. So, it just feels like I don’t know how that works that there’s no one ever below it.

Darren:

And they don’t get to pitch, apparently.

Santa:

Or they’re never invited to pitch. But also, I feel like people would definitely fudge the figures. Like let’s be honest, they fudge it.

Darren:

Well, it’s a bit like-

Santa:

They’re marking their own homework.

Darren:

Yeah, but also, it’s like the way that you can just reframe something. Like I like the agencies that go “We’re the most effective agency in Australia based on Effie Awards, won in Argentina.”

Santa:

10 years ago, yeah.

Darren:

And things like that. You have to be careful to make sure that what they’re saying is actually supported by real data. It’s easy to stand up and say these things, isn’t it?

Santa:

But I think I was at a client judging thing the other day or recently, and we actually asked the metrics around some of those culture figures and the clients were really … those stats were really important. And I sort of thought the days of fudging or maybe reframing it, are coming to an end.

Darren:

Well, I think that agencies are going to have to find ways of having these things validated because just to say it and not to live it, you could risk getting —what was the term used? Cancelled.

Santa:

Cancelled. And also, don’t you think there’s the …. I think you guys have done some good work. The Ad Council is going to do the census, great to have a benchmark. And then from there … but as you say to me, it’s all about, are you really walking the talk because I think if you scratch the surface, a lot of it is bull****.

Darren:

Yeah. One of my concerns Santa is that it’s opening it up for tokenism. Because I personally believe that agencies should be more diverse and more inclusive because that’s actually where creativity comes from. If you get lots of different diverse points of view in a room, and I mean, truly diverse points of view, then new ideas are going to spring out. So, the industry should be embracing this.

Santa:

Better ideas that are more representative. Totally, totally. As you say, I think that is the challenge that you’re not doing it just to tick a box, and that you really do believe in it. Look, I’ve been working with the Western Sydney Ad School and quite a few people … so, I think there is really intent there, but now, the industry really has to deliver on that intent because I think the days of just talking about it just aren’t acceptable. Like it’s just not.

Post-Pandemic Industry Events

Darren:

Absolutely. So, on that basis, you’re a pretty merry fellow. You’ve been known to enjoy a party or two-

Santa:

Here we go!

Darren:

I’ve heard in the grapevine that there’s more sort of the industry get-togethers and we’ve had the B&T Awards and-

Santa:

Unlimited, recently.

Darren:

Unlimited. Yeah, what do you think the mood is in the marketing and advertising industry at the moment?

Santa:

Well, judging on those two events, which I attended, the mood was quite incredible. I don’t know if that was purely alcohol-driven or other substances.

Darren:

Was it a snowing occasion?

Santa:

It was just a very Christmassy occasion, just seeing lots of snow. Look, at both of them, I think between 700 and 900 people, incredible. And there was a real — there really was a buzz because I think people have been sort of locked up with COVID.

So, there was lots of great energy, lots of awards. My only question was I found that maybe … I hope this doesn’t sneak back in; are we being respectful enough of some of these awards? If someone’s winning a Grand Prix or a really important award, you had 900 people drinking and talking. Like are they paying attention, and that used to be one of my bugbears.

And then even the other night with the charity, some of these people are telling heartfelt stories about life and death and committing suicide. And there’ll be people drinking and not paying attention. And that’s one of those things that I hope as an industry, we’re glad to see everybody. It’s awesome to be back together, but I hope we’re also respectful and celebrate the work.

Santa’s Naughty and Nice List

Darren:

So, Santa, did you find yourself making notes on who’s on your naughty list and who’s on your nice list?

Santa:

Well, the only thing is I just had so many people on my naughty list. I didn’t know where to start. No, look, there’s a standout number one naughty list for me and I know I’m very close to it. So, that would have to be the ex-CEO of XXX.

Darren:

Oh really?

Santa:

Yes.

Darren:

What was he up to?

Santa:

I just think he was very naughty during his time there. He earned a lot of money, and he was just extra naughty.

Darren:

So, a big lump of coal?

Santa:

A lump of coal for him, I’m sorry, gets delivered.

