5 minutes with... in association withAdobe Firefly

5 Minutes with… Paul Bradbury

Advertising Agency
Sydney, Australia
The president and regional CEO of TBWA Australia & New Zealand spoke to LBB’s Casey Martin about making meaningful work, and the necessity of innovation
Paul Bradbury is a legend amongst the industry, with decades of experience and a wealth of knowledge. 

He has spent almost two decades as TBWA Group Australia and New Zealand’s president and regional CEO. During his time, he has seen it all from triumphant moments at Cannes to launching Eleven PR and everything in between. 

Paul’s most recent achievement for TBWA\Australia was the successful launch of +61, an agency partnership between TBWA, creative independent Bear Meets Eagle on Fire and OMD. 

LBB’s Casey Martin sat down with Paul to pick his brains about the industry and everything it has to offer.

LBB> Let’s ease into this gently - define creativity and what it means to you?

Paul> Whether it’s art, music or advertising, creativity is about doing something first, or at least something fresh. 

I believe the very best creativity also has a human truth at its heart. 

I’ve always loved ‘Truth Well Told’ as a simple formula for powerfully effective advertising.

LBB> We’ll get to your career shortly, but firstly what inspired you towards advertising? Was there any one campaign or moment that sparked your imagination?

Paul> Growing up in Australia in the 1980’s, I loved the big anthem ads from Mo & Jo,  ‘C’mon Aussie, C’mon for World Series Cricket, ‘I Feel Like A Tooheys, ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ for Qantas…

I loved the idea of being involved in something the whole of Australia would want to talk about. I still do, actually.

LBB> Like many Antipodeans you made the move to London fairly early in your career. How do you find the approach there different to Australia and was there anything you particularly took away from the experience?

Paul> I landed at BBH London as a 25 year-old account manager fresh from McCann Sydney. 

My first boss was Cindy Gallop. Cindy (and many others) elegantly transformed a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ account manager from Sydney into a respectable, organised, creatively ambitious board account director over time but it took a fair bit of panel beating. 

My biggest takeaway from my time at BBH London was the value of strategic rigour to unlock extraordinary creativity. ‘Interrogate the product until it confesses’, as they used to say at BBH.

I loved every moment of my seven years at BBH London. It was an honour to work with some of the legends of our industry, Sir Nigel Bogle, Sir John Hegarty, Gwyn Jones, Cindy Gallop, Jim Carroll, Tony Davidson, Rosie Arnold, Ben Fennell and Jon Peppiatt to name but a few.

LBB> You have been with TBWA for nearly two decades, how would you describe your career trajectory in that time? What have been the highlights, and when did you encounter the biggest challenge?

Paul> I walked into TBWA Sydney in 2006, immediately after the big fall out between Scott Whybin and Neil Lawrence (R.I.P). I think it’s fair to say the agency was in a bit of a mess, it was losing money, losing clients and losing hope. 

I am very grateful to the legend that is Scott Whybin for giving me a shot to lead and transform Sydney and then later TBWA across both Australia and New Zealand. The network wanted to jet in an experienced CEO from the United States, but Scott backed and supported me the whole way. ‘Whybs’ also taught me the ropes in Cannes. I was lucky/unlucky enough to spend a number of Cannes Advertising Festivals staying on Scott’s family boat that was moored in Cannes Harbour with him for the week - great memories there for so many great advertising people.

There have been lots of fun highlights over the years.

We had a great run with Matty & Dave (Burton & Bowman) winning AWARD Agency of the Year, Effie Effectiveness Agency of the Year, and a number of Agency of the Year titles. 

Being in Cannes when Paul Reardon, Tara Ford and our Melbourne crew won the Cannes Outdoor Grand Prix for ANZ ‘GAYTMs’, and subsequent Gold Lions in the following years.

Launching Eleven PR from scratch 10 years ago to become arguably Australia’s most consistent and creatively awarded PR and Earned agency. There are now 15 Eleven agencies across the TBWA Global Network.

Winning some high profile new business pitches against more more fancied rivals including NRMA Insurance, David Jones, Tourism New Zealand (still a client 15 years later), Lion Nathan, ANZ bank (still our client in New Zealand), NAB (shortly after we lost ANZ in Australia) and of course winning the consolidated Telstra account in partnership with Bear Meets Eagle on Fire and OMD last year.

Reporting into Troy Ruhanen, our global president and CEO for the last ten years has also been a highlight. Troy is an inspirational leader and a true disruptor 

But most importantly, the strong, committed and caring culture we have built together over many years with so many great people like Kimberlee Wells, Catherine Harris, Matt Springate, Paul Reardon, Ricci Meldrum, Shane Bradnick, Roberto Pace, Russ Tucker, Nitsa Lotus, Emma Guthridge, Evan Roberts and of course Adrian Paul to name but a few.

I think our biggest challenge and opportunity is ahead of us, it's coming fast and it’s called artificial intelligence.

LBB> In some quarters networks have been painted as a little out of fashion, as indies take the spotlight. What are your thoughts on this debate?

Paul> Creative independents are definitely having their moment, not just in Australia and New Zealand but across the world. And it is also true that many of the multinational networks and holding companies that have failed to evolve and innovate over the last decade are now in big trouble.

That is certainly not the case for TBWA and Omnicom in Australia and NZ (or globally).

We have been evolving and innovating our connected end to end capabilities and innovation capability over the last five years. 

For progressive, ambitious clients we are operating consolidated agency models that fuse the best of creative + media + customer experience + technology. Think TBWA\Media Arts Lab for Apple, Nissan United for Nissan and +61 for Telstra.

For me it’s never been about who is cooler between Indie versus Network, it’s about which agency at what time has the best leadership team with the best chemistry, creating the best culture, producing the best work.

I do think that many of the creative independents who focus on ‘ads and pr stunts’ only, will find the next few years challenging.

LBB> +61 (The agency partnership between TBWA, creative indie Bear Meets Eagle on Fire and OMD) for the region’s biggest account Telstra, has been seen as revolutionary. How do you see the relationship working most effectively, and do you think there is enough mutual respect to learn from each other?

Paul> ‘The best of both’ as Brent Smart the CMO of Telstra calls it, ‘the creative firepower of an Indie (Bear Meets Eagle on Fire)’ combined with the integrated strategic and creative capabilities of a Network (TBWA).

Sure it’s unique and different, but like all powerful creativity it’s about two different, unrelated things coming together to take things to a different place, and that’s what's happening at +61 - I won’t say any more, and I will let the upcoming work tell that story.

What I can tell you is that there is genuine mutual respect between the three equal partners that make up +61, as there is with Brent and his team at Telstra.

LBB> As AI and technology seems to change faster than a teenager's TikTok feeds, how do you make sure to stay ahead and keep things fresh and relevant?

Paul> We are leveraging Gen AI to deliver efficiencies right across our business, from workflow to how we respond to RFPs.

We are also playing and experimenting with different AI platforms to explore new opportunities to push creativity and personalisation of creativity. 

We believe that through experimentation, and shared learnings through the TBWA global collective, we will be on the forefront of what's possible.

LBB> Finally, what’s next for TBWA and Paul?

Paul> We have a real focus on our creative product right now. We want to be respected as one of the very best creative companies in the region and on a world stage.

We would also like to create more bespoke agency models powered by TBWA for creatively ambitious clients.

Importantly I am having fun, and doing what I love with people I respect. What could be better?
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