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5 Minutes with… Luke Martin



The 72andSunny executive creative director speaks with LBB’s Delmar Terblanche about optimism, futurism, and good old fashioned kindness

5 Minutes with… Luke Martin

Luke Martin returned to Sydney three years ago after spending seven overseas. In that time, he worked on the forefront of technology and culture in America, spending time at brands including Apple, Facebook, and Oculus.

Luke’s time in Sydney has been a case of synthesising the best of all worlds, taking his home-grown familiarity with the Australian market and combining it with what he learnt abroad.

The chief lesson? To be sure, there many, but one that stands out to Luke is optimism.

“Sure you can argue that some may be ‘naive optimists',” he says, “but from the innovation that is born out of California you can’t argue that this optimistic mindset is some kind of superpower.”

It’s significant, then, that he’s found himself in the Australian corner of 72andSunny; an agency known for its daring international reputation. Despite initial nerves, he soon found himself right at home.

LBB> You joined 72andSunny Sydney during a time of expansion. They’d just signed a host of new clients and appointed new hires, so there was a sense of momentum. What was it like to begin working in that environment?

I was apprehensive, put a lot of pressure on myself, the agency was on a roll and in my mind it was my responsibility to keep building the momentum and magic that was already here, and honestly that was scary AF. 

Although anxiety levels were high, I felt fortunate to be part of the team, a team that was on fire. It wasn’t only the momentum they had here in Australia that brought me anxiety, it was my preconceived perception of 72andSunny, which added to the pressure. From my time living in California, 72 had a reputation of being one of the most creative agencies in the country, if not the world (still true today, no bias here). 72 was considered on par with the likes of Wieden+Kennedy, Anomaly, and Droga5, so to be trusted as ECD of the ANZ office was extremely exciting and scary.

I quickly discovered, the anxieties and fears were my own demons. Everyone on the leadership team, from John Boiler and Glenn Cole co-founders based in LA, through to Chris Kay and Ross Berthinussen here in Sydney at the time, only supported and trusted me from day one.

It has been almost three years now, I would like to think we have been able to continue this sense of momentum, with the quality of the work the team is putting out in the world, like the Mumbrella Ad Campaign of the Year Award for Google: Helping you help them, and the many new business wins over the years, most recently 4 Pines and Fitbit.

This is a testament to the company's values and mindset, 72 was designed for modern clients. Modernity is our north star, from how we work, to the work we make, we approach everything with an optimistic lens, and we build with our clients, together employing open system thinking. I’m confident that we are only just getting started, which is rad. 

LBB> You’ve spoken about your belief in creative solutions un-tethered to a specific format. How’ve you been able to practice that at 72andSunny?

Yes, we continue to practice this, but today it is table stakes. The projects and problems we work on with our clients could not possibly be solved with creative solutions that are designed and tethered to a single format. Today we work with our clients to create brand platforms and build design systems, creative solutions that span across many formats and remain consistent whether it’s across advertising platforms or broader marketing touchpoints. I feel it is table stakes across the industry. 

Currently what’s on my mind is, how we help brands resonate with a modern, always evolving audience. The landscape has drastically changed over the past few years, consumers expect companies and brands to behavior differently and meet them where they are:  

  • Good for the world: Consumers want companies to be community and environmentally responsible, by contributing to make change for good through cultural issues like diversity, inequality and the environment. Through advertising brands must stand for something, they can impact conversations in culture, helping leave the world better than then they found it. Modern consumers demand this, and it’s becoming more important than the product itself.
  • Enjoyment and innovation: On a daily basis modern consumers are inundated with brands fighting for their attention, of which most are uninteresting. Modern brands are always finding new and better ways to reach their customers, by first entertaining and/or surprising them, before trying to sell anything. At 72 we are always thinking about how to cut-through the clutter, our belief is aligned to modern brand thinking - if the consumers aren't enjoying or surprised by the content, they’ll move on to the next. 
  • Emotion is powerful: Lead with the heart over the head. By nature, human beings are first and foremost emotional creatures. We are motivated and activated by emotions, so why is rational advertising still the majority of advertising across Australia? We want consumers to remember our client’s brand, or product offering. Therefore, we need to create advertising that leaves an impression.