Darren:

Okay, alright. Well, that’s not a very promising Christmas there. Who else have you got on your list? Maybe a nice one then.

Santa:

A nice one, okay. Anybody who gave back job keeper should be nice and anyone that gave their employees their benefits back early. And I think, yeah, I’m just going to mention Cummins & Partners, but I know others did it afterwards, but I think they did it back in March, reinstated all of their benefits. Everyone got their money back. And the agencies are having a gangbuster time. Your employees should not suffer. Look after your talent, give them the money, give them pay increases. So, anyone who was nice was there.

Also, the other thing is I think agencies such as This Is Flow where they’re giving some of their profits to their staff. I mean, that’s brilliant. So, yeah, anyone that’s, as I said, investing, giving money back, looking after their talents is on my nice list.

Darren:

So, Santa, I imagine you’ve got a super fund for the day-

Santa:

I wish.

High Performers To Look Out For

Darren:

That you finally hang up the sleigh, the reigns. I’m just wondering is any of that invested in the holding companies? Do you see advertising as a good investment at the moment?

Santa:

Geez, that’s a good question. Look, I’m watching what Amy Buchanan does. I obviously, think she’s going to make some moves there. And WPP, I think it’d be interesting to have a watcher. Also, I think Kirsty going to Dentsu. So, yeah, there’s a couple I’m watching, but I feel as though if I was a betting man, I might put some money in Indie. I might go on Indie.

Darren:

Yeah. It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because the Indies, the independents really have come into their own in the last two years, haven’t they?

Santa:

Definitely.

Darren:

In the way that they’ve been able to respond first of all, to their staff and the challenges they’re under. But I’ve also noticed that marketers and clients are saying, you know what, it’s better having the management there in front of me than off in London.

Santa:

In New York or London or somewhere, totally. No, I agree with you. I think the Indies are having a moment. I know their industry association is doing a good job in the media area. Bastian’s doing great. I mean, as I said, I really think … as I said I’m watching them and I think there’s two or three of them there that I think are doing great things. So, I think I’d go a local Indie versus a big holding company.

Darren:

Right, you’d put your money on that rather than the big holding companies, because all the big holding companies seem to be saying the same thing over and over again. And yet they do pick up the big clients. We started off talking about Coca Cola and WPP. I mean, that’s a huge win for them.

Santa:

I mean, they’ve obviously got the resources and if you’re a global client like Coke and you’re trying to bring some sort of consistency to your storytelling and your message. But yeah, I just think that’s something to watch for next year. Is it the year of the Indies? Or have I called it too early?

Darren:

Well, time will tell. So, all the Indie agency owners should be looking for Christmas morning-

Santa:

Ho-ho-ho-ho!

Darren:

Could be something in their stockings from Santa?

Santa:

I reckon I think so.

How Santa is Portrayed in Advertising

Darren:

And if there’s not, work really hard and then perhaps the following year, Santa will come with a big gift for you to make life just that much easier.

Okay. So, Santa you brought up the ads and the fact that you don’t see yourself in as many ads.

Santa:

I’ve been sidelined. Who do I go to?

Darren:

Cancel culture.

Santa:

Well, if you look at some-

Darren:

Are you the influencer you used to be?

Santa:

Well, I feel like I’ve maybe lost it a bit. Are they worried about my talent fee? I think I’m stereotyped. Look, if you look at some of the great Christmas ads I’m seeing at the moment, where am I?

Last year for Audi, the last couple of years, Santa, there I am. I’m on a surfboard, I’m out, multiple Santas. Audi, Optus, the same thing. Optus, I’ve been replaced by … help me out — is it like a fruit fly or a sugar glider? I’ve been replaced by a ****** sugar glider.

Darren:

That’s terrible.

Santa:

Audi, replaced by ordinary people, where’s Santa? Coke, I used to be there driving the truck.

Darren:

Well. And in fact, the very look of you was defined by, Coca Cola with the big beard-

Santa:

Thank you. The beard and-

Darren:

The fur-

Santa:

So, I feel like, as I said, I have been replaced across a number of things. And I’m just wondering has the advertising industry got very ageist and worried about my top casting.

