Skip to main content
Deep Dive 6 Dec 2021 - 7 min read

Mi3's Top 20 marketing stories for 2021 - from mental availability to attention, ESOV, creativity, econometrics, ESG, start-ups and beyond

By Paul McIntyre, Brendan Coyne & Sam Buckingham-Jones
Top 20 marketing stories of 2021 pic

Professor Byron Sharp, ANZ's Sweta Mehra, Amplified Intelligence's Karen Nelson-Field and IAG's Brent Smart drove some of the most-read stories of 2021.

Mi3 produced hundreds of stories this year and these were the top 20 around marketers and marketing. There’s a tonne of collective wisdom, thinking, key trends and developments. Get your cheat sheet here, featuring: ANZ's Sweta Mehra, IAG's Brent Smart, Ampol's Jenny O’Regan, UM's Joshua Lowcock, Nestle's Antonia Farquhar, Catch's Ryan Gracie, Telstra's Jenni Barnett, Menulog's Simon Cheng, Lion's Anubha Sahasrabuddhe, Sparro's Morris Bryant, BoQ's Martine Jager, Myer's Geoff Ikin, Tourism Australia's Susan Coghill, Pieter-Paul von Weiler, Coles' Lisa Ronson, plus Matt Farrugia, Karen Nelson-Field, Henry Innis, Louise Ardagh, Peter Field, Anna Samkova, Joey Nguyen, Chris Brinkworth, Nick Barnett, Rob Brittain and more. Bookmark it.

It's telling what industry leaders are doing and thinking - and the good news is there's hardly a light "sugar hit" story in the Top 20 list. The big themes, trends and challenges for brands and leaders are all here. No brainer then to feed your brain. Enjoy the refresher after a year of chaos. Our final 2021 editions this week will also feature the top stories in Media, Agencies and Tech - compare and contrast what these sectors rate versus today's list in marketing. Interesting... Here's the countdown.         



We've got our sights set on hydrogen and what we can do to support bigger vehicles in hydrogen, gas, and biofuels. It's exciting…to shape and redefine what this brand will mean to customers as we continue to evolve...

Jenny O’Regan, Chief Brand Officer, Ampol

Back from the dead: Ampol brand chief on $160m rebuild of retro-cool icon tracking ahead of forecast; connecting with Gen Z, going large on Australiana and how emotion is working

In what should be a case study for reviving a dead brand – literally – 2021 was the year a retro-cool Ampol roared back to existence after 26 years parked in the boneyard for retired brands. A major stoush with US oil giant Chevron and its rights to Caltex forced the Australian-controlled company to revive Ampol across 1900 service stations and re-engineer it for a younger set who know little about its roots. Meanwhile, Chevron will rebrand Puma service stations to Caltex - oil is getting sticky. Ampol’s Chief brand Officer Jenny O’Regan said after work from Houston, Saatchi & Saatchi and iProspect, the brand has been “recognised as the most iconically Aussie brand in our industry”. And renewable energy is the next great road trip.   



You can't get the best thinking and the best talent on your business if you're not prepared to pay for the best thinking and the best talent.

Brent Smart, CMO, IAG

IAG CMO Brent Smart on agency pitches: media a 'shallow field' for choice but make reviews fast, pay well for best thinking

Agencies cop plenty of grief about pretty much everything but much less is said about the behaviour of brands. IAG CMO Brent Smart had a lot to say in 2021, as Mi3’s most read stories for the year demonstrates, and the outspoken and sometimes contrarian CMO was not short of a view on the client-agency relationship. Or in this case agency pitches. Smart swapped GroupM’s Mindshare for Initiative to run its $50 million media contract and his key points were: Don’t drag the pitch out, pay agencies to pitch and pay properly for the right partners. There’s a thought.



It’s important to acknowledge these problems are real, it’s unlikely any platform is going to drive the change needed, and we need regulators to act not just talk. Inaction by platforms and regulators is causing real world harm.

