New Yorker Down Under – Part 2

Erin gives us her perspective on the differences between the New York & Sydney digital media scene in her second post as part of the OMD International Exchange. You can read her first entry here.

Month 5 in Opposite Land has arrived! At this point I’m fully versed in Aussie lingo (sort of) and even caught myself saying “mate” when yelling at a cabby recently… I’m sure it will come as a shock to everyone to know that the reason I was yelling was that he, like most other cab drivers in Sydney, had no clue where he was going. In addition to finally grasping the common phrases in the land down under, such as learning to add ‘ie’ or ‘y’ to the end of random words and removing the ‘r’ from others (“cheers” and “Melbourne”), I’m pretty familiar with the media landscape and comfortable with the differences compared to the US.

With a whopping 22m residents, Australia is a much smaller market than the US. Now that I’ve stated the obvious … from a media perspective that means: smaller budgets, fewer publishers, less content, premium prices and ‘heaps’ of competition.

In the US, there are endless amounts of publishers… so many in fact that you wonder how most stay in business. I’ve had days where I get a few hundred emails from different publishers requesting meetings. That is one of the major differences compared to AU where “The Big 5” publishers control the majority of content. In the US, there are endless options which undoubtedly make the planning process more challenging. In Australia, the digital landscape is much easier to grasp.

I was definitely surprised by the differences in the planning process here. What I expected is to have to learn new tools and terminology, but I didn’t anticipate the actual process to vary. The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that there is much more of an emphasis on best practice and historical performance versus a dependence on planning tools. I’ve found that this is mostly due to the lack of research, or popular US resources are used here but are less reliable (e.g. ComScore).  This proved to be a challenge… especially in my first week when I was asked to develop a plan for a pitch but had no idea what sites to consider.  Good thing that Aussies are helpful because I definitely needed a hand on that one!

Something else that I’ve found interesting is how quick Aussies are to adapt to new technology. The digital market might be a bit behind the US in terms of targeting technology, measurement, etc., but smart phone and tablet penetration is increasing at a very fast rate. For instance, tablet penetration in AU is expected to reach 39% by the end of 2012, at the same time it’s expected to hit 17% in the US. Keep in mind that this is 8.6MM Aussies compared to 54MM Americans… but still interesting nonetheless.  I’m curious to see what opportunities this generates from a media perspective here within the next year or two.

There are many more differences that stand out, but my favourite is the office culture variances from NY to Sydney. I love the knowledge sharing and collaboration that occurs within these walls and it’s something I’ll definitely be taking back with me. From the open work environment, weekly Digital WIPs, as well as all-staff meetings drinking events known as OMD Live… it’s definitely something I’ll miss when it’s time to head back to the homeland.


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