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Hello, I'm Jane Hutcheon,
welcome to One Plus One, where my guest is advertising
executive Dee Madigan. It's all about the stick
and not about the carrot. Dee is a marketing guru
and social commentator, as well as being a panellist
on the ABC's Gruen series. I think Jesus
we're OK with nowadays. The creative director
of Campaign Edge, she's worked on some of the world's
best-known brands, before switching her focus
to social and political campaigns. This election I'm giving
my vote to that other mob.

Dee Madigan, it's great to see you. Thanks so much
for coming on One Plus One. Pleasure to be here. So, your dad Tom Madigan started
his career in Australia as a Catholic priest? He started in Ireland
as a Catholic priest, that's where he was ordained. And then he moved here? He was sent here to be the assistant
parish priest at Croydon, I believe, in Melbourne. And he didn't like his job much? I think he liked his job,
but I just suspect he liked one of his parishioners,
who was my mother, a little bit more. And her family, of course,
got wind of it. They'd also come over as Ten Pound
immigrants from Ireland and they sent her back to England
and he followed. In those days, all the cruise ships had to have Catholic priests
on them, so he would sort of book
passengers as a priest to basically follow my mother around and then, yeah, she ended up,
of course, pregnant with my sister. It was hard to get
a dispensation in those days, but I can tell you
once a baby appeared, the dispensation came really,
really quickly on the heels of it. So, was there a massive scandal
around him, you know, having a child with a parishioner? Well, of course
I wasn't alive at that time, I do know it was devastating for his
mother, because in those days, and I've got some of the letters
that he's written, you know, to her in those days, to have a child become a member
of the priesthood was a huge thing. He was the youngest of seven
and he was very much the golden boy and it was such a wonderful thing, and then for this sort of,
you know, woman to come along and take him
away from the church, it was a big thing. But it wasn't
until we were growing up... You kind of vaguely hear stories
when you're a child and we always had ex-Irish priests
staying with us, we were almost like a halfway
house for them. But it wasn't until I got my birth
certificate when I was about 12 and I kind of looked at the dates and my parents were both mass-going,
you know... I was like, "Mum, do you realise
you were married "a month after Fiona was born?" And she didn't bat an eyelid, she goes,
(IRISH ACCENT) "Oh, was I, dear?" And just kept going
and at that point we started to put things together. So, you never actually had a full
conversation with them about what happened? I've got all of dad's letters to mum and we paste it together sort of
from families and things like that, but it wasn't something... I think dad still had a lot of... I think he struggled with it his
whole life about whether it was
the right decision or not. 'Cause it wasn't
a particularly happy marriage, I think it was one of... I think he was in love
with the idea of being in love. And I think when you grow up
with a vocation and then you don't have the vocation
anymore, you kind of struggle to find a meaning, I suspect, and I think he would have been
good in politics or journalism or something,
but he didn't have that, so he just sort of
most Irishman do... ..found a whisky bottle instead and, you know, that was kind of
a waste of sort of a good mind, I think. So, do you recall him
being a heavy drinker? Oh, God, yeah, yeah. A bottle of Tullamore Dew
nearly every single night, you know. And the cigarettes and the whisky. Yeah, I think just quite... was a marriage
of two people who, even though they were both
Irish Catholics, they were completely different. Mum was from a very poor family
who'd really struggled, came to Australia,
she had no interest in Ireland or anything back there, she just
wanted a new life and whatever. Dad was highly educated,
his family were heavily involved in politics back in Ireland, which means we used to have
a lot of fundraising for the poor people of Ireland
and I'm not sure... Like Sinn Fein.
Very much like Sinn Fein and I suspect a little bit
further along than that even. And he was, you know,
highly intelligent, highly educated, it wasn't that Mum
wasn't intelligent, it was just that she didn't have
the education level and that they really sort
of struggled as a couple, I think. So, they then... Your dad went into antiques and your
mum was in that business as well? Yeah, they sort of... When he left the priesthood,
they had no money. Firstly, what they used to do was
go up to the Dandenongs in Melbourne and dig out ferns, highly illegal,
I'm sure, put them in pot plants and go door-to-door selling them. My dad had the gift of the gab. And then got enough money to rent
sort of a little shop, I think it was on Chapel Street
and they'd get second-hand furniture and then sort of gradually
moved up to desks or antiques, he had a real sort of eye for what
worked and didn't work. And he had The House Of Desks
and mum had The Hall Stand, so they sort of specialised. I read about The House Of Desks
in an article in The Age which said, "His shop has become the place
where top businessmen "and politicians seek out
desks of quality "to inspire confidence in clients
and awe in underlings." That's pretty good copywriting.
