The peak body for Australia’s leading agencies in the advertising industry, Advertising Council Australia (ACA), has a core purpose to foster the long-term prosperity of creativity across the industry.
This means championing creativity as a key driver of economic growth so that businesses and brands alike continue to (and begin) investing deeper in creativity.
Spreading this message for ACA is largely done via B2B trade press (predominantly earned media opportunities) and its many owned ACA awards and events.
Recognising its members (creative agencies) face the challenge of emerging from a tough post-pandemic economic climate (and potentially looming recession), the ACA wanted to spread the message about the effectiveness of creativity to a wider audience.
In a branded content B2B initiative like no other, it worked with The Australian national broadsheet newspaper across print (plus digital version of paper via app) and digital site and channels to acheive this. *The Australian now reaches an average of 5.3 million readers each month across print and digital.
The guiding insight was that the vast majority of chief marketing officers (CMOs) have not experienced a recession. Furthermore, they potentially faced the possibility that others in the C-Suite would be inclined to cut spending as a result of a downturn. The ACA wanted to;
Shift CMOs away from a conservative mindset and empower them with inspiration and knowledge to confidently advocate for creativity
Communicate the value of marketing investment, which had reduced at greater rates than the EU/US despite those markets facing worse economic conditions
Improving CMOs influence at the board room level via improved communications and evidence-based arguments
With earned media opportunities in trade press shrinking, ACA wanted to address these C-suite challenges, by broadening and scaling its communications around the role of creativity.
The plan was to put creatvity front and centre, show its value and power to business leaders and show what agencies (ACA members who specifically signed up to be part of TGA) were doing in this space - in a newsy, natural and non-salesly way. FYI agencies that became TGA members included major hot shops such as Clemenger, Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, TBWA, Dentsu Creative, The Monkeys, part of Accenture Song, M&C Saatchi - as well as local indies such as BMF etc).
Knowing there was an immediate opportunity to highlight the role creativity can play as a catalyst for growth, ACA and national daily broadsheet newspaper, The Australian, hatched a branded content plan like no other.
Launching as an initial six-month project at the end of 2021, The Growth Agenda (TGA) was born. Due to a successful reception, TGA was renewed for a full year in 2022 and baked into ACA and The Australian’s proposition as a long term business and branded content investment.
While 2021 tested the water, 2022 was a full-throttle whole year of TGA.
The ambition was to launch a whole new section within The Australian (online and in print) devoted to promoting commercial creativity in a newsy, enthralling and inspiring way. The comprehensive and high-profile platform sought to promote creativity to the C-Suite, while giving ACA members the opportunity to secure a guaranteed role in the partnership.
The biggest communication investment in ACA’s history (funded by ACA and a selection of its creative agency members), and a milestone branded content innovation for the national subscription-led paper, TGA set out to be a high-profile digital content platform designed to promote creativity to the C-Suite.
In 2022 a whole new indexed section was created on The Australian to house TGA content. This made the content offering much more shareable and easy to reach.
Content within the TGA section is editorially led and included interviews with senior/C-Suite execs such as CMOs (local and global) and CEOs; balanced with opinion pieces, breaking marketing/ad campaigns, and case studies from ACA members.
All content items are pitched to and approved by the editor - in stark contrast to more ‘advertorial’ style content found in other publications that can be led and dominated by the client alone.
The Australian hired experienced editor and journalist from within the industry, Pippa Chambers, to lead the section. At a time when most news desks were not regularly recruiting, the hiring of an experienced journalist not only supported journalism itself, but helped reinforce its news credentials. Two interns and two other journalists were also used in a part time (paid) capacity to help at varying times to bolster the section.
ACA member-connected TGA items were free and other news items were under the paywall. The page (in-app and in print) and all digital content were crafted in a way to honour The Australian’s high news standard with all content exclusive, complete with unique quotes and often full photo shoots for lead items.
In addition to digital coverage and a full page in print each Monday, in 2022 a TGA podcast was also launched and 2 events were held across Sydney and Melbourne to bolster TGA’s position in both B2C and B2B sectors. Both 2022 events had tremendous support and attendance from CMOs from some of Australia’s largest firms.
As a relatively new product, a core challenge was awareness. This was tackled by a ramped up social media strategy for 2022 (every post shared and some member content boosted). The Australian supported the amplification via digital homepage promotion, newsletters, banner ads and social channels to deliver ‘always-on’ content. In 2022 TGA content also made its way into The Australian’s sought after weekly Media newsletter. The ACA also assisted by including content via its own email member communications.
Spreading news of TGA far and wide was key to its success and we more than rose to the challenge to make the section one of the most talked about in market.
Via The Growth Agenda we were able to tap into The Australian publication's renowned business and media section audience to influence and inspire C-suite marketing and media executives with content worth millions if calculated as “earned media”.
With its blend of partner content and pure editorial, The Australian has seamlessly blended quality coverage with branded content journalism that is of high value to discerning readers. TGA is a unique and contemporary example of collaborative partnerships breaking ground locally and potentially internationally.
C-suite readership of TGA is constantly growing, with senior decision makers repeatedly returning. E.g: A LinkedIn post on the launch of TGA’s podcast garnered 5k+ impressions in just 24 hours. An editor's post of the Top 50 most read TGA items soon ammased 9k impressions too.
While gaining subscribers for The Australian was never part of the goal. It has become a significant subscription driver, demonstrating the value of the content to its high-profile audience.
Sharing and social media commentary from the likes of Diageo’s global CMO and Unilever ANZ CEO to Telstra CMO and Pizza Hut Australia CEO, reinforced the power and impact the section has as people consistently publicly praised and shared many articles online.
TGA is also stirring debate and conversation, with comments on TGA stories up in 2022. One case study alone pulled 120+ comments in two days.
TGA’s position of record in the advertising and marketing sector has been further reinforced by an increasing amount of ‘exclusive’ pitched items to the section - items that were previously pitched to trade press publications.