LBB> What impact did your time working as a creative director at Meta (then Facebook) have on your creative process?

My time at Facebook was profound, it impacted my creative process, leadership style, and mindset. During the years I worked for the company, I was fortunately surrounded by world-class creative talent, marketers and business leaders, all whom I learnt a lot from. A few key themes I apply in my role today are: 

  • Be kind: Facebook was a high pressure, high stakes environment. The business was growing, team scaling, new products shipped constantly, budgets were healthy, and the public was watching every move. It could have been a place that allowed egos to rule. Type A’s to dictate and the rest, to fall into the shadows, but that was not the case. A value that was always present was to Be Kind to one another, the company had a team mentality, across all departments and disciplines. I witnessed the power of always lifting others up, supporting one another, making those around you better, no matter their level, your level, kindness to all was a focus. If the team was thriving, we were all thriving. 
  • Software company mindset: Facebook is a software company, and the process to build software products is one that was applied across the entire business, including marketing. This model is what I believe ​​modern creative companies should employ, and it's the model we use at 72. We have found that it strengthens our clients' working relationship and makes for a better product. The key themes in open system thinking are: 
    • Iterative process: Build together, test, learn, and adapt throughout the process.
    • Collaboration: Rather than specialists focused on their craft, one team focused on the problem.
    • Fluid process: An openness to evolve and pivot the work at anypoint.
    • Move at speed: A sprint mentality, move fast, unpolished, if it's wrong that's okay.  
    • Systems thinking: Systems thinking ensures that every component has a clearly defined function.
    • In-market optimisation: Continually optimise our work, live in-market.     
    • An open culture: An openness to new ways of working, to different viewpoints. A culture where teams, of clients and agencies together, feel shared ownership of the idea. 
  • Senior team model: During my last year at Facebook, I joined the Oculus team, part of the Facebook Reality Labs org. We employed a Senior Team model, this allowed us to launch new products and programmes such as Oculus Quest, Rift 2, Horizon, VR for Good, and Oculus Connect 5 at speed, with a lean team. 

To be able to deliver against the requirements we needed a team that could execute at a world-class level, at speed with autonomy, the team needed to be efficient. Having seniors across all disciplines allowed us to do so. Today at 72andSunny we utilise a similar model, our team is made up of Senior Strategists, Creatives, and Producers, allowing us to deliver world-class products at speed. 

LBB> What’s your process like when it comes to developing a campaign from a client brief?

We have productised our process, the structure have been designed around four phases;

  • Discover: Insights to unlock the opportunity.
  • Define: Optimal strategic platform
  • Design: Exploration of relevant, creative solutions.
  • Delivery: Deliver creative solutions across relevant touchpoints.

Although we have a defined structure, we personalise the process and experience within the structure for each project, to meet the needs of our clients and employees. Experience is a focus of ours, the customer and employee experience, we believe that if the experience throughout the process is enjoyable for all, the better the output.

As mentioned, we use open system thinking, the process is collaborative, Iterative and fluid.  

Client process and experience: We treat our clients like they are part of our team or we part of theirs. I have been client side, and understand that advertising is only one portion of the job, therefore we aim to reduce as much stress as possible throughout a project. We work closely, we meet often, and we share fast, that way we are always headed in the same direction. We cherish the time we spend together, building together is way more fun. If the experience isn’t enjoyable, why do it?  

Employee process and experience: There are two stakeholders critical to our business and the process, our clients and our employees. At 72andSunny we try our best to empower all our employees, to be the best version of themselves, to make the best work of their lives and enjoy life while doing it. We have a work from anywhere policy (I’m working in Bali right now), our culture is to make all feel valued, so we work as a collective, everyone has a voice, and can have an opinion on anything at any time - employees enjoying the process is the goal.  