He probably wrote that himself. They used to... The Labor Party
used to use his desks in their ads and every time, you know,
it was the Bob Hawke days and my father
was a massive Hawke fan and then a huge Keating fan to the
point where he nearly stalked him. And every time the ad would come on,
instead of, you know, "This is the Labor Party,"
Dad would be like, (IRISH ACCENT) "Look, look,
there's me desk, there's my desk." Was it a happy childhood?
No. I think no-one who's got sort
of alcohol in that level has a happy childhood. It's uncertain the whole time,
you're kind of, you know, guessing things,
but we had a lot of freedom, because both parents always worked, so there's 13 months
between my older sister and I, we were always enormously close
and we'd just sort of head out on our bikes all day and turn up
at some point in the evening. So there was a lot of freedom
for us just to be ourselves, so in that sense it was, yeah, I wouldn't say it was happy,
but it was probably quite good, in its own way. And your parents at one stage
were highly successful, but then things went wrong?
We lost it all. Yeah, I think what happens is Irish
people with drinking problems shouldn't own theatre restaurants. I think that's a... And there was sort of affairs
that happened and all sorts of things in's probably the early '80s, so they'd sort of done really well
in antiques and then branched... They bought into a restaurant,
Bunratty Castle, and then a horse, a racehorse
and a hairdressing salon, all these things that Dad knew
nothing about and neither did mum and the money just sort of went. And then we ended up
having almost nothing and moved to the country,
bought a little country pub. I think Dad had visions of being in
a country pub and sort of, you know, talking literature,
you know, at the bar. But in a country pub, they want to
talk, you know, shearing. And so he ended up sort of leaving
very quickly and sort of leaving Mum to run it, having sort of forged his signature
on a second mortgage for it, so, you know, the money
was just gone by then. And when you were a kid, did you
imagine what you were going to do when you grew up? Yeah, all I ever, ever wanted
to do was write. That was kind of, yes,
I had a really strong sense of the power of words
from a young age. And, yeah, write, but I was never
prepared to starve for my art, so, I knew that as well. You actually lost both of your
parents while you were in your teens? Yeah, Mum died when I was 18
of lung cancer and Dad died about
nine months later. I hadn't really spoken to him, we had a very fractured relationship
and when Mum died, she made me executor
of her will and not my dad, which caused all sorts of dramas,
but her reasons were quite right, 'cause he was drinking
a lot by then. So, when their deaths came,
were they in any way expected? No, you never expect it. Mum's death was expected,
but Dad kept that from us, which I kind of resented at the
time, 'cause you really should know, but by the end, obviously
by the last couple of weeks, you're there in hospital
and you know that it's the end. His one was very unexpected,
because he was 53, but he was a chronic smoker and
drinker and also chronic asthma, so it was... It was an asthma
attack/emphysema and looking back, of course,
it was probably very expected, but, you know, it was still
a surprise at the time. How did you deal with it?
You don't have a choice. You know, you just don't
have a choice. And I think I was fairly resilient
from a pretty tough childhood, It does toughen you up. You know, you have sort of barriers
on barriers on barriers. I think it was probably much harder
for my little sister who ended up becoming, well, she
ended up developing schizophrenia, which they assure is probably
trauma-induced, because she'd always been
a little bit protected when she was at boarding school
and that and so she probably didn't have
the resilience that I had. Because you were already at the age
where you were about to go into... You could have gone into university
immediately, but you had two younger siblings,
didn't you? Yeah, they were at boarding school
and I never paid the fees on them. I banked on the fact
that a Catholic boarding school wouldn't kick out orphans
and it was sort of a calculated risk that paid off,
they never chased the fees. But was it up to you to provide
financially for the others, for your sisters? Once my parents had died, well, technically there was no
money in the estate, in fact, dad hadn't filed a tax return
in 10 years. So, there was nothing, but,
you know, we made do. I was on home or study
until Dad died. And then I went on the
orphan's allowance and we were all sort of, you know. The good thing is,
most of my friends at the time, even though they were from,
you know, we'd gone to a well-off school,
they weren't spoilt kids. Everyone was living
in share houses at uni. You don't kind of notice that you're
that poor compared to everyone else. It's actually later when everyone
else is getting help with their housing deposits and
things like that you think, "Shit!"

