breakfast: talking collaboration, creativity & cut-through.

Now Screen attended breakfast on November 14th.

Last Tuesday morning, The Butler played host to a fricassee (I’ve chosen my own collective noun) of trendy, mostly-millennial advertising and PR professionals, milling around a buffet of cacao nibs and goji berries to seek the wisdom of fellow colleagues. This gathering of sharp minds and undercut hairstyles was the second iteration of breakfast, an industry who’s-who and what’s-what organised by agency founder Taryn Williams.

Invited to lead the 2018 panel were four speakers: Nathan Burman, head of PR and Communications for Twitter Australia; Chris Wirasinha, co-founder of Pedestrian.TV; Sam Berry, a partner at DVM Law; and Andi Lew, an author, influencer and content producer.

There was something for everyone in the lively discussion that took place, but the way I saw it, the whole day came down to three Cs: Collaboration, Creativity and Cut-through.

Left to Right: Chris Wirasinha (Pedestrian), Andi Lew (Author), Taryn Williams (, Nathan Burman (Twitter) and Sam Berry (DVM Law).


This year’s main obsession was evident, as the conversation continually circled back upon collaboration — between advertisers, influencers, brands and organisations — and how we can use this powerful tool to achieve more for our agencies and our clients.

There was a strong perception among the speakers and attendees that the quid pro quo culture of American business has not quite reached our shores.

The shared belief was that a culture of abundance exists in the USA — a feeling that there are ‘enough’ consumers and enough markets, to go around. This notion facilitates a greater willingness to work together, in the pursuit of achieving more.

In contrast, Australians were the parochial ‘tall poppies’: stoic and humble to a fault, and as a consequence, rigidly unresourceful.

With Australia’s small population and limited geographically profitable markets, there’s an upside to putting up significant barriers to the types of camaraderie that lead to collaboration. But the time is ripe to reinvent our industry culture, in order to improve what our agencies can offer.

Nathan Burman brought forth a wonderful case study for collaboration in Australia from his team at Twitter. They were given the task of promoting the video sharing and streaming capabilities of their platform.

The challenge was to find a way to partner up with content producers and organisations in a way that made it cost effective for them to produce great content

They tracked down surfer/fox cameraman Mitch Oates, who was already regularly streaming his morning surfs on their platform Periscope. Combining with Telstra and Tourism & Events Queensland, they flew Mitch to the Great Barrier Reef. There he was given a mask that allowed him to talk underwater while streaming, sharing some of the most exciting parts of the reef in real time.

Mitch Oates promoting Twitter’s video platform, Periscope, underwater on the Great Barrier Reef.

As Twitter pushed the live content to the top of feeds, they generated the highest international search rate for the Great Barrier Reef for the whole year, turning heads in a serious way. Without collaboration, the amazing content that cost them just $6000 to make would have become a six-figure ordeal.

The essential element in ensuring such success was establishing mutually beneficial relationships, which allowed the brand truths of each partner to speak through the collaboration.

Telstra was able to showcase their dedication to connectivity and communications technology. Queensland Tourism got a hell of a promotion. Mitch got a free trip to Queensland (plus something on his CV) and Twitter got to show off their video streaming channel. Each member was able to engage in the collaboration for the right reasons, without sacrificing authenticity.

I see this as an innovative example that our industry as a whole can learn from. Together, we can do better.

Chris Wirasinha speaking on creativity at breakfast on Tuesday 14th November.


Collaboration is all well and good, so long as the idea is worth doing justice. The conversation turned regularly towards exactly this: how best to create worthwhile, interesting and effective content.

For Chris Wirasinha at Pedestrian, this was all about working out how to ingrain a brand or a creative idea in culture. While this works for them, taking this onto a broader stage than popular culture can be tricky. But embedding the perception of products and brands into consumer culture, or digital consumption cultures can be just as effective. So, wherever your agency comfort zone sits, this is a great exercise in creative idea generation that allows you to step outside your pocket of expertise.

And the ideas didn’t stop flowing there. An interesting process Pedestrian uses is a daily brainstorming exercise called divergent thinking sessions. Within their creative teams, each person does their own divergent thinking exercise before sharing and reworking ideas to help expand the realms of possibility for content.

The simple truth is, a lot of what we do as advertising creatives falls into the category of convergent thinking — we take a client brief, and find a solution that fits within their parameters. But it never hurts to come at things the other way around. By starting from a single point and working outwards, the possibility for creativity increases exponentially.

Click here for a more in-depth look at divergent thinking, why it’s useful and how to do it.

This is part of the brilliance of influencers. They can take a brand or product and make it distinctly their own, without compromising the brand authenticity or their own image. Although, as resident expert Andi Lew pointed out, influencing should be a by-product of something the ‘influencer’ already does for it to work.

Think of influencer as an effect rather than a title.

Everyone at breakfast seemed to agree that companies are beginning to wise up to this shift in who has and who owns influence. Most notably, that below the line media influencers and figures are subsuming much of the third-party credibility traditionally held by above the line media.

Companies are getting the good word on influencer content marketing.


Companies are getting the good word on influencer content marketing.

So how do you manage these changes to make sure you’re achieving cut-through in a saturated content market that’s all about entertainment and wow factor? Well the panel had a few great points to keep in mind.

Don’t try to be a master of everything in the constantly evolving digital landscape. There are simply too many channels to manage effectively, said Taryn from TheRightFit. So, pick 2 or 3 and be good at them, and your impossible task becomes much more manageable.

Chris spoke about the key to Pedestrian’s success being consistency: in production quality, perspective, topics and tone — as well as consistency in the regularity of such content being produced.

This is based on the principles of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and is key to audience cut-through in digital spaces. But these sorts of habits are also incredibly important to the way your brand occupies consumer mind-share. With consistent branding, the way people perceive products, brands and content is given a solid, unmoving foundation based on what you’ve chosen to put out into the world.

Finally, Nathan couldn’t stress enough the importance of brand tracking research, post-campaign, in order to prove that value is being delivered. This means conversion tracking, follow-up cognitive recall surveys, perceptual mapping, and optimising the way you create and distribute based on the results, to make sure what you’re doing has an effect.

None of this is news to our industry. There’s no ground-breaking revelations or hacks to get ahead in any media space. But the discussion around what makes great work and how we can do better is an important one to have, and picked a great mix of personalities to get everyone thinking about what’s next for our industry.

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