The race to the bottom

It’s June which means one thing from the retailers of Australia i.e. the discount assault is on!

I’m bombarded on my numerous screens and in retail environments by messages like, ‘Last chance for 80% off!’, “40% off everything now and next week we will take an extra 30% OFF!’

It’s quite overwhelming.

And, when a famous retailer states, “We’re giving away 100 Dollar bills for 50 bucks,” it’s fair to assume that no one really wants them and so we can conclude that heavily discounting retail in this way is ultimately a sinking ship.

Admittedly, it is June and the traditional ‘Sales’ time, but… WOW.

Walking through a mall with my teen sons recently made me realise how repelled the next consumer generation are to the school of discounting.  They happily walk through the retail paradise, not wanting anything on offer other than food, and I ask them as we stroll, “But what about all this clothing? Can I buy you a new sweater for the colder months? Isn’t this a brand you love?”

“No, Dad. This is all the stuff that no one wants… that’s why it’s on sale.”

So, it dawns on me, what counts for that generation is the merch from say, the latest You-Tuber they might follow or perhaps a product endorsed by a prolific Instagram influencer. They’ll patiently wait for the next production run in eight weeks, hoping their order will be processed and they don’t miss out. It reminded me of my student years, saving up for my first proper camera and how that 18-month process, the anticipation, emotionally almost beat the real thing.  I observe that all year crazy discounts breed only one type of customer, the one that accelerates the race to the bottom.

In today’s climate, any brand with a purpose must find that emotional connect. Because going to war on price alone guarantees only one thing – no one wins.

Bernd Winter

Bernd has worked on numerous retail clients from Louis Vuitton, to Georg Jensen, Oroton, Popo Ralph Lauren and Suzanne Grae.


Why does it take a leaving card to open us up?

Why does it take a leaving card for us to show our appreciation to our colleagues?

I was recently asked to act as a referee for one of the nicest and most talented copywriters in advertising. True to his job title, he came up with a really inventive way of making this happen.

“Record 30” of yourself talking about me on your iPhone,” was the brief.

Cue bad office lighting and a wonky phone balanced on a coffee table and you pretty much get the idea for the setting of my recording. However, shoddy filming technique aside, this ingenious process got me thinking. I said some really heartfelt, deeply flattering things about my “mate,” let’s just call him Stu for argument’s sake. And Stu was absolutely, 100% deserving of all of them, and then some.  It just took him asking me to film myself as his referee for me to say them.

This got me thinking. Why is it that, far too often the things we really should say, get left unsaid, unless you’re talking leaving cards?

I have had some remarkable leaving cards in my time. Thoughtful, witty and enormously kind cards prepared with care and craft by people who gave enough of a damn to stay late after finishing their day jobs to make something beautiful just for me. People have written the most extraordinary things in my leaving cards, people I didn’t even think knew the first thing about me have revealed insight and wisdom that has left me humbled.

Perhaps it’s because the finality of a leaving card removes the delicate balance of power and the inevitable vulnerability that goes with it. No hidden agendas, no undercurrent intended. Just truth, simplicity and well-wishes. Years ago, I started repaying the kindness by writing my very best words of love when my colleagues moved on.  Rainy day reading material to celebrate the individual, warts and all.

The little video I recorded a couple of days ago for Stu woke me up to something. It’s a simple thing really, but I’ll be applying it with gusto from now on. No more waiting for leaving cards. I’ll be telling my colleagues proudly each day how they blow me away. How they drive me nuts in a good way and how they make me laugh when I need it most.

As a striking contrast to some of the nasty, personal attacks we see all too often in the ‘Anonymous Comments’ sections of AdNews and Campaign Brief, I think it’s high time we embrace the power of flattery. Right now, it’s an appreciation society of one, but I hope it snowballs and changes the world…  

…Or, at the very least, the industry.


DDIdeas / Featured

Struck by the power of words

Last week DDI attended the Sydney Writer’s Festival, held at the Carriageworks which is the festival’s temporary home for the next 2 years whilst Walsh Bay is a buried in construction dust.