It's interesting 'cause
you talk to different people about their upbringings
and some people would say that those sorts of events - losing parents very young,
having a tough childhood, really defined them in some way. Would you say that? Yes, in good ways and bad ways. Because you have
so many barriers up, you don't tend to open up to people. So people always think
you're really friendly but you hold a lot of stuff back. Also for me it makes me
a complete hypochondriac. Every time I get a cold
I assume I'm dying. Kids these days maybe
wouldn't contemplate joining a political party but in your day that's exactly what
you did I think when you were 18. What was in it for you
to be a member of the Labor Party? I think growing up my parents had
always been, particularly my dad, very political, as I said. Not just in Ireland
but also in Australian politics and, as I said, I went to
a convent school in Toorak. In my HSC year there was 96 girls,
two of us voted Labor. But my father had always said, "Vote for who's best
for the country, "not who's best for yourself." So I guess that kind of, that sort of social justice message
came through very strongly. So, yeah, for me,
being sort of political was always part of who I was. And what did you think
you could achieve by being part of a political party? I didn't really think about it. A lot of people said, "Were you
involved in politics at uni?" And I try to explain that politics
is a bit of a luxury. You know, you can be involved
in politics at uni if you've got someone
paying your rent. Or if someone's helping you
put food on the table. But when you're doing
all those things yourself, you know, you actually don't have time
to get involved in politics at uni. And I wasn't then and that's
really good lessons for me now 'cause I know when we're sort of
trying to appeal to the western suburbs voters
and people think, "But they should care about
these things, "they're important to us." It's like, "Do you know what?
They're caring about other things "that are really important to them." And sometimes politics sits
right down at that sort of level for a really good reason, 'cause
they're trying to pay the mortgage and put food on the table
and that kind of thing. I loved the story about how you got
a job in a pub in Sydney and you got chatting
to some advertising executives. Was that the first time
you'd actually thought of a career in advertising?
Totally and I actually started doing a bachelor of business
in property and my whole aim was to make
$1 million, retire when I was 40 and write
the great Australian novel. One year of uni doing that,
I was like, "I literally can't do this." And I switched to teaching,
as people do, you know, English teaching 'cause I got
to read a lot of books. And I did my degree and taught
for a year at a really good selective school
in Sydney and realised, you know, I still wanted to be the kid
at the back of the class playing up, not the person at the front. So I was working in the pub
while I was at uni and then at the end of it
I taught for a year and still working at the pub
and the pub said to me, "Do you want to manage the pub?"
And I said, "Sure." And these advertising people
used to come in, 'cause they could score
the best drugs there, I suspect, and I used to call them
artistic prostitutes. But then after a while,
I sort of thought, "Oh, do you know what?
I could give that a shot," and I did and it was... What do you think it was
that drew you to study advertising? They seemed to have fun,
the people who did it. You know, there was lots of travel
and just sort of being able to write a quick, funny little headline. It was kind of a skill set
that I felt that I had anyway. It was sort of in me and it was... Advertising, when you're young,
is so much fun. You know, you get to travel
the world, it's business class flights,
it's five-star hotels, it's... You know, and as a creative
in an ad agency as well, you're pampered a little bit. There's always someone to make sure
you're where you need to be, you know,
to do all the grown-up stuff. So I think part of it was after
having to be grown-up my whole life, to not be grown-up was kind of,
you know... Refreshing.
