Blog : Provocation

Smaller brands do it better?

Smaller brands do it better?

Big businesses can learn from smaller companies who are proving that a dedication to digital can provide big returns. HBT Agency’s Luke Kelly spoke to CMO Magazine about the lessons SME’s can teach big business – from getting the basics right, to sophisticated lead generation programmes.


Writes CMO:

‘HBT Agency’s Digital Director, Luke Kelly, agrees smaller companies are more willing to embrace digital from the get-go. “It’s a lower cost entry point and SME’s are able to gain market share through a cost effective means,” he explained. “For brands with a smaller budget, owning a keyword is more accessible than a TVC or outdoor campaign.”

‘In comparison, he notes the biggest challenge for bigger brands is challenging conventional thinking. “It’s difficult to be confident to roll out an innovative marketing campaign when a brands history is so rich.

“Smaller brands do this exceptionally well. Because of this, they enjoy higher returns from digital spend – purely because they know more about their online customer purchasing habits, and target their communications accordingly.

“Online communication, email marketing, digital targeting are just some of the ways brands can make customers feel valued.”

Click here to read the in depth article.

Selling a life and death message

Selling a life and death message

Our latest campaign for Alzheimer’s Australia (Vic.) is really getting noticed. Here’s a story in Marketing Magazine about the thinking behind it.


David Hayes, lead creative on Alzheimer’s Australia Vic’s latest TVCs, shares his insights into the creative process behind creating more urgency around an important social issue.

Dementia is Australia’s second biggest killer after heart disease and has a devastating effect on everyone who’s touched by it; those who have it, their families and their friends. And yet, most people underestimate the disease and its impact. As a result, Australians’ response to Alzheimer’s disease (and dementia more broadly) is not commensurate with the seriousness of the disease, and this has huge implications for our society. How best to tackle this – particularly given the sensitivities surrounding this subject?

Did you know dementia is Australia’s second leading cause of death after heart disease? If the answer is no, you’re not alone – more than 70% of Australians admit to knowing very little about dementia. This is just one of the startling statistics that began HBT’s journey with Alzheimer’s Australia Vic three months ago.

The fact that Australians lack awareness about the reality of dementia is not surprising, given the majority of Australians in a recent survey admitted that dementia is something they would “rather not think about”.

Unfortunately, awareness of some diseases – in this case one with very far reaching effects – has less to do with the seriousness and prevalence of the condition, and more to do with preconceived and widely shared attitudes towards the illness.

A marketer’s response to an urgent issue

Knowing how to confront important issues creatively is the reason not-for-profit organisations collaborate with marketers in the first place. And understanding of how to deftly communicate sometimes upsetting facts with respect requires an experienced touch, free from cliché and sensationalism.

In our work with Alzheimer’s Australia Vic, we discovered awareness – and public interest – in the disease was significantly lower than many other common life threatening conditions.
• In a recent Ipsos survey, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic found that:
• Almost a quarter of the population saw people with dementia as ‘frightening’,
• more than half of respondents professed dementia as something they ‘would rather not think about’, and

more than a quarter of the population believe this fatal disease can be cured.

As one of Australia’s biggest killers, the urgent facts of dementia initially had us scratching our heads as to how to address such a serious condition with sensitivity. The challenge we faced was: how to emotionally engage a largely passive and disengaged public. The objective of any social or behavioural change campaign begins with devising creative ways to engage as many people as possible, without compromising the values of the client it represents.

Alzheimer’s Australia Vic briefed us to help reset people’s understanding of dementia as a degenerative condition of the brain that kills, whilst also highlighting that people touched by the disease are not alone and there are support services available.

In discussions with our colleagues and family, it emerged many of them had been significantly touched by the disease, in emotionally challenging and taxing ways. Therefore it was apparent that it would be important to convey the wide reaching effect this life threatening disease has on the wider community, as a vehicle to attract some urgency in engaging the attention of Australians.