Darren:

Well, either that or is it because you’re not the influencer that they can tap into? Do you have as many followers on Instagram as say, Kim Kardashian-

Santa:

A sugar glider.

Darren:

No, Kim Kardashian or someone else? Do you have the influence that some of these other people have?

Santa:

Well, I mean, that’s a tough question, but obviously no.

Darren:

Well, could you talk to the people at Tribe, perhaps they could help you with-

Santa:

No, I mean, I think as I said, I think I’ve been sidelined and people now are going, putting Santa in the ad would be expected. So, now, they’re going the unexpected route. And then I just go, I’ve been replaced by a sugar glider. What’s happened?

Darren:

It is a conundrum, isn’t it, for people because-

Santa:

They’re trying to be different.

Darren:

And also, that Santa and Christmas is a Christian celebration. And I think the last census five years ago showed that less than 50% of the Australian population still identify as Christians. The vast or the biggest going group is-

Santa:

And you’re going old white guy is the representative, but very diverse. But I would’ve thought maybe some of the elves would’ve got a run because once again, they’re very inclusive. My wife, Mrs Claus, but no.

Darren:

Or Mary Christmas as it is now.

Santa:

But no, I feel like they’re going to animals or normal people.

Darren:

Well, Santa, have you thought about running a pitch for an agency? I know a very good pitch consultancies-

Santa:

I think I need to talk to you.

Darren:

That could help you with that. What sort of budget do you have?

Santa:

Who have I offended that would make the shortlist or wouldn’t make the shortlist? I think it’s a damn good idea; how do we repackage Christmas and bring Santa back?

Darren:

Yeah. Well, it’s a big challenge I’d say, because yeah, as you say, there’s a lot of moves against you that make you probably not as popular as your … mind you, most advertisers aren’t aiming at the younger demographic. And when you look at people under say 16, maybe under 12, Santa’s still very popular.

Santa:

But they don’t want to sit on my knee in a Christmas photo. They just don’t, and with COVID, they’ve got to be socially distanced anyway.

Darren:

Have you thought about perhaps franchising your business and getting Santas of various cultures and ages, genders? Have you thought about a non-binary Santa?

Santa:

I haven’t, but I think it’s a very good point. And I think we need to-

Darren:

My fee is in the mail.

Santa:

We need to work on this for next year.

Santa’s Favourite Ad of the Year

Darren:

So, let’s get back to what’s your favourite ad for the year so far?

Santa:

Okay. So, I love the weekly extra ad where they’ve all come out after COVID and they’re quite frisky, and the Celine Dion track — I can’t remember it and I can’t sing it.

Darren:

I don’t think we need you to sing it Santa. Maybe just ho-ho-ho-ho!

Santa:

It’s all coming back to me now. Ho-ho-ho-ho! I just thought it was a great ad though. And I’ve seen various versions.

Darren:

Well, because when you want to get intimate, you need fresh breath.

Santa:

But the way it was shown after coming out of COVID, just going back to the office or getting out in the frisky nature, where people wanted to hug, the music worked, it worked with a product benefit. Like to me, it just all came together. So, yeah, to me, it would be the Wrigley extra ad, and I think it was probably made internationally. It’s not local.

Darren:

Yeah. The other thing about it going back to the diversity was also, the casting was just perfect. It wasn’t tokenistic, it wasn’t-

Santa:

I can say everyone … in a genuine space.

Darren:

Yeah, just absolutely fitted into that.

Santa:

So, that would be my favourite, yeah, top of mind that I would think of.

Darren:

So, could people be looking forward to some Wrigley in their stocking on Christmas morning?

Santa:

Wrigley, you know where to send the product, North Pole — send me crates.

Darren:

How many would you need? Probably a few-

Santa:

Oh, I was saying a ****load. I know that’s very-

Darren:

I was going to say a billion stakes … but a ****load will do, Santa.

Santa:

That’s a ****load a Wrigley extra if you’re listening, Mars.

Pandemic Impact on the North Pole

Darren:

Okay. So, on that, I was just wondering, because I should have asked this much earlier Santa, but how has the pandemic actually impacted you in the North Pole, with Mrs Claus or Mary Christmas as she’s known to her fans, and the elves. What’s been the big impact for you?

