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Deep Dive 4 Feb 2021 - 4 min read

The Work: CMOs Say - Tourism Australia’s Susan Coghill weeps for NRMA's banned First Saturday ad – ‘I choke up every time’

By Paul McIntyre & Brendan Coyne

Susan Coghill: Cut her teeth in creative agencies; says big, creative work delivers

We don’t talk enough about the work in Australia – and when we do, it tends to be negative. In this new Mi3 series The Work: CMOs Say, we ask marketers about the work they rate most highly. From ads to product, service and customer experience innovation – what does great work look like to them. Tourism Australia CMO, Susan Coghill kicks us off by rating her top ad three campaigns of 2020.

Think bigger

Cutting her teeth with LA ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, Susan Coghill loves a big, creative brand ad. Today, she says “big ideas and creative storytelling have never been more important.”

Coghill thinks the “confidence crisis and nervousness” that affected businesses following the GFC, and a simultaneous push too far into lower funnel performance marketing is starting to swing back toward brand - and a happier, more effective medium.

But she agrees the trade press – and the business pages – should talk more about the power of creativity in driving growth. CMOs too.

“One of the real wins of the last couple of years is that all of my peers on the executive team now really back creativity and the case for marketing effectiveness. The board is talking that way with us as well. When my chairman says Tourism Australia is at its best when it does big marketing/campaign ideas, and it really rallies the industry so that everyone can kind of get behind it - that is music to my ears,” says Coghill.

“If you leave those conversations with the executives or board until the point that you're trying to sell-in a big, creative idea, you've got a much harder job to do,” she adds.

“You've got to be having that conversation day-in and day-out and proving it: sharing the study, sharing the work, proving up your own work consistently.”

Which brings us to the recent work that cuts the mustard for Coghill.


NRMA First Saturday

NRMA's First Saturday campaign won four Gold Pencils at the 42nd annual AWARD awards

1) NRMA: First Saturday

For the emotional and evocative storytelling with a meaningful call to action.”

NRMA’s First Saturday campaign was created alongside NSW Rural Fire Service, NSW State Emergency Service and Australian Red Cross by CHE Proximity. The insurer wants Australians to spend the first Saturday of each month doing one small thing make their homes – and firefighters – safer.

The ad proved too realistic for some viewers – and was pulled by Ad Standards.

“I really feel for NRMA and its team, but I do hope that it makes the ad even more famous – because it is such powerful work,” says Coghill. “It is an incredibly effective use of a shock strategy, something we often see from healthcare or government organisations – but which isn't always done as deftly as NRMA has managed.

“They have done it so well, so realistically. When that dispatch comes over the CB radio and says “you’re on your own out there”, I choke up every time - because that is a real situation that fireys face.

“It’s incredible story telling, a real powerful moment. And I think the meaningfulness of that spot is powerful because it is important for us as everyday Australians to protect what we have, the land and the country around us. But protect the fireys – don’t set them up to fight a worse situation than they have to.

“I know there is also commercial benefit for NRMA because it costs them less if fewer homes are damaged, but I thought it was brilliant. There’s me in my inner west apartment checking all my power points and extension cords, making sure I have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. It made me think about it,” says Coghill.

“I went to my neighbourhood Bunnings.”

More broadly, Coghill takes her hat off to the whole insurance category.

“Nobody really likes thinking about their insurance and it's a bit of a hassle when you are going through the process. But it's probably because of that, that it's getting more and more creative. It's a category that totally gets the power of enduring creative platforms and characters. They understand the strong brand codes.”


2) Uber Eats: Tonight I’ll be eating

For injecting real creativity into that category and forcing competitors to lift their game.”

Coghill is a big fan of the work Uber Eats and Special Group have created with the ‘Tonight I’ll be eating’ series.  She thinks the broader category is raising its game.

“I look at what Menulog did, the Snoop Dog campaign, and just feel like they're upping the ante consistently with each other. That is good for advertising, it's good for brands and it’s good for consumers,” says Coghill.

“That old adage that consumers hate advertising? They don't hate advertising. They hate bad advertising. Consumers are the first to share stuff that they fall in love with and the first to talk about it.”

Asked to pick one of the Tonight series, Coghill goes for Kath and Kim Kardashian’s ‘noice’.


3) Mint Mobile: Ryan Reynolds PowerPoint

“For being the cleverest response to Covid production challenges.”

While the rest of the world grappled with how to tell a story and shoot an ad during lockdowns, Ryan Reynolds found a genuine insightful truth,” with PowerPoint suggests Coghill.

“That whole PowerPoint rigmarole of what you put into it, memes, whatever was just very true. And it was just very fun and very clever. And it didn't lean into the typical ‘Covid-vertising’ that we saw from so many other brands.”


Postscript: Nike

While Coghill was asked to rate recent work, she is a long-time fan of Nike’s ads. From the classic ‘If you let me play (“they just did it so beautifully and emotively and meaningfully”), to the more recent ‘Nothing beats a Londoner’.

“For me, it is just so well observed,” says Coghill. “I am as far as you can get from a Londoner, but my God, do I love it! The layering of stories, and characters, and styles. It always comes to mind when I think of my favourite work.”

And it’s laugh out loud funny.


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