LBB> Have you noticed any particular trends in client briefs or expectations, especially over the past two years?

Not new, but more common. Clients have a ‘lean in’ mentality. The trend is, clients are expecting to work in a more flexible and impactful format, closer to the process, and see work faster. We are seeing more clients have internal creatives that we need to plug-in with. I think this trend is rad, I have been on both sides, and I know the closer we work together, lean into each other's strengths, the better.   

For the agency, this trend allows us to gain more information, which helps inform and shape the work. Modern clients have a deeper knowledge and understanding of their brands than ever before. Due to technology and data, they are all experts on their brand, audiences, and competitors, and their data scientists can provide insight that has never been available before. 

This progressive way of working is not completely new. We were extremely fortunate to have Google as our foundational client and Google has always been progressive and forward thinking in their approach to building together, we have been lucky to be able to practice and refine this expectation over many projects with a client that is all about ‘leaning in’. 

LBB> After spending several years overseas, what was it like to come back to advertising in an Australian context?

Cultural shock in my home country wasn’t what I expected. When I first moved back I found myself feeling like a fish out of water, which often left me questioning my leadership and creative judgment. 

Maybe it was because I lived in California, worked in Silicon Valley, the epicenter of optimists. Where any and all ideas are deemed possible, where all problems have a solution. It's a place where being told it can’t be done, just means it can’t be done that way

Creative thinkers with this optimistic mindset were thriving, whether it was in marketing, engineering, hardware, etc. You see the same type of approach everywhere, those who believed, succeeded. 

When I returned home I was struck by the lack of optimism across the industry; seen in the industry press, towards clients, peers, ideas, different processes and even in the output itself. Australia, the laid-back carefree country, seemed to have a slightly pessimistic mindset.

This contrast between the Californian and the Sydney mindset was drastic and something I wasn’t prepared for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Silicon Valley is perfect, it is far from that, but if there was one learning that I took from the valley that I would love to see more of in our industry here in Australia, is this optimistic attitude. 

The optimistic mindset doesn’t just translate to innovating new products or starting a start-up, it is the way you approach everything, the way you look at life and the job. If the client has feedback that changes the idea, an optimist would understand that there is another better solution waiting to be discovered, when other agencies brands ship work, an optimist would celebrate it, if someone tells you a radical idea, that you would never had thought of because it's so crazy, you look at from their perspective, see what they see and back them. 

72andSunny is a statement of optimism, with our HQ in LA and optimism being central to how we work and who works with us - I found the culture I was missing, right here at home. 

LBB> What is the most significant campaign for you and why?

The most significant campaigns for me are the ones that have brought awareness to important conversations. 

Google - Helping you help them: Google products and the global platform, sits above culture or location. The brand truth is ‘Helpful’, the tools help humans across the globe, everyday. Our job here is to connect emotionally with Australians. To tell stories about everyday Australians, and demonstrate the power of Google’s products and how they fit seamlessly into their lives. 

The Google and 72andSunny teams believe in bringing awareness to cultural conversations that need to be had. Together we have been able to tell stories about: 

  • An immigrant family accumulating into the community.
  • A family living with Alzheimer's and how challenging it can be. 
  • A mentor (Baker Boy) helping another rise. A musical talent Mikayla Mununggurr seizes her moment, and overcomes shame job. 

Little Creatures. All Creatures Welcome: A brand platform that reminds Australians that life gets tastier when we come together, for a beer brand to celebrate everyone, no matter who you are, was a powerful message - A beer brand standing for something good. 

Ilume. Stay. Give your dog longer: For decades, Australian have been feeding their dogs the wrong food in the wrong amounts, because of this, nearly 50% of all Australian dogs are overweight or obese and millions of them die way before their time. To develop a simple, emotional and well crafted campaign that brings awareness to devosating issues. As a dog lover, helping extend dogs lives means this one will go down a career highlight. 

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72andSunny Sydney, Wed, 09 Nov 2022 06:14:53 GMT