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PR, propaganda, persuasion
July 3, 2021 @ 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm
From Socrates to Adolf Hitler, humans have wielded words to delight, teach, seduce and manipulate their audience. Nelson Mandela’s “I am prepared to die” still moves us; The Gettysburg Address still rings true. But so does Orwell’s dictum that political speech is often simply a smokescreen to “justify the unjustifiable”. As for advertising, while previous generations had their fingers burnt by the Marlboro Man or were motivated to “Just Do It”, millennials have apparently become largely immune to the $774 billion spent on ads last year.
We look at the worlds of advertising-marketing, political speechwriting-spin doctoring, and advocacy. Are these three so different … or is it in the eye of the beholder? Is using words to influence others always suspect? At the heart of it, does successful persuasion show a deep understanding of human nature, a willingness to seduce, or both?
Our guests – Ben Welsh, Martin McKenzie Murray and Associate Professor Darryl O’Donnell – talk about their experiences inside the world of ads, AIDS and politics – what they love, what drives them to despair and where they see it all going.
Growing up in England, Ben had dreams of being a doctor, a philosopher and a marine biologist.
But he soon decided that a career in advertising could be more interesting. Fast forward a few years and Ben became Executive Creative Director at M&C Saatchi, Australia’s biggest advertising agency, and went on to head creative for the network across Asia. Today, Ben heads creative at DDB Australia, one of Australia’s leading advertising agencies. He has worked on just about every category you can imagine, including three of the major four Australian banks and he’s won most things worth winning.
His inspiration is the reader, the viewer, the listener and the clicker; “our raison d’etre, who for the most part, is bored, insulted and uninspired by what our industry produces. How come the IQ of our audience is assumed to drop as soon as it’s a commercial message within the medium?”
Darryl O’Donnell is the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations. AFAO leads Australia’s national effort to end HIV-AIDS, and works to strengthen community HIV responses in Asia and the Pacific.
Darryl was Executive Director of the NSW Mental Health Commission for several years and has over a decade’s experience in senior public health roles for the NSW Ministry of Health. In 2020, he was named one of Australia’s Outstanding 50 LGBTI+ Leaders by Deloitte and Google in recognition of his more than 25 years’ experience working in HIV community, research and public sector roles. Darryl is an Adjunct Professor at the University of NSW.
Martin McKenzie-MurrayMartin McKenzie-Murray was The Saturday Paper’s chief correspondent, becoming both a Walkley and Quills finalist for his work there. He cut his teeth as a speechwriter in Canberra during the first term of the Rudd Government and, prior to that, was an Age columnist and an advisor to the chief commissioner of Victoria Police. Martin’s writing has appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Monthly, Guardian Australia, Meanjin, and Best Australian Essays. His first book, A Murder Without Motive: the killing of Rebecca Ryle, was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Awards for crime writing. His latest book The Speechwriter is due to be released in March 2021.