The conversation soon steered to the hard facts:
• More than 342,800 Australians are currently living with dementia – roughly double the population of Geelong, and
• without a medical breakthrough, the number of people diagnosed with dementia is set to soar, with almost 900,000 people expected to be affected by 2050 – that’s around 1 in 50 Australians.

Some lessons well learned

Many years ago, I worked on the messaging for Victoria’s TAC. I was lucky to have spent some time working with Greg Harper, who devised the campaign. I learned a lot from him, and there were some interesting parallels with our brief from Alzheimer’s Australia.

The situation Greg and the TAC faced was dire. Victoria’s road toll, one of the worst per capita in the western world, was growing exponentially. Peoples’ lives were at stake. One key ingredient was identified as being necessary to persuade road users to change their behaviour. In that case, the ingredient was reality – people had to be able to imagine themselves in the traumatic situations that were depicted in order to re-evaluate their own behaviour.

In Alzheimer’s Australia’s case, we also identified a ‘key ingredient’ that helped people to see the disease differently. All of the research was telling us – sometimes directly, sometimes not – that people do not think of Alzheimer’s as a disease with physical, degenerative effects. Rather, very broadly, people see it as a condition initially characterized by an almost benign forgetfulness.

Our job, it transpired, was to show the disease for what it really is, to pull back the curtain.

The creative breakthrough in our campaign, the element around which the other elements of the campaign were ‘constructed’, was a visual analogy for the degenerative, physical nature of Alzheimer’s Disease (because it really does eat away at the brain). We came up with a rotting apple as a way to represent that degeneration.

From that point, scripting the spots with an eye to remaining sensitive to people currently living with the condition was also very important.

Another parallel with Greg Harper’s situation with the TAC was that we also had a client who was committed to doing things very differently if that’s what was necessary to affect change. Our client, Fiona Mason, knew we needed to be strong in our messaging – to confront the facts of the situation.

It was important to not shy away from illustrating the harsh realities faced by those who live with dementia – but rather, to focus on them.

The campaign has just launched and early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive: people are talking about the disease, and seeing it for what it is.

Click here to view the article at

The Changing Face of our Industry

What was once a mixture of billboards and print ads, the advertising industry now offers a seemingly endless number of ways for brands to reach their target audiences due to the constantly evolving digital sphere.

In times gone by, advertising firms would target potential customers by placing ads with media that appealed to certain demographics. Now there are tools and data available that allow advertisers to target potential customers with laser focus, honing in on the specific interests of those they most want to reach.

These advanced capabilities are crucial as we no longer consume media in the same way we did even five years ago. Our consumption of media is no longer limited to people simply watching programs on free-to-air TV or reading the newspaper of a morning. Instead we constantly switch between mediums and at any one time can be found accessing multiple platforms for news, to socialise and to satisfy our entertainment needs.

The sheer quantity of media and advertising we are exposed to every hour means consumers have learnt to shut out anything that doesn’t appeal to their personal tastes. And in response to this, today’s digital capabilities mean that we can target audiences based on their personal taste and create ads for them accordingly.

The rapid developments in technology and media consumption that have emerged during the past decade have signaled both an opportunity and a threat to advertising agencies. These changes have forced those in the industry to make a choice: diversify your service offering and stay relevant, or maintain the status quo and risk becoming redundant.

In the 2014 financial year in Australia, digital advertising accounted for 34% of total ad spend, up from 30% the previous year. While this portion is significant and growing, there still remains a demand for traditional media. The agencies being sought after now are those that who can provide a full gamut of traditional and digital ad services. Clients are dedicating increasingly large portions of their budgets to digital advertising, making a sophisticated digital department in addition to a more traditional offering critical for agencies.

At HBT we’ve recently appointed a new head of digital Luke Kelly who oversees all aspects of digital strategy for our clients including web, mobile and marketing. Luke is a thought leader in the digital space and is often sought for comment on industry developments. By constantly investing in our digital department and its expertise, we find we can offer new and existing clients a far broader range of services, which they require in order to remain relevant and competitive.