Santa:

I just think we sort of got sidelined and distanced and once again, I think we’ve just been maybe put off a little bit. I mean, obviously we’ve got social distancing in the North Pole, so we’ve all been very careful.

Darren:

Were you working from home? Not going into the factory?

Santa:

I always worked from home, it’s all connected. So, the working from home, we had … but I just felt I was always a little bit disconnected from the world, which I’m sure other people did. And then also, maybe I felt like Christmas came later. I don’t know, we didn’t have the same buildup.

Darren:

How did your mental health, cope with that-

Santa:

Look, alcohol helps with that. My, mental health, no, definitely, I think-

Darren:

You were self-medicating.

Santa:

Self-medicating always helps. But children, if you’re listening to this, please, this is not endorsed by Santa.

Darren:

No, but he is sponsored by a Lion, Diageo…

Santa:

Heineken, and anyone else who wants-

Darren:

….SABMiller.

Santa:

Send me alcohol. Sorry, was that the answer you were looking for?

Darren:

Well, no, but that will do. And did Mary Christmas or Mrs Claus get into some of the home cooking? Was there the sour dough…?

Santa:

Yes. She made a lot of great bread. So, there was lots of bread and obviously

Darren:

You’ve got a few COVID kilos.

Santa:

I got extra COVID kilos. And look, our home, it’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful, warm home. So, yes, cooking constantly. Our Netflix reception hasn’t been great up there though. So, yeah, lots of reading, lots of storytelling.

Darren:

Oh, that’s interesting. So, on the streaming, what have you actually got up there in the North Pole. You’ve said Netflix — Disney+, has that made it there? Paramount+?

Santa:

Well, it’s just hard with our sort of broadband. Do you get 5G in the North Pole? We’ve been struggling. I got to talk to Telstra. Oh, after I mentioned all those sugar gliders, is the NBN getting up there? I think I’ve got to ring Mel at Optus and get that … yes, yes, for Santa. So, we’ve had issues with our broadband.

Darren:

Right. But were you excited about … what were the new ones this year? Paramount+ and Binge?

Santa:

I don’t mind Binge.

Darren:

Paramount+?

Santa:

I’m not so big on Paramount+ so far, but hey, once again, if you can organise that for us in the North Pole.

Marketers Who Made the Nice List

Darren:

Excellent. You mentioned Mel Hopkins over at Optus?

Santa:

Oh yeah, was she in the top 50 or not?

Darren:

She’s been in the CMO top 50 several years, actually. I’m just wondering if there’s any other-

Santa:

Number four, she was.

Darren:

So, what other marketers are there that are on your nice list? That you think have done a good job?

Santa:

Well, hopefully, Jo Boundy definitely Qantas because I think for an airline that hasn’t been flying, they still have a lot of top-of-mind awareness with me. And they’ve also definitely kept in touch with all the fly credits I have with all the times I was going to fly somewhere.

Darren:

Well, you’d be a Platinum One flyer.

Santa:

I hope I’d be Chairman’s Club, Platinum One. So, I think Qantas has done a good job. I think number two was Suncorp and I think they’re … I love the AAMI when they brought back Rhonda and Ketut, love that. They’ve had a baby.

Darren:

Make sure you make a call at that-

Santa:

I’ll be dropping off baby stuff there, don’t you worry. I think Telstra up there as well. I think Jeremy number five.

So, look, I think some of the top marketers … I thought the interesting thing was, which I thought it would be less, the tenure of the marketers in Australia is three years nine months. I actually thought it might be lower than that because I think in the US, it’s lower. Because I thought it was normally two to three years.

Darren:

Look, I think a lot of those numbers are a bit fudged because I think it comes down-

Santa:

Funny about that.

Darren:

It comes down to sampling and if you’re looking at the high churn roles, you get a much lower number. And the fact is there are a lot of marketers. I mean, if you think of any major company, they’re probably going to have someone in charge of marketing.

And also, we’re inclined as an industry to focus on the CMOs that are very high-profile. So, they’re either doing the high-profile work or they’re outspoken, or they’re constantly…

Santa:

Vandals or they’re out … totally right.

