Is an Advertising Campaign the Answer to Australia’s Innovation Culture Shift?

January 12th, 2016

man-879092_960_720The government’s $1.1 billion innovation agenda – a trademark of the Turnbull regime – was unveiled in December under the catchphrase ‘the ideas boom’. Relative to this, the Turnbull government is to devote a further $28 million into its annual advertising budget to pitch its innovation agenda and trigger a culture shift in the country. Last year, Australia’s dwindling global innovation rankings spurred an interest in the need for a philosophy change related to risk-taking, new ideas and business failure.

Consequently, Mr Pyne has stated that Australia’s innovation culture needed to better replicate places like Berlin, Tel Aviv, the Silicon Valley, Singapore and South Korea. Specifically, he notes, “There is a common cultural trait in these countries, one where entrepreneurship is valued and taking calculated risks or ‘having a go’ at start-up a business is considered to be the norm.”

However, there is no hiding the fact that the new sales pitch pushes the total cost of four major advertising campaigns under the Abbott and Turnbull governments to at least $84.5 million. Highlighting the notion, is a mass advertising campaign the answer to changing culture?

Certainly, when pertained to a product or service, advertising can work advantageously. But is it the answer to changing the attitude of a country? Undeniably, the countries mentioned above do have an embedded culture of innovation. Since the middle ages, Germans have developed high standards of craftsmanship in many fields, a custom that endures today. In fact, the roots of innovation lie deep in the German culture; it encompasses the German lifestyle and career patterns. Japan, likewise, has roots deep in innovation and comes from a past that had no other way to excel but through innovation.

Somewhat comparatively, Australia is at an important turning point. With the downfall of the ‘mining boom’, Turnbull has communicated the idea that we must innovate to survive in an increasingly digital world.   Part of this does involve promotion and Governments do need to advertise.  Besides jobs and tenders which the public must know about, governments advertisement campaigns often quite legitimately seek to resolve an issue, for example domestic violence or drink driving.

Nonetheless, it would be wild to think that an advertising campaign will be the one cure-all to shift Australia’s culture. But if the innovation agenda is to be effective, a large part of that is that the public needs to know what the programs offer and under what conditions. However, how the advertising is spun will no doubt have a substantial effect on how the agenda is viewed by the public. For instance, the $18 million spent telling us about infrastructure spending looks like political advertising plain and simple. Often more than not, even when a hint of a pretext exists for a campaign, failure follows predictable paths.  Indeed, there is a stipulation hanging over all government campaigns: they work best when they are designed to enlighten, not persuade.

Aside from advertising campaigns, governments and businesses can improve innovation by investing in research and development (R&D), using more collaborative design processes, open-sourcing to find innovation and innovators, and restructuring to offer greater incentives.

In relation to this, a tax professional, such as Swanson Reed, with R&D tax expertise can assist businesses with qualifying for and claiming money back for their research and development activities.