Mumbrella360 Video: Aussie ad legend Ted Horton on awards as ‘the new FIFA’, political ads and why power is now with the client

In the first in a series to run over the next few months, we present highlights from this year’s Mumbrella360 conference in Sydney.

In a keynote session on day one of Mumbrella360, Mumbrella’s content director Tim Burrowes sat down with Australian advertising legend Ted Horton, founder of independent agency Big Red.

They discussed his career, what’s changing in Australian advertising, how awards are corrupting the industry, the split in media and creative and decades of highly successful campaigns.

Horton’s take on awards, which he said were “totally out of control” and comparable to embattled football governing body FIFA, features 34 minutes and 37 seconds into the video.


  • 2:03: You don’t usually do this kind of thing, why now?
  • 3:11: You started your career in advertising relatively late. Did having experience outside of the advertising world make you a better advertising person?
  • 3:55: (Horton) “You just observe, or if you start to observe..I just think it helps.”
  • 4:29: (Horton) “There were actually very few people who had actually gone to university and then straight to advertising, and practically everyone does now, and I think that’s a problem.”
  • 4:39: In your bio you list Lynton Crosby as one of your greatest influences, and he just helped the conservatives win majority in the UK, and used a very similar ad to yours, what do you think about that?
  • 5:10: (Horton) “Being new and fresh is dangerous, and the industry tends to celebrate it.”
  • 6:05: (Horton) “When you work on election campaigns, you learn a lot-its very finite. You either win or you lose. There is no second place.”
  • 7:54: When working on political campaigns, does it help to believe in the cause?
  • 9:32: Tell me about some of your other influences?
  • 13:45: What about local influences?
  • 16:30: Which agency is setting a standard at the moment?
  • 16:50: (Horton) “Im confused as to who stands for what. Agencies are chasing a common creative goal.”
  • 19:41: (Horton) “You just assert what it is you want to say…and it’s the removal of all the puffy stuff around it that really creates the integrity of that message.”
  • 23:20: Your ‘Follow the Money’ talk, afterwards, people thought you were somewhat of a mercenary. What was the story you were trying to tell?
  • 24:00: (Horton) “As media changes, advertising people need to look outside of advertising to see where the options lie in the new mediums.”
  • 25:13: A myth to debunk, it said that you stole the Coles campaign from DDB after they had asked for your help on it. Is that a fair description of what happened?
  • 26:39: If we look to the next federal election, or the after, at what point are we going to see a big shift into where the messages are going to be pushed?
  • 28:26: (Horton) “There is less reliance on television but it will always have a role to play.”
  • 29:51: What are your thoughts on bringing media planning back in house and the role of research?
  • 31:46: (Horton) “Media going out of the advertising agency is one of the biggest tragedies to the industry.”
  • 33:10: (Horton) “A multitude of very senior talent within the agency was being funded by the media planning.”
  • 34:09: Cannes Lions, have you entered any work?
  • 34:37: (Horton) “Awards are totally out of control… Its the new FIFA, its just corrupted what we are really here for.”
  • 36:44: How have clients changed and how can we make money from them?
  • 36:46: (Horton) “It’s simple, the power is with the client now.”
  • 38:57: You have a 15 year old daughter, would you want her to work in this industry?
  • 39:10: “This industry doesn’t see a future where we recognize that we need to focus on the cake and not the icing and cherry on top.”

Video edited by 90 Seconds cloud video production.


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