Joshua Lowcock, Chief Digital Officer and Global Brand Safety Officer, UM

Australia’s 20 biggest advertisers risk ESG compliance to keep spending $200m with Facebook as whistleblower crisis deepens

If a whistleblower came out this week with a trove of internal research from Nine, Seven or News Corp showing definitively their products caused anxiety and depression in teenage girls and exacerbated misinformation, with potentially disastrous or violent consequences, you can bet the political fallout and response from major advertisers would be loud and loaded with questions about re-assessing ad spend. Agencies and brands talk a big game around Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) – the emphasis is on the social, in this case. But Facebook and Instagram’s ubiquity and cheap reach, even for the most social-minded advertisers, is too hard a habit to kick, without regulation. So here come the regulators. 



We've got to try new platforms in new ways to make sure we're not overly-reliant on the same platforms and media channels that we currently rely on.

Antonia Farquhar, Global Media Lead, Nestlé

The $7bn question: Nestlé’s new global lead for media integration on data, personalisation, DTC and in-housing strategies, and why over-reliance on big platforms is dangerous

Nestle’s ANZ Head of Media, Content and Data, Antonia Farquhar, swapped Sydney for Switzerland and a $7 billion global media gig in June. For nine years, she oversaw a strategic shift away from individual Nestle brands to a cross-brand segmentation strategy and a big push into first party data, personalisation and direct-to-consumer channels. Yes, personalised names on Milo tins, borrowed unashamedly from Coke, worked a treat. So did a move to in-housing with WPP’s Hogarth. Read and refresh. 




Nothing can compare to having the CEO on your team, and lucky for us, Eric [Schmidt at Google] immediately got how web traffic analysis could positively affect Adwords.

Scott Crosby, Co-founder, Urchin, later Google Analytics

Who invented the last click attribution horror? Google drops the metric; How the IAB set up the heist, and lazy marketers, hungry holdcos kept it rolling

It’s a question few could or thought to answer: Who started last click attribution? Or better, who can we blame for it? That was the brief we sent our intrepid reporter Sam Buckingham-Jones to unpack. He returned from the internet’s wilderness with the some answers: The IAB and Google. Former global IAB CEO and President, Greg Stuart, said he oversaw the first industry click through guidelines, “which gave it validity. That was a big mistake,” he said. So some blame can land there. And former Google CEO Eric Schmidt can also take some glory after acquiring a small analytics company called Urchin in 2005, which later became Google Analytics. They too can take some credit. Mystery nearly solved. The next question? Why 20 years on does such a clearly misleading proxy for attributing user behaviour to a media channel still live? Modern economic theory argues markets are rational. Except in marketing.



Measuring every TV spot and its impact on direct traffic allows us to dial-up and down the right version of the creative and see when another is losing interest. That's something I've never been able to do before.

Ryan Gracie, ex-CMO, Catch

Catch CMO Ryan Gracie says first TV campaign delivered 9.5x return, but still backs Facebook and Youtube over BVOD

Everyone is sceptical of TV’s effectiveness as a brand builder until they try it. Exhibit A: Online pure play Catch’s now departed CMO Ryan Gracie. “The results were surprisingly high,” he said. “The ROAS came to 9.57x.” Catch’s first brand campaign was a success and a learning experience. Key lessons – and it’s worth reading his thoughts in full - include: Facebook and YouTube work, BVOD was disappointing and TikTok wasn’t convincing.



Marketing and digital teams really need to focus on getting to the bottom of how much is too much for customers. Some level of personalisation where it's in context and helpful is a really good thing. But there is a fine line

Jenni Barnett, Executive Director, Digital, Telstra

Telstra Digital boss: Retargeting is spam, contextual approaches win, but beware martech vendors' claims of completeness

Retargeting is a fancy way of saying spam, Telstra’s digital boss Jenni Barnett said, and marketers should stop it. Strategic, contextual digital marketing, underpinned by first party data, is paying dividends for the telecommunications company, and Barnett reckons there are ways to improve CX by delivering valuable messages interspersed with ads. Customers are more open to service messages than overt selling she says, backed by results. 



