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Are Australian marketers missing the multicultural opportunity?

How can marketing and advertising be more responsive to the diversity in society? Aren’t marketers missing an opportunity by not engaging with the different cultures and groups in modern Australia?

Speakers at a breakfast meeting organised by the International Advertising Association on 31 July in Sydney shared their thoughts and experiences on this matter with an audience of industry professionals and others interested individuals.

Maryanne Tsiatsias, Director of Consumer & Small Business Marketing at Telstra, spoke about her efforts to take Telstra to new and wider audiences, and the difficulties involved in the process. Tsiatsias acknowledged the tremendous diversity within diversity that made the job of marketers hard. Yet, according to Tsiatsias, the complexity that diversity presented was no excuse for cultural inertia in the industry. However, according to Tsiatsias, expecting marketing or advertising to lead change and reflect the diversity in society would be unrealistic as the problems of an unrepresentative media or culture of advertising were related to social problems far more deeply rooted and complex.

Sujay Wasan, P&G Marketing Director Australia and New Zealand, spoke about global brands connecting with local audiences and the factors that make this a working proposition. Both Tsiatsias and Wasan emphasised the need to have diversity in organisational staffing. They claimed that organisations that actively promote diversity were the only ones that were capable of reaping the potential rewards of a multicultural audience. Wasan argued that unless there were professionals in the industry who were committed to reaching out and connecting with the different groups and cultures in society change was not going to happen. According to him, personal vision and a commitment to diversify the content and messages of advertising were key to opening the door to new possibilities. This means, according to Wasan, that there has to be fresh talent in the industry, and this talent has to be recruited from all the different groups in society so new ideas can emerge and take hold.

Helen Kellie, Director of Marketing, SBS, spoke of the need for stories and themes that resonated with the real lives of people. Kellie spoke of the history, achievements and ongoing challenges of the SBS in a multicultural Australia.

Sheba Nandkeolyar, CEO, MultiConnexions elaborated on some of these points and said the diversity within diversity was so much a part of multiculturalism in Australia that one couldn’t step into the same river even once—that’s how rapidly the demographic characteristics of Australia’s migrant communities change. Nandkeolyar said that even as recently as a few years ago it took new migrants around six months to buy a car, but these days many new migrants were buying their first car in a matter of weeks. What this meant, said Nandkeolyar, was that there was a constant and growing need for current research and hard data to help marketers understand their target audiences. Nandkeolyar said that much of the soul searching would be futile if Australia’s organisational culture and personnel did not change.

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