‘It’s a different world’ - creatives Adrian Mills and Matt Lawson enter Deloitte

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 30 November 2017
Adrian Mills and Matt Lawson

Adrian Mills and Matt Lawson are two of the most lauded creative execs in Australia, with most of their accolades coming from their time at McCann.

Now they’ve joined Deloitte Digital, in a shock move that was announced in September, they’re tasked with lifting the creative profile of the business as well as growing the creative, media and strategy teams.

“Deloitte hasn’t necessarily promoted their efforts in front of the creative industry through publications like AdNews,” Mills says, adding that you can expect to see Deloitte up its presence at award shows and industry events.

“It is our job help the market see Deloitte as the creative business that we know it to be.”

Lawson left his position as ECD at McCann Melbourne to take the chief creative officer role at Deloitte Digital and Mills was previously the managing director of the agency, before becoming a partner at the business, leading the brand creative and media team.

Now, a month into their time at Deloitte, both Mills and Lawson say the level of creativity within Deloitte has surprised them and describe it as “the most impressive business” they’ve ever encountered.

"When we first started, we realised that Deloitte is vastly more creative than even it gives itself credit for,” Mills says.

Lawson says that there’s a “hidden depth of talent” at Deloitte that allows them to tap new capabilities, such as augmented reality and virtual reality departments.

"It's a different world. We have access to services and people we never did before,” Lawson says, adding they feel like "kids in a really professional candy store.”

While Mills admits they are only just beginning to scratch the surface of Deloitte, he says he has already learnt there’s a better way to approach running a creative business than an agency model.

“The creative agencies we’ve grown up in have gotten themselves into some bad habits over the years,” he says.

“Looking through the Deloitte lens, if you were to start the advertising industry again from scratch you’d take a different approach to working with clients and managing business.

“While they haven’t called themselves a creative agency, the Deloitte business shares exactly these values. It’s not about stepping out of an ad agency. It’s about stepping into a business that is in a better position to deliver a greater impact.”

Mills admits in in multinational networks, offices regularly find themselves competing with each other, whereas Deloitte Digital operates as a national team with more than 450 staff across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide.

Chasing metal

While awards will play a role in lifting the creative profile of Deloitte, Mills says if any creative business is focused solely on winning at award shows like Cannes Lions, they are missing the point.

“At their best, award shows like Cannes are a great way to recognise advertising best practice. So, when we’ve got some work we’re really proud of, we will aim to have it recognised,” he says.

Typically, Deloitte hasn’t produced the type of creative work that tends to be recognised within the creative community, such as McCann’s successful Dumb Ways to Die campaign, which was overseen by Mills. 

Mills is confident the work may be different, it won’t just be website rebuilds or VR experiences coming out of Deloitte. It will be advertising.

“We will certainly try to create work that changes the way people feel. Whether it’ll penetrate popular culture like Dumb Ways is quite impossible to know. Do we want to? Sure. Why not.”

While advertising can often be seen as a dirty word in adland, Mills and Watson say they love advertising.

“The truth is that when the industry makes work that people hate, advertising deserves a bad rap. This is typically the kind of work that despite the prevailing creative wisdom, searches for the lowest common denominator and talks down to people. It’s a generally disingenuous product and I guess it is probably made by people trying to be something they’re not,” Mills says.

“But some work isn’t hated. Some work talks up to people and finds the highest common denominator. That work should be considered cost of entry but unfortunately, it’s uncommon. If you’re the kind of person who feeds into the creative capital then you should be proud. You won’t get it right every time, but the fight is a worthy one."

Shutting down industry critics, such as M&C Saatchi’s Justin Graham and CHE Proximity’s Chris Howatson who have been outspoken about the conflicts between agencies and consultancies, Lawson says there simply isn’t a clash between their cultures.

"People that talk about the 'culture crisis' in consultancies need to realise Deloitte makes robots, it isn't a robot itself,” Lawson says 

Deloitte is one of the many consultancies that have made significant moves in adland this year, with Accenture buying The Monkeys, PwC taking a stake in Thinkerbell, RXP acquiring The Works, AJF Partnerships selling to Growth Ops and both PWC and KPMG adding CMO advisories.

Deloitte’s model is a very different proposition to the other consultants, according to Mills.

“Some of our new consultancy peers have looked at adding services just for the CMO. Others have incorporated bolt-on creative agencies. No other consultancy has properly integrated creative, media and strategic brand operations into their existing services in the way the Deloitte’s model does because no other business in Australia has the building blocks already in-place,” he says.

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