Four out of five people who use a food delivery service have multiple apps on their on their phone. That makes differentiation even harder. It becomes a mental availability game.

Simon Cheng, CMO, Menulog

Back to the future: Menulog CMO Simon Cheng outplays Uber Eats, plots global domination through old school advertising as food apps commoditise

In early 2021, Simon Cheng opened up about his then-strategy:  Big ads, traditional media, sports sponsorship and mental availability. And it worked. While the global Just Eat business, Menulog’s parent,  grew 57 per cent year-on-year in Q4 2020, Menulog grew 166 per cent locally. “It’s not rocket science,” he said. “Growth is about acquiring customers and retaining them. You learn that at university. We have a very strong focus on both.”



The idea of people-based targeting is not new; it can be done on Facebook. But being able to marry up sets of data from a brand and publisher is new – and is certainly what brands should be focused on as we move away from third party cookies

Simon Cheng, CMO, Menulog

Did somebody say first party? Menulog trials cookieless targeting on CTV, conversions soar

Six months after his first hit with Mi3’s audience, Simon Cheng was back with some new learnings and a remarkably similar number of users wanting more of Mr Menulog’s mind. This time, Cheng talked about the brand’s focus on first party data, and a test of CTV via Seven, IPG’s Matterkind, Acxiom and LiveRamp. It delivered a 37 per cent increase in campaign conversions, with sales similarly rising.



What happens with a lot of CX and UX is they've become so focused on creating utility and taking out the customer pain points … it all becomes the same … very generic. Sometimes you need to actually put a little bit of friction into the customer experience to make it different and memorable.

Brent Smart, CMO, IAG and Head of Rollin'


IAG CMO Brent Smart heads NRMA-backed digital-first insurance start-up Rollin': Creativity, distinctive branding, growth culture ‘baked in from the start’

The NRMA launched a new hip-hop brand of motor insurance, Rollin’, as a start-up, to target the 25–40-year-old market with a subscription-like model - and to compete with more competitively priced rivals Budget Direct and Youi. Aside from his CMO duties at IAG, Brent Smart is leading the unit with full P&L responsibility – a rare gig these days for marketers. Smart is a vocal advocate for creativity as a competitive business advantage – Aldi’s Marketing Director Mark Richards argued the same recently in Mi3 – so no surprise Smart says creativity is “core to the business” for Rollin’.  CX and UX, Smart says, have created generic experiences that need a little friction to be interesting, along with creatively-led, distinctive digital assets. We’ll check back in 2022 to see how it’s rolling.



Chinese New Year is possibly the biggest annual joyous festival. Yet I've not seen many companies in Australia actually leverage these key moments the same way we do when summer's coming and you need to slam back a cold one or the footy finals

Anubha Sahasrabuddhe, Consumer & Brand Director, Lion

'Lion's on the hunt': Top marketer Anubha Sahasrabuddhe says rival CUB nailed it with Great Northern, but shouldn't get too comfortable; plots diversity shake-up, big ads and new markets in beer and beyond

After two decades offshore at Mars and Coke, Anubha Sahasrabuddhe has firmly established herself back in Australia with some establishment-challenging worldviews as Consumer and Brand Director at Lion. The podcast accompanying this story is loaded. In Sahasrabuddhe’s sights are binning the tired 70s and 80s beer stereotypes - she wants to make good, funny beer ads again. CUB nailed it with Great Northern, she says, and reckons craft beer offers a huge range of platforms that can reach every consumer. All eyes on Thinkerbell now to deliver. But there’s more coming from this marketer than just marketing communications.  



The biggest trend has been in businesses that have been historically performance-led ‘growing up’ the funnel. There's a real need to say something to the market and grow brands – rather than ‘we're here’ type bottom of the funnel marketing.

