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5 Minutes with… Matt Robinson

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The founder and MD of AnalogFolk Australia tells Esther Faith Lew why he’s always been fascinated with advertising, marketing and technology

5 Minutes with… Matt Robinson


From a young age, Matt Robinson was “blown away by the power of what the internet could deliver and the ability to connect people worldwide”. “My dad was in Australia’s first wave of computer programmers, so we had modems and computers everywhere. I remember being amazed at bulletin boards and some of the first search engines…” says Matt. 

He was studying arts and computer science in his first year at the university when a career opportunity came knocking. Through his volunteer work experience which saw him designing and building a new customer database for the Sydney Swans, he secured a role as a media assistant at Mediacom. “Thankfully, they were looking for someone who could do some data analysis and was interested in the emerging world of internet marketing, so everything lined up. I took the job at age 19, quit University, and never looked back,” says Matt.

What keeps him in the industry is the sheer diversity of the job scope and the ability to apply creativity to many facets of business and their challenges. He shares, “I’m lucky enough to have worked in many types of businesses - client-side marketing, digital agencies, and creative agencies in my 25 years. I love thinking about how they all come together and that I still get to blend my passion for technology and marketing every day.

Matt considers himself lucky to have fantastic mentors and bosses over the years who had given him valuable advice. “Probably the standout is from our founder at AnalogFolk, Bill Brock. He said to me ‘skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been’. It speaks to the need for an optimistic outlook, an ability to anticipate change, and a reminder to keep an eye on the big picture and keep moving forward.

“I only learned recently that he’d stolen this line from the hockey great Wayne Gretsky, and so with that, here’s another significant bit of advice ‘talent borrows, genius steals’.

 

LBB> What are the highlights in your career that have been memorable and why?

 

Matt> Agency life is a team sport, so collective wins have been the most memorable achievements. 

Some highlights include:

  • Developing a social network for Coke Australia in 2006, that had some incredible parallels to the Web3 and Metaverse hype of today. We had more than 200,000 registered users, trading tokens (codes on bottle lids) for virtual digital goods and customisable 3D avatars wearing digital fashion. It was truly ahead of its time, and was a Webby nominee that year… sadly losing to a little thing called Nike+. 
  • Launching AnalogFolk in Australia and winning emerging agency of the year after nine months in business. 
  • We launched the world’s first crowd-brewed beer, with an augmented reality app and influencer campaign, back in 2012. 
  • Winning a GOLD Effie at the APAC awards last year, the first we have won as a network around the world… and very pleasing to land after nine finalists in the previous few years.  
  • An Effies finalist, and also Winning ‘Best ROI’ and at the inaugural Australian Influencer Marketing awards for a digital campaign for Rekorderlig, created entirely in lockdown.
  • And then, most recently, picking up agency of the year awards for social, digital and content agency in Australia & New Zealand. 

AnalogFolk's APAC Effie Gold-winning '4-Second Reviews' campaign for Hyundai


LBB> What is on your wish list of achievements – personally and professionally?

 

Matt> AnalogFolk has always had a guiding mission of using digital to make the analog world better. While we’ve been lucky enough to deliver some genuinely purposeful and impactful work over the years, I’m always looking for the next opportunity to create work that has a true societal impact. 

Beyond that, as my hair gets progressively greyer - I’d love to continue to find ways to use my experience in digital, brand building, and innovation to help as many businesses as possible. Whether that be via boards, helping non-profits, or continuing to act as a trusted advisor.  

 

LBB> In a world that places a lot of the spotlight on digital and new tech platforms, what kind of contrarian statement does AnalogFolks want to make?

 

Matt> For AnalogFolk, it’s always been human first. Our view is that technology isn’t good or bad.. It’s what we do with it that matters. So - we try to steer clients into thinking about what people need and want before discussing the technology. Too often, we’ve seen technology licenses sold for the cost of a small island, with no real thought about how the experience will drive value for the human at the other end of it. 

 

LBB> Define the culture of AnalogFolk and the kind of people and talents that you want to have on board.