It was, it was. For many years you kind of did
regular creative advertising and you became conscious that you
were essentially using your skills to manipulate people
into buying stuff they simply didn't need
and often couldn't afford. Yes, and making themselves feel
pretty bad about themselves to do so. A lot of women's products
in particular, you play on guilt. Well, let's unpack this a little
because when I was a teenager, I think I was around 16,
I worked in a shoe and clothing store and I remember this young school girl
walked in and she had really, really wide feet
and she was after these stilettos and I remember thinking, "They look
really bad on you, don't get them." But she wanted them and so I told
her that they looked great on her. Is that kind of the thing
that you did? Probably even worse than that. No!
You knew that she wanted them anyway so she was probably going
to get them anyway, so you might as well make her
feel good about her decision. But I lied to her.
Yeah, well... Look, it's tricky. I always say with advertising,
it should be the truth well told. But you do... Like... Things like, "This product will get rid
of 99% of germs in your house." Yeah, it will but 99% of them won't
actually do you any harm anyway. In fact, you know what, your kid's
less likely to get sick if it's got exposure to some of the germs
and things like that. I mean, women's beauty products,
the anti-ageing stuff, that's... Shampoo. You know,
it's detergent with perfume on it. Those three words sell twice as many
products - rinse and repeat. You don't need to. No, that's right.
That's about getting volume. You don't need to?!
You don't need to. Absolute marketing rubbish. You bastards! It's those kinds of things,
I don't know, I just started to feel, "Uh! Is this
the best use of what I do?" So what did you do about it? I started doing more
government advertising, bizarrely for the Howard government because the guy running the agency
was tight with Andrew Robb. So I actually did Tony Abbott's
Job Network campaign for him, even though I was fairly left wing
and work knew it. Now it's not something I would be
able to do but at the time I just kind of liked
social marketing, I guess, changing behaviours
was more interesting. And then because of Gruen, I started writing political
articles anyway 'cause it's always been something
that I'm passionate about. And then through that got
the opportunity to start doing, instead of just
government campaigns, I did a lot of NSW government
campaigns as well as federal was to do political election
campaigns, which are a lot more fun. Can advertising really change
behaviour? Yes. I think it can but it tends to... It works best when it harnesses something that's already out there
in society. If you had no mood for a behavioural
change and then an ad said you've got to change behaviour,
it's not going to do it. Say with seatbelts,
it wasn't the ads that did it but it was a combination
of carrot and stick. You're going to get a fine
if you don't do it and it's going to save your life
and here's some ads. So it's always a mix
of four or five things. Advertising on its own is only ever
one prong of a whole attack. You've worked on eight election
campaigns so far. You've also said that the right
campaign can get anyone elected. Do you truly believe that is true? Yeah, I do believe that is true but the right campaign
isn't just the ads. Again, it's the whole media cycle. You've got to have the right people saying the right things
at the right time, get the right coverage up and that. The one thing with brand advertising
that's different from political advertising is with brand
advertising, that's usually the only thing that's
happening with that product. So if people buy it or don't buy it,
it's because of the advertising. Whereas in election campaigns there's a whole lot of other things
that feed in. Having said that, there are
sometimes when the best election campaign in the whole world
won't get someone elected. If a mood for a change
in the electorate is so high, there is nothing you can do. And if people have made up
their mind completely by the time the election comes around,
there is nothing you can do. So the right campaign can get
someone elected but there has to be a certain amount of swinging voters
before that campaign starts. Are politicians equivalent to brands? Yes, they hate that. Some of them go, "No, no. That's just making it
seem we are saleable goods." But all a brand is, is it's the way
your audience feels about you, it's not what you're saying,
it's what they're hearing. So, in a sense, yeah, absolutely,
politicians are brands. And parties are brands as well.

Hey, Mr Prime Minister,
my name's Whingeing Wendy and I just happen to be
standing here chopping vegetables in my house, which is coincidentally representative of the house
of the swinging voter, when I felt like I had to share
some unscripted remarks with you. Last election, Mr Prime Minister, you promised me all the puppies
and kittens I could want and three years later...


