Skip to main content
News Plus 21 Sep 2021 - 4 min read

Coles’ media boss Kate Bailey: MFA Awards forced a personal rethink of ‘bad assumptions’ as agencies build ‘deep understanding of business problems’; UM leads finalists race

By Paul McIntyre and Brendan Coyne

The 2021 MFA Awards finalists have been announced and one judge, Coles’ Kate Bailey, found the process forced a personal rethink on media and its commercial impact. But Mindshare CEO, Katie Rigg-Smith, said the best entries also recognised that media alone cannot claim all the glory. Here’s the finalists line-up and a marketer-agency take on the best media work through Covid.     

“I had a strong perception that [gaming] just isn’t brand safe and personally it’s something that I need to be interrogating more… rather than just dismissing it and shutting down because I was making bad assumptions”

Kate Bailey, General Manager, Media, Sponsorship and Events, Coles

What you need to know:

  • A record 52 finalists have been announced in the MFA Awards, including Menulog (UM), Dell (MediaCom), Land Rover (Dentsu X, Seven West Media), IAG (Mindshare), Tourism Australia (UM), Tourism New Zealand (Mindshare), Suncorp (OMD, Ogilvy), BWS (Carat), Swinburne University (Initiative), McDonald’s (OMD), Tourism Whitsundays (Wavemaker), NIB (AKQA Media), Coles (OMD), and Mackay Goodwin (Bohemia). The full list is below.
  • Coles Media, Sponsorship & Events GM Kate Bailey said the 30 case studies she judged showed agencies are unpacking nuanced and fractured consumer sentiment and its complex implications for business with rigour and insight.      
  • “It's something that I think for me as a marketer is really, really on my mind as we all grapple with such varying differences in consumer sentiment across Australia,” she said.
  • Fellow judge Mindshare CEO, Katie Rigg-Smith, said a two-year awards hiatus had created a bumper crop of high calibre case studies.
  • "These are the studies I want clients to be reading – to really understand the media's impact on their business." But Rigg-Smith said the best entries also recognised that media alone cannot claim all the credit.
  • The winners will be announced in February next year at rescheduled live event. 

 

Playing to win

Coles General Manager of Media, Sponsorships and Events Kate Bailey has lauded the depth of business thinking and smarts from the dozens of submissions she dissected as a judge for the 2021 MFA Awards – the winners will be announced at a now rescheduled event on February 10 next year.

Bailey was one of more than 100 judges pouring over a record number of entries for the MFA Awards, resulting in 52 finalists, led by UM.

It was Bailey’s first dive into industry awards judging and the process forced her to rethink some “bad assumptions”, citing fast-growing online gamers as a case in point. 

“The amount of time that's spent on gaming around the world is increasing significantly,” she told Mi3. “And it's not just teenage boys, as many people think. From a gender and an age perspective, it's more diverse now. That's an environment that as a brand if you were to go into it, or be close to it, you really need to understand what you're doing so you're not dad at the disco.”

Those trying to convince brands and agencies to pile into a 12.3 million-strong mass market channel – which slightly skews female in Australia – would agree.

Bailey acknowledged that like many marketers, she perceived the gamer industry to be a high risk environment for brands. “I had a strong perception that it just isn’t brand safe and personally it’s something that I need to be interrogating more and understanding what guard rails are put around it rather than just dismissing it and shutting down because I was making bad assumptions,” she said. “It’s why I found the whole MFA Awards experience so inspiring.”

Agencies driving business impact

Bailey’s key observations coming out of the MFA judging process was that media agencies were producing better thinking and work than many credit – at least in the top tier of  awards submissions – and that there was a “consistent, deep understanding of business problems and understanding of the role that media plays in solving it," she said. "Without a doubt, commercial impact was on every single entry and you could see just how well the entrants understood the commercial reality of the business. It was really impressive.”

The use of data to inform strategy and “inspire an idea rather than just being the execution” was another key observation she noted along with the “bravery by agencies and marketers” to up-end category norms.

