Being apart has brought us closer together

Ben McCallum
By Ben McCallum | 8 October 2021
Ben McCallum.

Ben McCallum, Managing Director, MediaCom Sydney

When October the 11 comes around, we will have experienced 107 days of lockdown in Sydney. Starting on June 26, Xmas in July was just around the corner and now Xmas itself is looming. When we all left the office back in June we didn’t know if it was going to be two weeks or two months, but what we did know was that it would bring challenges and change to our lives. I won’t even go into Home Schooling.

However, I don’t want to add to the many pieces of commentary on the negatives the pandemic has caused. I want to talk about the positives.

We are all incredibly fortunate to work in a simply brilliant industry, an industry that gives us all such incredible opportunities to push ourselves, to express creativity, to take ideas from a conversation in a lift or restaurant table to an award-winning campaign. And when I say all, I mean all, our ecosystem is filled with a magnificent array of different media species. From the sales teams finding new ways to connect with audiences, let’s not forget advertising in its simplest form is communicating a relevant and engaging message with a potential customer, to the creative agencies, the media agencies, the consultants, the trade media and also the clients themselves. All of whom come together every day across many Zoom/Teams calls and hopefully soon this will be across coffee tables or board rooms. Fingers crossed.

The Pandemic has challenged us to react and drive change. Within every challenge or crisis lies an opportunity, it’s about mustering the positive energy and desire to broaden your vision and look beyond the immediate challenge to recognise the longer-term opportunity. Its reminding ourselves that we can make a positive difference and that we can still find a way to better ourselves and those around us. I have witnessed this more now than at any time in my 20 years in the industry, and this isn’t limited to the team at MediaCom but its abundantly clear to see that this spirit and drive lives amongst us. The work that Mel and Sam are doing at Initiative is inspiring, the people initiatives we’ve seen from Kim and Laura at OMD, the creativity the team at Special Group have produced with Uber when we all needed a lift and the sheer determination from Michael and the team at Nine to push the boundaries on how we get our messages in front of consumers. Most importantly our clients who have remained strong and committed throughout and placed faith in all of us to grow their brands with them, at times when they themselves are under increasing pressure within their own organisations.

The Pandemic has accelerated the pace of new work and opportunities for our clients. We have seen clients focus their attention on e-commerce and how they can develop the availability of their products and services, and it’s been on the media community to band together to bring these strategies to life. The need for addressable media and personalised content has never been more prevalent, all driven by a change in consumer behaviour that has seen our industry react at pace to be able to serve our clients and their brands to stay ahead. You only have to look at the award worthy work in market right now to see the progress that has been made in such a short time.

We can’t achieve this without the best people, to have the best people we need to look after them. I think we have made up more ground in People & Wellbeing in 18 months than we did in 50 years. All driven by the circumstances we faced. Opportunity in every problem. Can we be better? Of course, we can.

The progress we have made when it comes to remote working is also incredible. If you had told Ben McCallum the 21-year-old print buyer, he would be able to take meetings from his bed he wouldn’t have believed you. It’s going to take some hard work from all of us over the coming months as we navigate the return to the office, what this looks like and how we give our people the best chance to succeed in this environment. No doubt this itself will be a process of trial and error to some degree as we find the best rhythm. This will also be a space where we can help the industry by learning from each other as we test these new routines.

Everything I have mentioned is great right? But guess what the job isn’t done its only just started. We need to harness this and ensure we continue to be inspired by each other, be proud of who we all are and celebrate the work we all do to drive this industry. The main reason we need to do this is to ensure that “our thing” lives on. We need to show the future people of our industry exactly why they are here, to make a difference, to express themselves, to be heard, to be celebrated and to inspire others to do the same. And that’s on us.

I'm looking forward to seeing you all again soon. 


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