(DOG WHINES) Dee, you've said that what you're
passionate about is that not everyone starts from the same starting point. Yes. In your own life, would you say
that you have kind of crossed over into the ranks of being privileged? I'm absolutely privileged, which is why I think I have
more of an obligation, in a sense, to push for equity. And I think where people
get it wrong is that they talk about equality and we should make sure
that everyone has got equality. It's not actually about equality,
it's about equity because equality assumes that
you give everyone the same amount, they'll get the same benefits. But that's assuming everyone's
starting from here. Whereas equity is taking
into account that some people are starting here and some people
are starting here. So it's giving some more
because that's how it should be. So when you look in
Australian society today, where is there the least equity? Indigenous. Like, every sort of marker says that
Indigenous people are not starting anywhere near, you know,
where everyone else is. Do enough people care?
No. Why not? Again, it's not that
they're bad people, I think it's 'cause there's
a million other things happening. I think also it's seen
as too hard, what do you do? "Oh, no, we gave them money
and they did this." I think people have tried
to solve it and not necessarily in the best way
so then it's almost like, "Well, we tried
and we sort of we gave up." So, could an advertising campaign
change what people think of inequity in the relations between Indigenous
and non-Indigenous Australians? I think perhaps an advertising
campaign that pushes towards early education
for Indigenous kids... Like, you can't just do a broad one
and expect any sort of change. You actually have to pick an issue
and start somewhere. And early education is one
of the things that we know that when kids get good
early education, that changes significantly
the outcome. So if I was doing an ad campaign
looking at equity in Indigenous communities,
I'd start with early childhood. You have said, in terms of your
advertising work, that we all want to be more than we're born to. Oh, yeah. I think that was in relation to
Facebook posts and things like that. We curate these kind of
perfect snippets of our lives. I see it with my friends and that. They talk about their children,
they're always delightful. But you know when you go over there, it's still Mum screaming at the kids
who are screaming back. There's nothing wrong with being
aspirational as well. I think one of the really
interesting things is this term working class seems
to have disappeared. I've been in focus groups
with advertising and these people are by every
single marker working class. And they'll sit there
and they'll go, "Middle-class people like me,"
and you! Because we've always looked down on people who've earnt
a certain amount of money. It's been this... I think it's left over
from the old English days of kind of hierarchy of classes and so we don't want to be the
people at the bottom, no-one does. That's interesting
given your political work because I suppose a lot of people would still identify
the Labor Party, for example with the union movement
and the working class. But if people don't see themselves
as working class anymore, what does that mean? It's probably exactly one of the
reasons the Labor party struggles in some of the areas that it
traditionally should do really well. 'Cause these people want to be
aspirational, see themselves as middle class
and therefore if you've got a party that says, "We look after the
middle class," they go there. People vote Conservative
when they've got something they think they want to conserve. And if they think they're
middle class and they want to conserve
being middle class, that's where they tend to head. I think the real problem with
the Labor Party where it struggles to connect is it used to be that the working class were
the most progressive elements of our society and that's now
changed completely. The working class are very
conservative often in their views and it's the middle class
that's progressive. So you've got a Labor Party trying
to talk to two quite disparate type of audiences which makes it
really, really tricky. I'm really interested in the notion
of a focus group which sort of tests what advertisers are trying to do. So how does that work and how do you
know that those groups of people are giving you an accurate
representation of the issue? People hate focus groups. "Parties are led by focus groups." And it's true, focus groups
shouldn't tell you your policies. I think it was Henry Ford may
or may not have said that, "If I ask the people
what they wanted, "they would've said faster horses." In an election campaign though
a focus group is great when you're testing
advertising material because you get a group of eight
people from swinging voters in the marginal suburbs
and you hold the material up. "Would this work for you or not?" You're actually hearing from the
people whose vote you need to sway. But with focus groups the trick is you never take individual
answers as gospel. You look for trends
across four or five groups. So you would never make decisions
based on one group. But in the middle
of an election campaign, it's a very good way
just to test things. If you didn't look at focus groups,
if you were making decisions in our own little inner west
or eastern suburbs enclaves, we'd probably wouldn't be making
very good decisions at all, I think. A few months ago we interviewed
the American essayist Roxane Gay and she loves looking
at the advertising of a nation and she thinks it says something
very specific. And she noticed how man-oriented
and sort of macho all the ads and the sort of overall message was. Why is that? In general advertising?
Hm. Because most of the
creative directors are male. Worldwide... 3% of creative
directors worldwide are female. Is it as straightforward as that? I can tell you it is, it is. In Australia... The amount of creative directors
in Australian advertising agencies who are female, it's not 3%
but it's not a whole lot higher. You've got young males and so
some of the humour is so puerile. Even though 80% of purchasing
decisions are made by women. And I think what happens
is that women, you leave advertising
to have children and nowadays with the internet
and that, you can actually make a living from home just doing
your own sort of thing. And you don't have to go back
and deal with the boys club so a lot of them... They choose to stay out
but they choose to stay out 'cause it's so bloody hard
in there as a woman. You stop going to the parties
and things like that in your 30s. It's like, "Oh, you're not part
of the team anymore." It's like, "Oh..." The kind of rubbish that goes on
in some of the agencies was fairly unbelievable. And does it not help having senior
women like you in the business? But one of the reasons
I run my own agency is so that I then can control it. Call the shots.
It is. I'm probably seen as a complainer
when I see a picture of creative directors at some
Sydney function and there's not a woman in there. I'll be the first one on there like, "Oh, it should be done on merit,
Dee. Are you saying..." Whoa! You're telling me
that 100% of the men are more likely to be meritorious
than women? 'Cause that doesn't stack up. The strongest brands in the world,
I think this was you who said this, have come about not by giving
people what they think they want but by giving them something that
takes hold of their imagination that creates a want that
they didn't even know they had. Without naming too many specific
names, what is a perfect brand? I would have to name.
OK. I'd say Apple for so many reasons. Only because if you think about it,
functionally it's probably worse than a PC in terms
of what it offers for the price. Its ease of use is good. But what they did was they really
went for the influences. The Apple market at the beginning
was ad agencies, it was designers, it was the cool people. And if you can get cool people
to have your product, that's the way to do it. They also designed it.
All the designs are very feminine. If you think about the curves
and the colours and that, it was a very feminine design
but they marketed to men because what we know is that women
will buy products marketed to men and men won't buy products
marketed to women, which is just god-awful
but that's how it is. So that I think is a brand
that's taken over. I think I'd say some of the shoe
brands are very good because instead of focusing on the functional, they
have really gone into the emotional. 'Cause what we know is people
don't make purchasing decisions for rational reasons. You know, facts are terrible
at persuading people anything. The fact that we're having
a climate change debate is absolute proof of that. So the ones who manage
to harness emotion were the brands that sort of soared. So with someone like George Clooney
advertising a certain coffee machine, are people wanting to be
George Clooney? Yeah. Look, it's brand association. His personal brand attributes, they're trying to sort of
bring over to the coffee thing. The danger with a celebrity like
that is sometimes their brand is so much bigger than the other
brand that it can vamp it. I think that particular brand
has actually done it quite well. I think everyone
would actually pick it, whereas often you'll sort of say
with a sportsperson, "What brand are they advertising?"
They'll struggle. They'll remember the ad, they'll remember the sportsperson
but not necessarily the product. You've been writing
recently about change. I wonder, when you look at the arc
of your own life, which had a difficult beginning -
as we've already discussed - what do you think is going to be
the biggest difference between you and your kids' generation? Obviously,
online has changed everything. There's no doubt it's completely
changed the way we do business, the way we talk to each other. In advertising, I get a little bit
cross when people, particularly older people seem to
be like, "Oh, it's a new world." It's newish. It's sort of different channels
for still the same human emotions and communications and marketing
are still kind of... The same principles apply.
Engage people, persuade them. It seems like we're much more
self-aware now about the damage that kids can suffer
and things like that. I think we're better people. It feels like we might be more
self-aware as a society about the impact we have
on our environment and on the people around us. It might be just 'cause
I'm a total lefty when it comes to those things
but I think we're doing better.

I think. (CHUCKLES) It's been a great pleasure
speaking with you. Thanks so much for coming onto
One Plus One. My pleasure. One Plus One is available on iview. You can browse the archive
or contact us through the website, stay in touch and leave comments via Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter. I look forward to your company next time. From me, goodbye.

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