The advertising landscape has undoubtedly changed and will continue to do so. Brands should therefore be wary of engaging agencies that are staid in their approach, as ultimately this out-dated thinking will mean they’re left behind.


Google update set to change the world of SEO

Google-SEO copy

“Nothing’s gonna change my world” – The Beatles.

With rumours surfacing about Google’s scheduled algorithm changes (April 21), John Lennon’s famed lyrics have quite possibly never been more wrong. Google is, in fact, going to change our world – and anyone with a website will likely be affected.

Google is constantly evolving to favour content strategy and functionality above all else, making it harder to ‘cheat’ your way into high SEO rankings. With new guidelines being put in place, mobile-friendly sites will receive preferential treatment from the search engine, which will see many sites experience some major ranking decreases.

Needless to say, now is a great time to talk to your digital provider about staying ahead of this curve.

To ensure your site meets Google’s requirements and is given the most exposure possible,
we recommend talking to our Digital Director, Luke Kelly.

You can contact Luke here

9 Things You Need to Know About Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update

“Can you explain what Internet is?”

There was a time when this question wasn’t considered ridiculous. Who could have guessed the extent to which our entire industry is linked to the web now? Digital strategy, content strategy, UX/UI design and framework guidance are all disciplines proudly employed at HBT – none of which we had heard of a few years ago. Today there are endless opportunities awaiting your business online.

Why not speak to HBT’s Digital Director, Luke Kelly to see how you could be taking advantage of them.

Goodbye Stephen Colbert!


Let’s face it, he’s a legend – a force for good in a media landscape gone quite nutty (think Fox News in particular). One of the great satirical comedy characters ever. We’re lucky to have had him around, even if it was in the US. We’ll miss you, Stephen!

Read the full article here:

Are gadgets really good?

They’re certainly not all good. We wonder how the generation raised on them will be affected. Now, someone’s done some research. A little concerning.

What Happens When You Tear 6th Graders Away From Their Gadgets for 5 Days

By: Melissa Dahl

hbt blog_boy

To be a modern American, child or adult, is to spend a third of your day staring at a screen. Children ages 8 to 18 spend an incredible seven and a half hours a day — outside of school — using some sort of electronic media, and adults are slightly worse, racking up an additional half-hour of screen time. It’s not yet clear what impact this is having on face-to-face communication, and that’s especially true for the kids who are growing up glued to an iPad. So one team of researchers decided to try to find out, and they took a creative approach. Instead of measuring what happened to kids who used these devices, they measured what happened to kids whose gadgets were taken away.

A group of sixth graders at a public elementary school in Southern California spent five days on a school trip at a nature camp while a bunch of their classmates, the control group, stayed at school (don’t worry — they’d get their turn at camp later). Before camp started, researchers surveyed both groups of kids on their media habits, and both sets reported an average of four and a half hours a day of screen time outside of school. Both groups also took two tests designed to indicate how skilled they were at reading emotions: One test showed four dozen sets of child and adult faces, and the kids were asked to name the emotions they saw in those faces. The other was a silent video showing ten short, typical scenes from school and home life, and the kids were asked to interpret the actors’ nonverbal social cues.

After that, the campers were off — they spent five days hiking and learning outdoor skills, with nary a screen to distract them, while for their classmates it was business as usual. When the five days were over, both groups of kids took the emotional intelligence tests again, and the kids who’d been immersed in nature and away from screens showed more improvement in their scores than the control group.

The authors acknowledge that research has previously pointed to the general cognitive benefits we gain from spending time outdoors, so it’s possible that that explains the boost in emotional IQ here, at least in part. But the researchers also think that five days of face-to-face interaction uninterrupted by screen time could have done the trick. “The results of this study should introduce a much-needed societal conversation about the costs and benefits of the enormous amount of time children spend with screens, both inside and outside the classroom,” they write.

Whatever the case, I’d like to sign up for the grown-up version of this no-screens-allowed camp in the woods, please.