Morris Bryant, Partner, Sparro

The great digital ad price hike: Google and Facebook prices climb 1000% in some sectors, 45% on average

While the world sat in lockdown, digital platforms cheered. Ad prices plummeted at the start of the pandemic, but came back with a vengeance. Some costs-per-click increased by more than 10 times in the 2021 financial year, and CPMs rose by 40 per cent on Facebook. Agencies in this space said two things: The costs had forced many brands to try newer platforms like TikTok, Snapchat and Pinterest, and the costs had come because of more brands spending on social to build awareness.



You get the impression that there is a master-slave relationship instead of a partnership, which is what it should be. Ironically, both marketers and creative agencies are in the business of communication, but clearly, we're not very good at communicating about briefs

Pieter-Paul von Weiler, Better Briefs Project

The $200bn black hole: Marketers wasting a third of budgets by giving agencies crap briefs with non-existent strategy; here’s the proof and how to fix it

Writing about briefs isn’t a sexy subject but The Better Briefs Project took to the challenge head on. As is often the way with meaty Mi3 stories and podcasts, few read this the day it was published but has since become a foundation piece for the industry to reference. A study of 1700 marketers and agencies made for a grim read: One third of ad budgets are wasted due to bad briefs and the Grand Canyon of discrepancy between what marketers and agencies think about quality briefs. Some 80 per cent of marketers think they do a good job, 10 per cent of agencies agree. Time to rethink.



A young, introverted girl in our team stepped up in a meeting and questioned a senior exec about the customer value a decision would add. Her intent was pure. It was one of those moments where you can be afraid, or you can make it the norm

Martine Jager, former Chief Digital and Marketing Officer, Westpac

Want to succeed in marketing? Here’s what four top CMOs say you need

What do top marketers look for in their teams, what do they look for when recruiting new talent and what advice would they give their younger selves? Four CMOs laid it out and Mi3’s audience lapped it up. Westpac’s then Chief Digital & Marketing Officer Martine Jager (now at Bank of Queensland), Myer Chief Customer Officer Geoff Ikin, Tourism Australia CMO Susan Coghill and Coles Group CMO Lisa Ronson opened up. The big takeouts? Be yourself, be courageous – and above all else, stay curious. 



Our national growth is at plus 55 per cent… [but] an 84 per cent increase year-on-year on the east coast

Louise Ardagh, Head of Marketing, HBF

How WA health insurer HBF is using digital out-of-home to grow 84 per cent YOY on the east coast – and why programmatic DOOH’s time has come

WA-based health insurer HBF wanted to grow on the east coast, and it chose programmatic out-of-home as the driver. “Our national growth is at plus 55 per cent… [but] an 84 per cent increase year-on-year on the east coast,” Head of Marketing Louise Ardagh said. JCDecaux CEO Steve O’Connor said the sector is coming into its own – the company is on track to make five per cent of digital revenue from programmatic and will be triple that by 2023. This, by the way, was one of the top Market Voice podcasts  for the year from Mi3 partners. 



We’re getting CFO’s attention because all of a sudden the CMO is able to speak with financial literacy, the language the CFO and their financial revenue managers need to be able to assess those investments in marketing.

Matt Farrugia, co-founder, Mutiny


War chest: Ex Publicis, Clemenger CEOs lead Mutiny investment round to scale automated econometrics, $1bn media pool to prove which marketing is working

Who would have thought econometric modelling could be hot? Automated, real-time econometrics, that is. The crew at Mutiny and their martech platform, War Chest, have done what even the big consulting firms haven’t and it’s looking pretty interesting. Former Y&R execs Matt Farrugia and Henry Innis launched their martech venture in 2018 in a bid to streamline econometric modelling and embed it into workflows. Faster analysis means better decisions. Finance teams rate the methodology and the real-time numbers on returns. CMO’s trialling the kit suddenly can demonstrate their contribution to the business.  WarChest, had a $300m media pool of advertiser spend at the time of publishing and was expected to top $1bn in 2022. Much more is to come on this one.



Karen Nelson-Field has tantalisingly offered us a really exciting vision of the future of advertising investment measurement in the shape of share of attention. I think this is just totally electrifying.