Darren:

And so, then we’re more aware of them because I think Alastair Doak at Mazda has been there for 14 years but doesn’t even make the CMO50.

Santa:

Because he doesn’t have the profile of Lisa from Coles or Brent Smart from IAG or somewhere, so you’re right.

Darren:

That’s an interesting thing because then it starts coming down to the CMO50 is supposedly about the best CMOs.

Santa:

The best, the top 50, totally.

Darren:

Does that then have a higher churn rate because these-

Santa:

Of course, they have the high-profile ones.

Darren:

Compared to just measuring of longevity, which could be people that are just quiet achievers, they get on year in, year out, they’re doing the job for the business. They’re doing the job for the brand. And so, we don’t see them. They don’t ask for a recognition, but I’m sure you see them.

Santa:

Well, I give them presents every year. And as you say, I think they’re probably undervalued because if they’re doing the job day in, day out, and they know the business inside out, then hopefully, sales are growing, then they’ve done a great job.

Darren:

Well, I would say if marketing’s not performing in those cases, they wouldn’t have the longevity that they have.

Santa:

True, true. Yeah, that’s a good point. 

Advertising Awards

Darren:

So, in some ways longevity’s a good measure, but it may not be the only measure. And so, I think as an industry … but Santa, we are an industry that loves rewarding ourselves with-

Santa:

We love awards. I love an award myself, Santa of the Year.

Darren:

I’ve heard that you’ve won it every year that you’ve entered.

Santa:

Why wouldn’t you?

Darren:

It’s a very limited field.

Santa:

Ho-ho-ho-ho! Thank you very much, again. Look, if I’m a client, I guess … you’re closer to this; do clients value awards? Are they self-serving, or if they’re around effectiveness or business growth, then surely, that has some merit versus you’re the biggest winner of the year?

Darren:

So, Santa depends on the client because there are clients that love their agencies doing work that gets them recognition, and love being part of that. And there’s a group of those marketers out there that feel that the agency’s achievement is their achievement.

There are others who are more cynical, that think creative awards … and especially, I think the industry’s done itself a disservice — I’m on a bit of a soapbox here, so just bear with me; but done itself a disservice because we’ve got at least three award shows that all award agency of the year.

And so, if you’re looking at agencies and you see three of them and all three say, “We are agency of the year …”

Santa:

Who’s that with?

Darren:

One’s B&T, one’s Mumbrella, one’s AdNews, it’s like, well, how can you all be agency of the year? Now, of course there’s some overlap. There are some agencies that win it across all three, but it just dilutes the importance of the award by having so many awards.

Santa:

So, many. No, I agree. I think the other night was an example where you mentioned there were so many, and it was brilliant that some have been included for inclusivity; I saw there was some new awards in the diversity, inclusion … but then it’s like the more you add, you bring down the importance of the big awards and lessen the value. It’s a real hard balancing act.

Darren:

So, Santa, you’ve just reminded me, I heard a rumor that once you get Christmas out of the way, December, January is cleaning up the workshop; but you’ve been known to hang out on the Cote d’Azur around the middle of the year in summer, that time and-

Santa:

Normally, very good time of the year to be on the beach there.

Darren:

And you’ve been there for the Cannes Awards. You’ve been there for the Cannes Lions, is that true?

Santa:

Yes, that’s true. And I hope to be in Cannes this year too. Ho-ho-ho-ho! Australia, we’re all friends.

Darren:

Well, I’ve heard that this is one of the reasons that you have such rosy cheeks is because the amount of rose you consume on the Cote d’Azur.

Santa:

And your point is …?

Darren:

I’m just …

Santa:

Isn’t that obvious?

Darren:

Enjoying the facts.

Santa:

Easy shot, easy shot. What’s wrong with that?

Darren:

The reason I bring it up, Santa, is that knowing the industry as you do, they really are the pinnacle of awards. Aren’t they? Winning a Cannes Lion Award gaz-umps almost anything else. I want to put to you that I think Cannes could do itself a great service and the industry a great service if they stop giving awards by media channels. So, best TV, best cinema, best digital-

Santa:

You’ve got to evolve.

