Deloitte global CMO on the consultancy's next agency move

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 13 July 2018

David Redhill's career isn’t that of the normal chief marketing officer. He’s been a musician, a journalist and a photographer all before landing on Deloitte’s door. 16 years at Deloitte and two years into his role, the Aussie still finds time for his passions, and is in the process of writing a non-fiction book. He may be nearly approaching two decades at one of the world’s biggest consultancy firms, but he admitted he’s still not good with numbers. 

Redhill sat down with AdNews at Cannes Lions to discuss the role of marketing today, how the Deloitte Australia is impacting the global network and if the consultancy would move into media buying or snap up an agency Down Under.

What does your day-to-day role look like?

I work with a number of talented CMOs across the business to equip and inspire 360,000 people worldwide to be able to do a great job of selling our brand and of delivering an experience, which is commensurate with our brand.

On a day-to-day level, my experience is extremely diverse and varied. One day it could be working with a Deloitte Digital internal team developing an internal campaign. Another, it could be promoting a new product line or talking with alliance partners to develop a strategy to engage our partners or exploit external market possibilities or refine the narrative. Another day it could be speaking to a journalist.

And at other times, it's actually working at the executive level with our global executive or industry leaders to help them develop go-to-market strategies, develop assets like videos or narratives that support their product development - or looking at technology platforms that we are developing to sell increasingly automated services.

How has Deloitte changed in your time at the business?

Five or six years ago, Deloitte didn't have a major creative digital agency at its core driving digital transformation. Secondly, there was a lack of sophistication of the way that digital business went to market compared to the degree of sophistication we have now.  

Even on boards now, they are realising that the whole business model has to be inverted and the customer put at the centre of the whole marketing and business strategy. 

That was known by marketing leaders and by product development folks and strategists a few years ago, but it's only now getting really to the core of the executive suite and the board. So that's changed in the last five years. People now know that the digital revolution has got momentum - and resistance is futile.

Sixteen years in a marketing role is a huge achievement with the rate of turnover in our industry. How have you seen the industry evolve in that time?

It's an accepted wisdom these days that chief marketing officers only last two years. Before Matt McGrath took over in 2017, I was the CMO in Australia for 12 years. I used to joke that I had been on death row for 10 of those years because everyone expected me to go after two years. But it takes a long time to impact and shift a culture or a brand in the market.

A lot of marketers jump ship too early before they've really reaped the lessons from their experience. I simply don't think that within two years, which is the period of time I'm seeing a lot of jobs on CVs, that you can make a real difference.

You learn the basics and you learn the job in the first year. You start putting into practice your learnings in the second year and by the third year, you're seeing the impact of those and you're refining and perfecting your approach. And by the fourth year, you should be really motoring and doing a great job.

But if people are leaving after eighteen months and saying: 'I ran campaigns and I've had these great outcomes', then I don't believe them because it genuinely takes three to six years in big businesses to completely turn around.

Do you think the short turnover is harming brands long term?

Businesses that don't value their knowledge and don't value their DNA, they're going to lose the plot. Survival, and thriving in business is a combination of sticking to the knitting of what a brand stands for and the core values, which remain at the heart of the business through time.

Being an Australian yourself, do you keep a close eye on the Australian business?

Over a 12-year period I was intrinsically involved with the business and built the marketing team, doing my best to build a sense of pride, meaning and impact; putting creativity at the heart of the Australian business.

Nowadays, I've stepped away consciously. Marketers generally are right for their time and I was right for the time and now it’s a new era in Australia. The firm has evolved considerably. We've got a new CMO who is doing a fantastic job of blending that creative aspiration and creative excellence with more rigour, cadence, discipline and alignment with the business's new priorities.

Is the Australian business living up to your expectations?

The Australian executive team and the Australian business are having a big impact in the global domain of Deloitte. A lot of the work that has been developed, innovated and executed in the last few years in Australia have been watched with interest and embraced internationally by the Deloitte network. 

Last year, Deloitte raided McCann for its top talent and put them at the helm of Deloitte Digital. Its not secret Australia is a test market. Was this an example of what Deloitte is looking to do globally?

It’s sort of an accepted wisdom that Australia is a great test market, so potentially. Australia is a highly sophisticated, highly competitive market and a very connected market. Our biggest exports have been some of the world's biggest news magnates. We’ve got a tradition of being very connected to the rest of the world but because we're out of sight, to a degree, from the rest of the world, corporate headquarters are often content to let Australians get on with what they need to do within the Australian market. We’re able to tailor, adapt and execute in an intrinsically Australian way - which often, because of our appetite for risk, that iconic Aussie character actually belies a serious interest in new ideas, appetite for challenging the status quo.

Deloitte has made agency acquisitions overseas. Would it do the same in Australia?

We've always had a tradition of being keen to explore new territories and add to our legitimacy in those areas by acquisition or by partnership, alliance agreement and by merger. I can't see that stopping any time soon, although we are very careful in the way that we assess opportunities for alliances or for acquisitions.

The cultural fit is paramount. Obviously, the adjacent white space of a territory we might want to get into is pretty key. It's got to add value. It's got to be a symbiotic relationship again. It's got to be more than the sum of parts. That's our strategy and it's worked extremely well for us. 

Accenture recently announced it’s moving into media buying. Is this something Deloitte is interested in?

On a global basis, we are interested in the entire media, the holistic media process - whether that's digital creative agency, UX, platforms, understanding the media mix, understanding the buying process. We're active in all of that these days.

What’s your view on the battle between agencies and consultancies?

A lot of the agencies are looking at us with interest, just as we are looking at what makes agencies unique, what makes successful, what's powerful. We're all looking at each other with great interest and trying to keep up - trying to take the best of each other.

As a result, we’re going to see some new interesting hybrids of either big generalist agencies who are good at doing it all to a certain degree or use their ecosystem alliances exceptionally well, or deep specialist boutiques in certain elements of the creative process which can become world class.

I equate it to the debate of agency versus consultancy with journalism and the fight for quality content that has been brewing for the last decade. I think to the success of The Wall Street Journal of late, they have never had more subscriptions. For the first time, a surge of readers between the ages of 19-26 are prepared to pay for quality news, whereas they’ve grown up in a generation of expecting things for free. There are providers like Apple and Spotify that are selling music you could get for free, but people are prepared to pay for it. I think the market is becoming more sophisticated and commercial in its tastes and I think that's going to be reflected in the models of agencies.

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