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Take risks and embrace discomfort, help clients stand out by learning from global examples, think about what kind of growth you seek when going overseas and bear that in mind when making career choices.

Take risks and embrace discomfort, help clients stand out by learning from global examples, think about what kind of growth you seek when going overseas and bear that in mind when making career choices.

The advice came thick and fast from top APAC creatives at This Way Up Southern Sessions in Melbourne last Wednesday, who spilled their secrets to a sustainable career in creativity.

The inaugural AWARD event kicks off a series of inspirational talks by world-class speakers, bringing all the insights of This Way Up, Australia’s only pure-play creative festival, to Victoria.

Keynote speaker and award-winning creative director Kim Pick, VML NZ Group ECD, used the spotlight to talk about ageism in advertising and its impact on creativity.

“Age is one of the last taboos in our industry,” she argued. “People are exiting in droves after the age of 34 when they have family responsibilities, with many now questioning the sustainability of a successful career for future and existing talent.

“It exposes the industry to the risk of becoming disconnected from large sections of society. What’s at stake is the experience, resilience and passion of a valuable group of talent in a rapidly changing industry - when diverse and creative problem solving is needed more than ever.”

Ogilvy Sydney Executive Creative Director Bridget Jung, a creative with two decades' experience across multiple continents, moderated a session with Pick and and a group of esteemed creative leaders who shared their insights into Australian culture, advertising, and their pros and cons for working in Australia and abroad. 

  • Psembi Kinstan (Group ECD, DDB Melbourne) on the need to expand your scope of reference: “Australian advertising feels very homogenous, with no real sense of what a brand stands for or how it should appear in the world. We have a role to play in helping clients stand out from their competition by learning from global examples. If you're young and creative, look at other global brands and what they do. Be inspired by that as opposed to being caught up in the small bubble that we exist in here in Australia.
  • Lea Walker (talent recruiter & Founder, Mrs Walker) on choosing a foreign creative market: There is a shift in global job preferences, with London, Amsterdam and Singapore gaining popularity over the US. Those who come back from America are equipped with different skills than those who come back from Europe. You have to think about what you want to gain from the growth of going overseas. Bear that in mind when making choices.”
  • And on shirking Aussie colloquialisms:  “If you have ambitions to live and work abroad, particularly in the US, you have to be really conscious of not having a deeply colloquial Australian book. Our colloquialism just doesn’t translate into other markets. Ads that do really well here tend to go straight over American heads.”
  • Nomfundo Msomi (ESD, Chep Network) on Australia’s reputation overseas: Australia is always changing but has been a bit slow with long-term brand building. As an ad industry outsider looking in, you have to accept that maybe everything you think about the place isn't exactly as it seems.”
  • Psembi Kinstan on staying in Australia vs going abroad: At various points in your career, you have to ask yourself who and where the best people in the world are to work with. Not all the industry’s best are in Australia; you have to be open to the idea of working elsewhere.
  • Kim Pick (Group ECD, VML, NZ) on going abroad vs staying put: “David Droga, James McGrath, Justin Drape and Scott Nowell all had incredible Australian creative careers without leaving the country (albeit Droga initially). It’s hard to point to any others."
  • Kim Pick on solving the ageism problem: The industry's obsession with youth and climbing the ladder leads to talented creatives dropping out, but there's room for grown-ups in agencies if we rethink our approach.”

Thanks to AWARD for hosting and to everyone who came along to hear from an impressive lineup of speakers. Stay tuned for the next Southern Sessions event in Melbourne!