Darren:

And start giving it by category of advertiser so that we-

Santa:

Automotive of confectionary or whatever.

Darren:

What’s the best creative thinking in automotive, creative thinking in banking and financial services, creativity in charities. Because there’s a big complaint that the not-for-profits and charities, just sweep the award show.

Santa:

Totally. That’s why everyone else wants one, so they can do award-winning work. It’s a good point. I guess, I think it’d be more around metrics, around effectiveness and how rigorous — easy for you to say, are you around that. So, proof that the work is working versus yes, it was incredibly well shot. It was a brilliant production or a really smart script.

Darren:

Well, they do that. If you win a Cannes Lion one year, the following year, you get to enter the Effectiveness Awards for Cannes, and you have to have won the creativity to go into the next one. But you asked me before about awards; even Effectiveness Awards. I’ve had, let’s say very cynical clients say to me, “Aren’t they the awards for the ability to write an entry rather than actually get the results?” And it’s an interesting conundrum.

Santa:

I don’t have an answer for that because yes, it’s going to be well-written, but hopefully, you’ve got results to back it up. And the rigour to ensure those results are legit, and they haven’t been, as you say, fudged or manipulated or massaged or reframed.

Darren:

I would offer as an example, the number of Effectiveness Awards, fantastically creative; Dumb Ways To Die, one — for effectiveness when there is no documented effectiveness beyond additional media coverage through PR. And is that what we mean by effectiveness.

Santa:

So, it didn’t change behavior around safety on trams?

Darren:

No.

Santa:

It was a good jingle, and it was bankable.

Darren:

Well, that’s why I say, it’s-

Santa:

It was creative, you’re right.

Darren:

Creative, it got a lot of awareness. But the fundamental problem is that the problem they were trying to solve was not going to change through a communication campaign because it actually goes more to mental health and depression and things like that. Anyway, that was a bit of a downer. Sorry, about that, Santa.

Santa:

Ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas! 

Santa’s Greatest Of All Time (GOAT)

Darren:

Thank you. Okay. So, you know the concept of a GOAT — greatest of all time?

Santa:

Yeah, I love a GOAT, a good GOAT. We don’t have many in the North Pole. It’s too cold.

Darren:

Well, with longevity of your career-

Santa:

Yes, I love it.

Darren:

I’d be really fascinated to hear who you’d nominate as GOATs in the various disciplines.

Santa:

You know what, some of this was easy and then others were really … like, for me, I think OMD. I mean, they’ve just had incredible consistency. For advertising, I think The Monkeys.

Darren:

Right.

Santa:

For client and marketing, that was tough because I originally was thinking Telstra or CommBank or who’s someone that’s just been consistently good, even though they might not always be creative, but they’d just had top of mind awareness, results … because it’s all about consistency being a GOAT. So, yeah, I struggled with that one. I said Telstra originally, and then I wasn’t sure. Oh, well, what do you think?

Darren:

So, OMD for media, you’ve gone for Monkeys for advertising, yeah?

Santa:

And for client, originally I thought maybe CBA Bank or yes, I was even thinking Amy who’s done a great job over the years with their brand.

Darren:

But on that basis, we could say Qantas because Qantas is a global-

Santa:

Good call. And in fact, I might judge for a moment.

Darren:

And Santa, you can.

Santa:

In fact, I’m going with Qantas. Yeah, I think it’s a good call.

Darren:

Now, as for my choices, as a pitch consultant, I couldn’t possibly say because that could possibly open me up for accusations of bias.

Santa:

So, do you think I’m on the right track then — Santa is in the right area?

Darren:

Oh, Santa, I wouldn’t dare question your wisdom especially with so many years of making lists of the naughty and the nice. So, what I take from this is that you’ve ticked the nice box for OMD more times than any other agency. You’ve ticked the nice box for The Monkeys.

Now, I will make some observations on your choices. I think the hardest thing in advertising is consistency for a long period of time.

Santa:

Totally agree, totally agree.