“There were a few really great examples where the brand didn’t do the big TV ad that was so common for a particular category,” said Bailey. “A few that come to mind were around gaming and two in the tourism space where one went down the route of leading with a radio campaign and for me, you don’t really lead with radio for brand. You go with TV and potentially social but certainly high-impact, strong audio visual environments. So using radio was quite disruptive for that category. When you're innovating in a channel, or in a new media environment, you really need media owner support and an understanding of the consumer and the sentiment of the consumer in the platform so that you show up relevant.”

Bailey said social media was another contrarian example which was used to lead a campaign: “Not because of a budget constraint but because they had a compelling idea and the channel was the best channel for the idea rather than being the channel because it’s what they could afford.”

The 30 case studies Bailey judged also showed, she said, that agencies were unpacking nuanced and fractured consumer sentiment and its complex implications for business with unexpected rigour and insight.      

“It's something that I think for me as a marketer is really, really on my mind as we all grapple with such varying differences in consumer sentiment across Australia, depending on the state of lockdowns but even outside of lockdown – everything from weather to state and local economies having such a big impact. Without giving away too much of what was put in front of us – it will be shared – but there was just some really interesting examples around how small business owners were feeling in Covid as an example and how that changed during the day versus at night. 

"And if you think about it from a tourism perspective, how Queenslanders might feel about traveling around Queensland and the role that investing in travel in Queensland and how that pays back into the local economy versus travelling to Queensland outside of being a Queenslander is more than about just going somewhere different. It's something that I've absolutely carried with me since the judging process." 

But for anyone trying to get a read on the likely MFA winners, at least in Bailey’s category of Business Impact, good luck.

“There were two [entries] that were absolutely phenomenal and for me, really, really easy to get to. And then there was a large group of just excellent examples. There was very, very long debate around them because they were so good.”

Katie Rigg-Smith: Tell stories, but edit ruthlessly

Fellow judge, Mindshare CEO Katie-Rigg Smith agreed – the best awards were those that told powerful stories, succinctly outlining challenge, solution, results. Anyone planning to enter next year, she suggested, should start reading shortlisted case studies from here on in. Either way, she said the bar has been lifted.

"I don't know whether it because people have has a two year hiatus, but the quality was among the best I have ever seen. These are the studies I want clients to be reading – to really understand the media's impact on their business."

So how to stand a chance of winning? Business impacts and business metrics, said Rigg-Smith. Plus, remember that less is more.

"There's a big focus on effectiveness. But when it comes down to how to win them, the formula has never changed. It's how well you can understand the job to be done, an insight that is really compelling and then how did you do something with media and communications to actually deliver a result for a client that looks at all of that together? There is some art of storytelling in that," she said, but less is more: award entry writers don't have to document the project from the dawn of time. "So what you leave out is just as powerful as what you put in.”

Rigg-Smith was a judge across real-time marketing, long term effects and behaviour change. She said the latter – dominated by government agencies and departments – was probably the hardest, given the lack of comparable metrics. 

"I think that we can learn how to be really clear on the individual behaviour you're trying to change in absence, potentially, of having a benchmark for that behaviour. What's a legitimate proxy for what success looks like?"

But she agreed with Coles' Kate Bailey that the criteria for using data further up the media food chain has significantly matured, which separated the also rans from the frontrunners in the real-time marketing category.

"It's all about the application of the insight from the data and how are you doing something really tangible with that, that's going to win you the award. It is so much further advanced now than it's ever been before. It's no longer enough to just change an out of home poster in real time."

Across all three categories, Rigg-Smith said award entries that made an effort to discount variables instead of trying to claim all the glory made judges' jobs easier.

"That's something that will always stand out for me: media isn't going to do everything. The results you achieve are a mash up of all the different things that have contributed; and discounting the variables is not a bad thing – it's not going to take away from the power of your media, it is actually paying respect to all the component parts. So discounting variables in the results is really important."


