Monday 25 September 2023

WAMA’s Great Debate: Does WA creative compete at world-class level?

Tim Newton, Creative Lead, Wunderman Thompson Perth.


Does WA creative compete at a world-class level? It’s a topic that ignites passion and controversy. But under the banner of the West Australian Marketing Association, six brave souls committed to debating the topic. Sparks were sure to fly. Right?

The debate started with positive words from Rare’s Liz Hammond, an icon of the WA creative landscape: “We have some of the best ingredients to feed creativity”. And evidently, we do; in researching for my portion of the debate, I got in touch with some of WA’s biggest creative exports.

A common theme came across, WA creative thinking had something powerful that impressed in outside markets. Former global chief creative officer at McCann Health, Matt Eastwood, summed up this anomaly well: “You really learn skills in Perth that not everyone does. You learn how to do more with less”.

But the talent and tenacity of WA creativity is only part of the puzzle, and the valiant fight of the affirmative team was tempered by an equally valiant rebuttal. “We just need to give our creatives permission to fly,” a truth spoken by Richard Berney, the recent co-founder of Berlin.

Because after all, even the most prodigious talent needs an environment to feed that talent, the licence to pursue great ideas and great results, the kind of results witnessed and lauded by affirmative speaker Anna Pearce, Water Corp’s Head of Brand and Customer Strategy.

We often compare ourselves to our East Coast neighbours, who enjoy a market with a lot more variety and scale. And it was a recently repatriated voice that put this best – Rebecca Smith, General Manager of Marketing at Brownes Dairy: “Perth has improved a lot since I left over ten years ago, but we still don’t celebrate or embrace creative culture like our East Coast counterparts.”

I have the privilege of working with both WA and East Coast clients, as well as the odd global, and I can say without hyperbole that they love WA creative work, they ask for it and it stands up against the best.

But the stance from the against argument is also true, WA is not fostering the same, consistent creative opportunities and celebrating them in the same way. Again, the talent is there, the formula for consistently unlocking it is yet to be found.

Angus Ingham, the head of brand and marketing at Mindaroo, uttered two words that succinctly and optimistically paint the trajectory of the day and of WA creative. “Not yet”.

Not yet do we have the ecosystem to consistently unlock world-class work, but we will, and soon.

The irony of the debate is that the opinions in the room are remarkably close. A desire to be better, to do better work is an undercurrent of both teams. An admission that there is work to be done, even if we do have world-class work, is vehemently shared.

Put simply, we are not imposters on the world stage. We may have a bit of imposter syndrome but that’s something the WA industry, with its fervour for outstanding creativity, is overcoming – and watch us reap the rewards when we do.

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