The festival’s theme ‘The Year of Power’ seemed on point, and yet I was surprised (and rather thrilled) to hear so many acclaimed writers take a left of field view on a seemingly obvious topic. Some proclaimed with the souls of true anarchists that ‘power’ can be unwieldy. “I’d like to hear a point of view on this from people who actually have power” said the delightful Tayari Jones, before encouraging the audience to “reclaim citizenship of yourselves”. She added: “Power is not always something overt, it can be much subtler than that. If your characters are true, then they will make their own statement. Write with truth and live with truth.” Touche.  Tayari also referred to the ‘unfair obligation’ she sometimes felt as an African American female writer. “I want black writers to have the freedom to write whatever they want – comedy, romance…not just political prose, else it’s not interesting.”

The festival’s opening address saw staff writer for the New Yorker Alexis Okeowo share her take on the state of journalism today describing it as “inherently flawed” given it hinges on explaining the ‘so-called others to the so-called us’. She described the uneasy framing in the power dynamic between journalist and subject, where subjects were often seen as passive, marginalised communities, people to whom things happen and journalists are often branded as immediate experts or in her words “…worse, saviours”.

Okeowa’s perspective is that journalists have an obligation not just to the story but to the people behind it. “It’s not just about the killer quote.”

This is just a small snippet of the delicious smorgasbord of words and wisdom that always stay with us after a trip to the Writer’s Festival.  What a privilege and an inspiration!

*Note to self, be less ‘judgey’ and write more often.

Global Sisters: The Game Changers

It’s not every day you get an invitation to spend an afternoon with twenty entrepreneurs from Global Sisters. It was an opportunity we couldn’t resist!

For those of you that aren’t familiar with Global Sisters, they enable women to be financially independent, to run the businesses they have always dreamed to run, to be proud and to always stand tall.

We took deep dive into what made these inspiring women who they are and they showcased that they were a force to reckoned with. They didn’t take “NO” for an answer,  they survived in the face of adversity and persevered to become mind-blowing entrepreneurs.

Many laughs were shared and the occasional tear when we heard of their unique stories that helped craft the businesses they ran today. From picking up gum nuts with their grandkids to cooking traditional Cambodian food to help feed children at an underprivileged school, there were some truly heart-wrenching moments.

We were incredibly humbled to help guide these sisters on their next business adventure. If we are honest, we learnt more from them than they learnt from us and we walked away with so much strength that we can now apply that to our everyday jobs by asking ourselves…  “What would our Sisters do?”

– Heather Jarvis

Patchewollock, Fintan Magee

ART-stralia Day

Being your average shut-in, it takes something special to get me off the couch for a long weekend. What better way to escape the mundanity of trawling Netflix and celebrate Australia Day by taking a roadtrip to the middle of this beautiful country of ours to see some amazing art.

So I headed to Victoria’s Wild West where artists have been utilising the decommissioned grain silos that are dotted across the plains of the Wimmera region. Beginning in the small town of Brim, the idea to paint massive murals on these remarkable structures was conceived by a group of its residents and brought to fruition by street (and silo) artist Guido van Helten.

Brim, Guido van Helten
Brim, Guido van Helten

With huge success in Brim the trail has expanded into what is now Australia’s largest outdoor gallery – stretching 200km with a total of 6 installations from street artists Fintan Magee, Rone, Adnate, Kaff-eine and Julia Volchkova.

Lascelles, Rone
Lascelles, Rone
Lascelles, Rone
Lascelles, Rone
Sheep Hills, Adnate
Sheep Hills, Adnate
Rosebery, Kaff-eine
Rosebery, Kaff-eine
Rupanyup, Julia Volchkova
Rupanyup, Julia Volchkova

Something even grander than these works is how they serve to revitalise the small towns they live in. Once slowly deteriorating towns are now seeing a relative beehive of activity and providing a new sense of hope for the people that live there. If there’s something to take away from this experience, it is that art does have the ability to change lives for the better in a meaningful way.