 

Matt> Inclusive, Entrepreneurial & Playful

I believe we’ve been ahead of the industry regarding Inclusivity, not just in gender or cultural background but in all of its forms. So, for example, we have had flexible working for part-time parents for more than five years, and our leadership team is 60% female. 

We have invested in training and development in many areas of cultural capability, from LGBTQI+ to Anti-racism, and most recently, completing our first Reconciliation Action Plan.  

One of the benefits of being independent is our ability to be entrepreneurial. From JV software development with a prominent real estate agency to equity deals with Web3 business, we encourage our team to think about the business case and how they can make AF their own. 

Playfulness is something that we look for in how we work. From different ways of arriving at ideas, to mucking around with new tech or innovations, even to some of our office rituals – like our folks getting some ‘interesting’ portraits created and then hung at the entrance to our workspace


LBB> What are your thoughts on traditional legacy systems and what kind of system and protocols does AnalogFolk embrace?

 

Matt> Having worked in some of the big agency networks, more often than not, you need to find workarounds to systems that slow you down, not speed you up. 

We’re lucky that AnalogFolk has invested in systems and platforms (including those we’ve built ourselves) that change the paradigm. From global shared resourcing to digital production talent networks via Untold Fable, to our creative automation software, Otomo. It’s what creates a more entrepreneurial approach that I mentioned earlier. 

 

LBB> After a decade in operation, what’s the strategic direction for AnalogFolk’s continued growth and how will it navigate the new post-pandemic landscape?

 

Matt> As mentioned earlier, we are always skating to where the puck is going. And one exciting area there is AI and automation. 

For all of the fun and frivolous examples of AI art that have been all over LinkedIn, there is a genuine, accelerating adoption of these tools higher up the value chain - and it will 100% impact our industry much faster than we realise. 

We continue to focus on exceptional work at two ends of the spectrum. 

Our focus remains squarely on effectiveness for the ‘magic’ work, fuelled by creativity and innovation. 

We were delighted to be named the #2 independent creative agency in Australia this year in the Effies index - and for us, this is all about aligning with our client’s business goals. Not just vanity metrics but truly linking the value of our work to the value we create. This type of work won’t be automated any time soon, and we will continue to invest in the brilliant, creative, sometimes weird brains that can create it! 

On the ‘logic’ end, we are investing in finding ways to automate or reduce costs on services where that makes sense and where we can disrupt the industry, from content production to digital creative automation. Sometimes that means cutting our existing revenue streams, but we do that willingly if we believe we can generate more value for our clients elsewhere. 

 

LBB> What are the trends in demands and requirements you have noticed coming from client briefs? What are the challenges and opportunities presented?

 

Matt> I’m still gobsmacked when clients come to us, complaining that their (generally big, network) creative agency is still treating digital and social as an afterthought. More often than not, they tell us that the senior agency leadership try to push TVC budgets into every production, are inflexible, and don’t get the social space. 

This trend has been a massive win for AnalogFolk over the last year, with several new clients coming on board and enjoying our capabilities to flex production approaches up and down, deliver fit-for-channel work, and do it all with a focus on effectiveness and building brand.  

 

LBB> What are the industry bugbears that you hope to change or influence?

 

Matt> My biggest bugbear is clients asking agencies to deliver a full-scale, competitive, creative pitch for one-off projects. 

Often these requests come with a ludicrously small budget and a laundry list of agencies. We don’t do it, and I wish more of our industry would say no. We are at our best when we can build relationships and can discuss a long-term shared view of success. 

Sometimes that relationship can begin with an initial project, but our policy is that we won’t pitch competitively for them as a one-off.  

 

LBB> How can AnalogFolk provide clients with value and deepen their business partnership with them?

 

Matt> It’s the perfect question and one that we welcome. All clients have to do is ask :) 

But in all seriousness, clients should call us when they need a creative agency that can genuinely connect the dots across brand, digital, social and innovation - and they have an agenda for change. 


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AnalogFolk Sydney, Wed, 14 Dec 2022 06:11:47 GMT