The 2021 MFA Awards finalists are:

Agency Talent & Culture

  • Initiative 
  • Initiative’s Iso-Internship
  • OMD

Behaviour Change

  • Australian for Government Department of Social Services, Help is Here, UM
  • Department of Customer Service, Covid-19 Citizen Campaign, UM 
  • NSW Government, Discreet Life, Wavemaker
  • RACQ, Distracted Drivers, UM

Brand Impact – Presented by OMA

  • Dell Australia, Dell Change Makers, MediaCom
  • Menulog, Snoop, UM
  • Swinburne University of Technology, Swintopia, Initiative

Bravery

  • IAG, CGU rescues donuts for dogs, Mindshare
  • Royal Australian Mint, Donation Dollar, UM
  • Tourism Australia, Travel Takeover Week, UM

Business Impact – Presented by Quantcast

  • Dell Australia, Dell Change Makers, MediaCom
  • Mackay Goodwin, Don’t Give Up, Bohemia
  • Menulog, Snoop, UM
  • Swinburne University of Technology, Swintopia, Initiative
  • Tourism New Zealand, Good Morning World, Mindshare
  • Tourism Whitsundays, Siri-ously in need of a holiday?, Wavemaker

Content 

  • Coles, What’s for dinner?, Seven West Media & OMD
  • Dell Australia, Dell Change Makers, MediaCom
  • Queensland Health (Queensland State Government), Dear Mind, MediaCom
  • The Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador, Re-imagining the future of STEM, PHD Media
  • Tourism Australia, Live from Aus, UM

Covid Media Pivot

  • BWS, Local Luvva, Carat
  • Coca-Cola, Refreshing a Decade of Share a Coke, UM
  • MARS, Freshen up behind your mask, MediaCom
  • Suncorp, Shannon’s Covid Pivot, OMD
  • Swinburne University of Technology, Swintopia, Initiative

Data & Analytics 

  • Defence Force Recruiting (Australian Navy), Deep data dive into the Australian Navy, UM
  • McDonald’s, Maccas Monopoly – Playing to Win, OMD

Innovation in Media 

  • IAG, CGU rescues donuts for dogs, Mindshare
  • Tourism Australia, Live from Aus, UM

Long-term results

  • nib, Delivering an unfair market share, AKQA Media
  • Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Combatting complacency to keep Aussies safe, The Media Store

Media Partner

  • Snapchat
  • Verizon Media

Partnerships

  • Dell Australia, Dell Change Makers, MediaCom & 10ViacomCBS
  • JLR Australia, SAS Australia Drives Defender Growth, Dentsu X Australia & Seven West Media
  • McDonald’s, would you like e-sports with that?, OMD & Blizzard

Pro Bono/Cause Marketing Incentive – In recognition of Pam Lane

  • Hearts & Science, Dry July: Asking for the support of those affected by a pandemic
  • OMD, Coles Brand Responsibility
  • UM, Run for the Herd: Virtually Unstoppable

Real-time Marketing

  • MARS, Freshen up behind your mask, MediaCom
  • McDonald’s, Maccas Monopoly – Playing to Win, OMD
  • Suncorp Group, AAMI Rest Towns, OMD & Ogilvy

NGEN Award

  • Ben Breden & Olivia Coxon, Initiative
  • Kate O’Loughlin & Leah Franco, PHD
  • Zac Kelly, Carat & Sam Murray, Hearts & Science
  • Younna Lee & Keeley Mercieca, Publicis Media
  • Ella-Jane Williams & Alice McAuliffe, Match & Wood
  • Gemma Harriss & Thomas Murphy, The Media Store

The sponsors of the 2021 MFA Awards are:

  • Grand Prix Sponsor: Seven Network
  • Platinum Sponsors: Outdoor Media Association, SBS Media, Quantcast
  • Gold Sponsors: OzTam, Snapchat, Foxtel Media, Google, 10 ViacomCBS
  • Silver Sponsors: Lion, IAB Australia, Yahoo!, Nielsen, Clarety

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