Peter Field

Ad effectiveness supremo Peter Field: Without 'electrifying' advertising attention data, media is dysfunctional, ad effectiveness advocates bogged

When Peter Field, the “godfather” of advertising effectiveness speaks, the marketing industry tunes in. In this piece, he spoke about the emerging work from Australia’s Karen Nelson-Field on consumer attention. It is “totally electrifying” he said at an Advertising Council of Australia webcast launching its global benchmark study, To ESOV and Beyond. The difference in attention levels by different platforms and media channels is “truly enormous”, Field said, and yet industry value spend in a similar way. Without robust measurement for attention, advertising effectiveness advocates are bogged. 



If you are the best at understanding how behavioural targeting works, that’s not going to be very useful come 2022. Any teams at publisher, advertiser or agency, their objectives and their cross disciplines will be hugely impacted by all of this.

Chris Brinkworth, Civic Data

Google's 2022 cookie apocalypse: Why it will hit first party data, hyper-targeting and a solution from Westpac's former digital media and tech boss

Mi3’s third most-read story of 2021 wasn’t from 2021 at all, but in May 2020. Yet the Sword of Damocles of deprecating cookies is such an industry-shaking change that this story and podcast remains a source of vital intel. Four experts broke it all down and despite being 18 months old it remains hugely relevant today. Yes, there’s has been a slight reprieve on the cookie apocalypse  – from early 2022 to the end of 2023 – but many brands are woefully under-prepared, if Mi3’s latest Post-privacy, post cookies report is anything to go by (it is). Industry needs benchmark conversations that educate and inform and this is one of them



We became students of funnels and started going after every opportunity that we were leaving on the table. And I'm really proud of what this team has done – and therefore the reputation we have inside the bank of being critical partners to driving revenue growth.

Sweta Mehra, CMO, ANZ

ANZ CMO Sweta Mehra on reshaping and upskilling marketing, finding budget allies, redefining personalisation, massive in-housing savings and rewiring its tech stack to unlock $100m

Under former P&G marketer Sweta Mehra, ANZ’s marketing impact across the bank is getting real traction and cred. This Deep Dive and podcast went forensic on Mehra’s strategy and the detail and smarts has captured Mi3’s audience. Streamlining and rewiring the martech stack, Mehra said, would unlock $100m in additional revenue over three years for the bank. Personalisation was a big point of discussion, and a pillar of her plans: “I probably spend 40-50 per cent of my time in this space,” she said. She’s also shaking up the bank’s marketing structure and building an impressive internal Brand Academy and Marketing Masters programmes to upskill teams across ANZ – not just the marketing discipline.



To our knowledge, this is the first time that broader analysis of ESOV [Excess Share of Voice] has been published and the results are significant.

Rob Brittain, Co-author, To ESOV and Beyond

Prof Byron Sharp's 'mental availability' laws confirmed, advance with attention metrics to reinvent advertising 'share of voice' and business impact: Advertising Council study

A month before the launch of the Advertising Council’s To ESOV and Beyond report, Sir Martin Sorrell told Mi3 he thought attention spans had “diminished” and advertising may have to be more “reactive… than long-term focused”. This report found the opposite. Rather, it confirmed the work nearly 20 years ago by Professor Byron Sharp and Jenni Romaniuk on the importance of mental availability. We suspect this piece took out the top honours because it unpacks the often difficult challenge articulating mental availability, ESOV and emerging developments in measuring active and passive consumer attention to advertising – and business results. The study, authored by Rob Brittain, Peter Field and Karen Nelson-Field, used hundreds of advertising effectiveness case studies to measure the impact of ESOV, or extra share of advertising voice. Higher share means higher growth. And it’s a good sign when hard reads, not sugar hits, rocket to the top of Mi3’s annual big hits. 

Share your reaction (and see how others voted)

Leave a comment (you must be logged in)

Be the first to comment

Market Voice

Search Mi3 Articles

Make it personal

Join Mi3 to receive our weekly edition and personalise your experience