Darren:

And I remember BMF had a good decade or more of outstanding work. Before that, the Campaign Palace; outstanding work. We’ve had The Monkeys and I think we’re seeing the start of that run with the Special Group. So, I think all of these agencies … and then it’s easy to forget that for a long time, Clemenger Melbourne particularly had produced outstanding work.

Santa:

Totally, Clemenger Melbourne was totally great, was outstanding. Colenso out of New Zealand.

Darren:

Yeah, Colenso is another prime example. Anyone that can string together that succession of years.

Santa:

And I think you’re right; the Special Group is there, but I’m not sure … well, ask me in 10 years.

Darren:

Yeah, well, we’ll come back in 10 years, and do it again.

Santa:

Ho-ho-ho-ho! If I’m still around.

Darren:

Ah, Santa, you’ll live forever.

Santa:

If I haven’t been relatively canceled by then.

Darren:

But that’s probably the bigger risk; you’ll be there, but no one will want you. “Where is Santa this year, mommy — he was cancelled back in 2022.”

Santa:

He’s not diverse, the old fat white guy.

Darren:

Right. On media, I think it’s much harder, much harder generally for media agencies because media is not as visible as creative. And it always amazes me how people are inclined to think of the creative, because a good media strategy, a good piece of media thinking, a media-first almost always needs some bit of content to actually bring it to life.

And so, I think media practitioners really struggle because of that, that they are always somehow in the shadow of the-

Santa:

Of the content, of the creative idea, totally.

Darren:

Of the creative, yeah.

And then from marketing, look, Australian marketing, again, struggles with this long-term view. Marketing in this country will very quickly chop and change. And we see new campaigns and new directions and new positionings, but that’s why I immediately went to Qantas because there has been a consistency over time.

Santa:

No, you’re right. It’s a very good point.

Darren:

And there is a subtle art to brand management, which I think they’ve managed to execute, that goes beyond just the advertising. But a long time before people were talking about the customer experience, Qantas was getting that total … it’s going to be interesting, the appointment of the Special Group to Virgin Australia to see whether under Bain investment-

Santa:

The new owners, yeah, Capital.

Darren:

Bain Capital and the new management team and with the Special Group, if they’re going to be able to make a dent in the Qantas business.

Santa:

I would expect it’s going to be different. Hopefully, it’s not a flying week. Remember they’re flying two-way … what the hell was that? So, look, I think it will be. I think that will make a difference because the special group, I actually said, I rate them. So, yes.

Santa’s New Year Resolutions

Darren:

Okay. Well, Santa, you’ve already given me the ones to watch in 2022. So, I’m going to have to finish out because I know we’re running out of time, do you have any New Year’s resolutions that you want to share with us?

Santa:

They’re deep. They’re just the same ones; lose weight, drink less, try to do the same year after year. But my question is what’s holding me back from actually doing them — ho-ho-ho-ho!

Darren:

I think I should probably introduce you to Nicole McInnes, who is the CMO at WW, formally Weight Watchers. I love the fact that every time I say WW, it’s says, “Formerly Weight Watchers.”

Santa:

Formerly, Weight Watchers; what’s the WW stand for? Totally. I need help. I need help.

Darren:

Okay. So, I know Nicole, I’ll introduce you and perhaps she’ll get you on a program in the New Year. So, it’d be a slimmer Santa.

Santa:

But I can’t get to sleep because I’d get canceled then, because I’ve got to be a stereotypical Santa.

Darren:

You could be fat-shaming people…

Santa:

Fat-shaming somebody, exactly.

Darren:

Oh, Santa, it’s tough, isn’t it?

Santa:

It’s tough out there.

Darren:

Being a cultural icon?

Santa:

Ho-ho-ho-ho, and Merry Christmas or happy holiday, or festive season or-

Darren:

Happy Hanukkah.

Santa:

Happy Hanukkah.

Darren:

Or whatever your beliefs are.

Well, Santa with that, I wish you a very successful yet again, delivery to all the children that deserve gifts because they’ve been nice. And for the naughty ones, well, perhaps they could try better next year.

Santa:

Ho-ho-ho-ho, thank you.

Darren:

Now, one last question before you go; and that is Santa, is there anyone that you could probably share with us that will definitely not be getting a gift this Christmas?

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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