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How Tag APAC and Little Rocket Produce Systemic Change Together

Creative Production Studio
Singapore, Singapore
Trent Agnew, Tag’s managing director of Tag’s ANZ office, and John Burgess, founder of First Nations-owned advertising agency Little Rocket, discuss their partnership and creating meaningful, structural change

In the context of Australia, recognising the need for reconciliation and social justice is a fundamental element of any business’s approach to measuring their social and environmental impact.  Together the two agencies are seeking to give back to the First Nations community and create pathways for Indigenous talent through a mutually beneficial partnership that advocates for, educates about, and amplifies action and conversation around social justice.

Achieve better campaign outcomes

True creativity comes from difference, from people with different viewpoints and experiences. “If I was a client paying for a service, that’s what I would demand, because that’s how we achieve better campaign outcomes,” says Trent Agnew, Tag’s managing director of Tag’s ANZ office. 

Who should be responsible for promoting diversity in a campaign – the client or the agency? John Burgess, founder of First Nations-owned advertising agency
Little Rocket, comments: “In a healthy and vibrant client relationship, I think it’s a mutual orientation that they arrive at together where each organisation seeks to be challenged and looks for ways to be brave and respectful with their brand or campaign. The activity, or lack thereof, that contributes to ignorance which often leads to people devaluing others is being challenged more than ever. More fact checking, accountability, visibility, and the ability for anyone to use digital and social tools to shine a light on the plight of others is creating a less sectarian world where generations are emerging without the intensity of prejudices from the past. This has changed the direction of large brands with their engagement.”                                                                                               

The conversation about diversity continues across the industry and in recent years the surface question of representation has taken on a different, deeper dimension. But what does diversity that produces short and long-term systemic change look like? 

In Tag APAC, Trent has been tackling this question head-on for many years now. Spurred on by an experience where a client was speaking to a room of white professionals about launching a product aimed at Indigenous people, Trent knew this was “absolutely unethical” and that he “didn’t know enough about the Indigenous creative community” to bring the right people onto the project. What followed was a decision to not only bring awareness to the issue, but to find and work with a partner who Tag could work with to create cultural change. 

Shared values 

That’s how Trent developed a relationship with John, a proud Gurindji man and founder of advertising and creative agency Little Rocket. Describing Little Rocket, John explains that “Little Rocket’s value is the people at its core and the power of diversity, the commitment to sustainability, the fight for equity and the appreciation of quality. This value set is based on an understanding of First Nations practices around honouring the country and community. In an industry full of superficial engagement, Little Rocket wants to deliver a more meaningful and long-term dialogue around positive change for our community, environment and country.” 

Elaborating further on the partnership, Trent explains: “Both our businesses had many synergies from a values perspective, and it was paramount we found a way of creating lasting value. We wanted to look inwards at our business and develop a collaborative programme in partnership with Little Rocket that’s aimed at nurturing and strengthening Indigenous creative talent. The Tag Aboriginal Pathway Program is a one-week immersive program that provides emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander talent the opportunity to work at Tag and get practical hands-on industry experience across different departments, functions and exposure to Tag’s global clients.” 

Speaking of the programme, John says that “It can often be difficult for organisations to get access to larger brands and clients that are activating inspiring and engaging campaigns. To be able to provide opportunities for First Nations talent to work with these brands on exciting pieces that speak to First Nations audiences is even more powerful. It’s about doing things as a business and as people that are authentic and meaningful. I want to help generate value for other people’s businesses and we want to take other people on this journey with us. We have a loud voice in the industry and are able to shout about our partnerships and continue to educate and advocate for social justice and change that creates more inclusive and equitable opportunities.” 

A brighter future 

How can the industry create better opportunities for the next generation of creative talent? John is passionate that business should “Embrace diversity, inclusion and new working arrangements that foster pathways orientated towards aspirations around team morale, out of work opportunities, experiences, and an equity in pay for all. If the pandemic has shown us anything about our working life, I believe it’s the value of balance, lifestyle, and connection. Employers should look at alternative ways in which to manage and engage. Leaders need to immerse themselves in experiences that will bring about positive change on a collective and personal level.”  

Part of Tag’s continued self-education has been the appointment of John in the newly created position of First Nations director for Tag. In his role John offers strategic insight and direction to projects and initiatives related to First Nations People. His role includes the continuous education about First Nations history and value for Tag and its clients, alongside helping Tag build its Reconciliation Action Plan. “I think the attitude and approach by Tag to undertake its own RAP journey and form a team from all parts of the business really exemplified to me what an organisation of this size can do and be,” enthused John. 

A partnership that matters now, and in the future

Looking to the future, Tag APAC and Little Rocket are excited about the objectives they’re yet to achieve. “Leadership and legacy for the most part and a greater learning and exchange within our two businesses. I hope we can create pathways for First Nations creatives and strategists that can bring a new perspective and cultural approach to traditional media. Australia has such an opportunity, and the advertising and creative industries even more so, to shape the conversation and influence outcomes we see in our daily lives. I feel Little Rocket and my role at Tag can be instrumental in driving this change and identifying opportunities in which to really bring change on a local community level which is where we need to see it,” concludes Trent.