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Earlier this year, Accenture Interactive agencies Karmarama and The Monkeys swapped a team of creatives in a modern-day exchange programme. The London shop’s Rhonwen Lally, Suzi Paddison and Joe Moloney tell us what they learned about the Australian industry from a month in Sydney.

With about 150 people in the building, everyone knows everyone at The Monkeys. It’s probably from when they all lived in London together (there is a high concentration of Brits).

Three times a week you can find agency staff being given a beasting by a personal trainer in their basement gym. The hard work is normally then undone by Fresh Bread Fridays: a chance to eat your body weight in carbs of the finest degree.

Weeks start and end together. Monday mornings play host to an all agency update, sharing the latest on projects in production and celebrating the work going out. Fridays are capped off in the traditional way at the local pub, where everyone has a few ‘schooners’ (that’s a small beer) and unwinds after a long week.

Karmarama The Monkeys
 
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The Monkeys’ founding purpose – ‘to make provocative ideas happen’ – runs through everything it does, from strategy to production. Briefs are centred around a ‘provocative thought’, putting the agency’s ambition at the heart right from the beginning. By starting here, The Monkeys creates work that pushes against stereotypes and gets talked about, shared and debated – in Australia and around the world.

The work itself is not too far off that which gets created in the UK. Although the brands are different the sectors all behave in a similar way: internet providers still talk about speed and service, yogurt brands are all still rich and creamy.

But there are some differences. Australian advertising, in general, is more rational than much of the British market. The Monkeys bring a healthy dose of emotional, funny brand work to the scene that stands out.

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With a little less cynicism over here, much of the brand work is sincerer, leaning into themes such as patriotism that the British might shy away from. And when it comes to humour, the cultural differences are clear, with Brits being far more self-deprecating and sarcastic than our Aussie counterparts.

Personally, we can’t imagine a world where sarcasm and self-deprecation doesn’t exist. That’s a big hole that all the TimTams in Australia couldn’t fill.

On the whole, the industry works to the same model. The client briefs the agency, the agency goes through rounds of development and then they make something. They face familiar challenges along the way, too – mainly trying to sort out a conference call.

Avenues into the industry come via the Awards School, the equivalent of the SCA and Watford. For grads looking to get a spot at The Monkeys, the shop runs a 10-week placement, Monkey.edu, aimed at students in the final year of their degree. Overall, The Monkeys seems to run in a very organised structure. There is a process for just about everything, except breakfast time which is a total free-for-all (Karmarama trained us well for this one).

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We picked up some pretty good Australian lingo while we there. For instance:

  • “Yeah, nah” – A paradoxical phrase whereby a positive statement is used to confirm your negative statement
  • “That’s fucked” – A remark made over just about anything that has gone wrong on any scale – burned toast, rain, tsunamis, politicians, someone stole your pen etc…
  • “Schooner” – A bit like a pint, but smaller. Makes you feel like you have massive hands
  • “Goon” – A traditional Australian morning beverage
  • “Arvo” – Afternoon, not to be confused with avo (avocado)

Other things we learned? We all got in the ocean being brave and strong and British, telling everyone we were used to the cold. It was genuinely freezing, and we had to suck it up to look cool. 

Bus drivers are incredibly angry folk.

Crab racing is a thing.

A man ‘exposed himself’ on day one of our stay, leading to a call to the local police. Just doing our bit to keep the streets of Sydney safe.

And we all had a go on Vegemite. It was a resounding no from us.

Find out how The Monkeys' team survived a month London tomorrow.