AME Grand Jury POV: Graham Alvarez-Jarratt

2021 Grand Jury member Graham Alvarez-Jarratt is Head of Strategy for Leo Burnett Sydney and in his 15 year career he has picked up dozens of local and international effectiveness and creative awards.

New York , NY | January 13, 2021

AME’s award-winning Jury members have a world-wide reputation for innovation, creative excellence, strategic prowess, and the ability to deliver distinctive and effective results for global brands. AME's Grand Jury POV features:Graham Alvarez-Jarratt, Head of Strategy for Leo Burnett Sydney and is one of Australia’s most awarded strategists. In his time, Graham has led major pieces of business on across Australia and New Zealand.

Graham started his career at the “birthplace of planning” 15 years ago, JWT, which might explain his dedication (paranoia?) to furthering the craft of brand strategy. In this time, he has picked up dozens of local and international effectiveness and creative awards, including the Effies (Australia, NZ, and APAC), D&AD, Cannes, and WARC; the latter even including a feature in their “Smartest 100 Ideas in the World” list.

In the interview below Graham shares the three things he finds present in great work, how the brand's voice has changed during the pandemic, and why effectiveness competitions are important.

AME Awards: As a strategic creative, what stand-out attributes do you recognize in award-winning creative effective advertising?

Graham Alvarez-Jarratt: When I come across great work, 3 things seem to (more often than not) be present: A mix of ‘head’, ‘heart’, and ‘guts’.

‘Head’ speaking to the intelligence of the strategy and creative. Why was it smart strategy? Why was it novel? What was that fresh perspective, or remarkable insight, that makes you look at the same old thing in an entirely new light? Great work should naturally serve to inspire, but I also find that it tends to have a humbling effect – eliciting that that sort of ‘I wish I came up with it’ reaction.

‘Heart’ referring to the emotion of the idea. We’ve learned so much in the past decades about the importance of emotions in decision making and how advertising works, that to ignore people’s emotions is to leave money on the table.

And lastly, ‘guts’, which of course speaks to the bravery of the idea. The world is far too noisy, and people’s lives far too busy, for us to simply expect that our ideas will win their attention simply because we’ve spent months creating them. We’ve got to be bigger and more interesting than the rest of the content out there in order to stand a fighting chance of being effective, and part of this comes from the pure audacity of the client and the agency to put an idea out there that demands people’s attention.

AME Awards: Why are effectiveness competitions like the AME Awards important?

Graham Alvarez-Jarratt: If the old marketing adage is that ‘no one wants a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole’, then perhaps the proxy here is that clients don’t want ads, they want results.

Effectiveness competitions, then, are a naked commitment to the marketing world that results matter. It’s important that we not only create work but assess it, measure it, and learn from it, and shows like the AME's are a platform to do so.

Further, I love shows like this as they are a mechanism to pushing our industry forward. Each winner shows what is possible, and what we do for brands and businesses. Each winner makes the rest of us envious and spurs that competitive spirit. And each winner is proof that, at our best, creativity is a powerful business tool.

AME Awards: How has the brand’s voice changed since the pandemic confinement measures? Speak to the evolution of brand positioning, values, and tone of voice during COVID.

Graham Alvarez-Jarratt: To my mind, brands have had to discover their empathy. Before you scoff, let me explain.

At the centre of the pandemic has of course been the number of lives lost and families affected. But zoom out a little, and we see friends and communities separated by rolling lockdowns. Zoom out a little further still and we see jobs and livelihoods lost due to economic pressure.

And because the world doesn’t operate in vacuum, we have to also recognise that the pandemic spread against the backdrop of increasingly political polarisation, and growing racial and social inequality. I don’t think it’s overstating the point to suggest that 2020 was where we all, as individuals, craved empathy and compassion.

Brands, then, in order to have any semblance of relevance in this climate need to be radically empathetic. They need to understand that people have far more important things to worry about than our products or our ads. They need to understand how they may contribute to people, to families, and to communities. And, above all, they need to understand how, and when, they fit into people’s lives.