Russel Howcroft: Show me ideas that stick

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 28 November 2018
Russel Howcroft

Creatives in Australia have been restrained by tightened budgets and the promise of what new media will allow them to do, argued PwC chief creative officer Russel Howcroft.

Speaking on The Future of Marketing panel at Salesforce’s Connection to You event in Sydney, Howcroft bemoaned the state of the creative sector in Australia, which he said has become too safe.

“Australian creatives are in Hi Vis vests,” Howcroft said.

“We need to find a way to get rid of the Hi Vis vests and get creative, get interesting and shake it up a bit.”

Ten years after the 2008 recession, which caused the industry to redirect its efforts, Howcroft said now is the time to re-strategise.

“We've been dealing with the push-me, pull-you dilemma for some time,” he said.

Howcroft explained the “push” is about incentives, targeted messages and brands being fluid. On the other hand, the “pull” is about increased memorability, driving penetration and price elasticity.

He acknowledged it's difficult to escape this dilemma because they each measure success in their own way.

However, he said it's time to put more effort in the long-term – the pull, or what he calls the “birds nest” in consumers' minds.

“There is a birds nest in your head that's branded Volkswagen, that is made up of all the inputs you've received from the brand over the course of your life.

“This includes the models you've seen driving on the road, the billboards and the direct marketing you've received. There is significant value in this birds nest.”

Further stressing the importance of big ideas that stick, Howcroft said the Carlton Draught 'Big Ad' has yet to be outdone by any agency in Australia.

“People in the 60s remember where they were when JFK was assassinated, people in the 90s remember where they were when Princess Diana was in a car accident and I remember precisely where I was when I first saw that ad – it's just unbelievably strong,” he said.

Howcroft reminded people in a world of digital media where consumers own an average 4.7 devices, it's not enough to be seen.

“What about the joy of actually doing something that sticks,” he said.

“When I say stick I mean stick forever. If I say a gorilla playing Phil Collins with purple silk behind him does anyone not know who that's for.

“That's an idea that sticks. These are the ideas we need to pursue – I don't care about the medium.”

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus