Kate Dezarnaulds | TEDxSydney
Kate Dezarnaulds talks all things cultural branding and co-creation.
We were thrilled to partner with REMIX to co-present the Cultural Branding and Co-Creation panel as part of this year’s summit in Sydney.
We asked our panel moderator, Kate Dezarnaulds, Head of Partnerships at TEDxSydney, to revel in the co-creation space a little longer and answer some of our pressing questions.
As moderator of the co-creation session you mentioned ‘corporate philanthropy’ and the leapfrogging of traditional structures that is happening in sponsorship land around the world. Do we have some catching up to do here in Australia?
I don’t think that Australia is particularly behind global trends in this space, more that we are operating in a two-speed creative economy. There are some fabulous examples of creative commissioning, co-creating, social impact projects etc. that are happening in Australia. By all measures other than budget, they would rival plenty of the leading international examples. There is also a rusted on, but declining, world built on the old units of exchange of money-can’t-buy experiences (that money can buy!) and logo placements. If our cultural heroes don’t adapt it is easy to see brands dealing direct with commercially minded artists and our institutions missing out on this growing trend.
Can you give us two examples of partnerships here in Australia that are working really well?
To give two unintentionally Sydney centric examples – I think that the AUDI ART bar at the MCA has been a sensational example of how to partner with a brand to deliver audience development objectives for the museum, a self-renewing experience for attendees and balance brand needs with genuine artistic credentials. Adobe’s work with our other panellist Matt Jackson and the Affectors is another great case study.
I am also very proud of the work that we have been doing at TEDxSydney to engage with the attendees, on a brand driven platform, to cooperatively tackle some of the big issues of the day with TEDxSydney’s speakers. This model of brand activation as design thinking experiment was pioneered last year with Woolworths where we developed a framework for supporting Australian innovation and was extended this year with TFE Hotels where we co-created a ‘future of travel’. They are all engaging experiences, with meaningful research based outcomes. It is a big shift from the old days where the ‘dinner and a show’ model dominated.
Tell us a little more about the democratising and industrialising of creativity that we’re seeing more and more. If brands are working at the cutting edge and going directly to artists to create experiences for consumers, what impact will this have on traditional arts organisations?
As an arts lover, a passionate fan of our institutions and someone who used to be very comfortable advocating to brands the value of the high arts – I think we are in the middle of giant cultural shift that will make it hard for our institutions to remain broadly competitive in the partnership landscape. Jayant Murty from Intel, who was on the panel, really challenged my thinking here – he thinks that the fundamental problem for institutions is breaking down their structural ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ position. Brands want to speak to the masses, not just the elite. That’s going to make it tough for institutions looking to partner outside of the traditional high-net-worth markets.
In a nutshell the big three trends seem to me to be:
- The maker culture, where everyone has a creative outlet of their own through taking and sharing of digital media. For many, many people, this is enough to satisfy their creative urges. How do we convince people that high art is better art?
- The chase for alignment, embedding of brand messaging, co-creating, native content etc. poses a significant challenge to editorial and artistic independence. Brands want to be let in. The arts want to keep them at a healthy distance. Make that distance too great and they will bypass the institutions and go direct to commercially minded artists.
- The rise of the creative industries and the slippage that now exists between amateur, professional, commercial and artistic is blurring the lines for audiences. It’s hard for critical acclaim, authenticity, expertise and quality to trump popularity. I don’t think people care as much any more about those distinctions.
Tell us about the role of the audience in all this. If they’re more savvy and less passive than ever before, how do artists maintain their trust and ensure the integrity of their work?
I think that on one hand, the ‘high art’ distinction doesn’t seem to matter to audiences as much. So as long as you are being transparent and clear with your audiences as to what (and who) is driving the idea then I think there are great opportunities for people to use this new (actually very ancient!) co-creation/commissioning model to fund things without sacrificing the trust of their audiences. Transparency is key.
But on the other hand you can see with Generation Z that they are basically living in a post-ad world with their social platforms and clever use of blocking technology. They are going to be very savvy to brand efforts to infiltrate creativity and very cynical of clumsy efforts. The collaborations are going to have to all be of the quality of the Google, Red Bull, Adobe and Intel’s of this world. Or perhaps this is where the assured authenticity of the cultural experience within institutions comes back into its own… I hope so!
Matt Jackson spoke of sponsorship as a creative relationship rather than a transaction. If brands are increasingly taking on the role of co-creator rather than commissioner, how does this affect editorial independence?
Commissioning artists to create work to a brief that incorporates branded elements. Inserting branded elements into independently conceived works. Co-creating work matching the creative input of artists with the technical or structural assets of a brand… There are many shades of grey in all of these models that have the potential to impact on editorial independence. The walls are coming down, and now it’s everyone’s job to protect the fragile magic at the centre. It’s very easy to see a scenario where we collectively kill the golden goose. We will only know when audiences switch off.
Given we’re increasingly seeing a more direct line between brand and artist, what can artists do to initiate such relationships? What are three things artists need to consider before committing?
The answer always is networking, PR and developing a reputation for producing great work and being professional to deal with. It’s interesting to see new collectives springing up to be able to offer organisations a range of creative skills under one roof. Presumably the models that work in other parts of the creative industries like film and talent of agencies/agents will expand or specialise to include artists of other types on their rosters.
In terms of three things to ensure you get locked in before starting:
- right of approval for format and usage of anything you make,
- terms of payment, and
- a very clear budget.
What were your top three moments at Remix this year?
- Lisa Havilah on the Experience Economy panel. She is such a clear thinker and has so much conviction. Very inspiring, always.
- Tom Uglow whose passion for the real experience in a sea of tech is provocative, always.
- Jess Scully, Kim McKay, Katrina Sedgwick. What a trio of power-women in the arts.
Was there a session you saw or a speaker you met that changed your mind about something, or gave you a new perspective?
Jayant Murty! His global perspective – he’s very interesting and he has a highly moral position on reaching the broad community, plus the trend he highlighted of brands bypassing institutions to commission artists direct. All very exciting and challenging.
Kate Dezarnaulds is Head of Partnerships at TEDxSydney. TEDxSydney is an annual ideas festival. Check out their website at tedxsydney.com