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Kiely: rural living


Kiely: rural living


Rural living does a lot for your blood pressure and your serenity, but not much for your image. I remember having this rammed home to me while a young freelancer at a ‘never-heard-of-them’ bottom-feeding DM agency. One of the principals had retreated into the sticks and came to town for ‘meetings’. He was a pitiable sight. His suit was four seasons too old – the lapels too wide, the check too loud. He needed a haircut. The others treated him with bemused disregard. Because he wasn’t a contender. He had faded into irrelevance. (That he was the smartest of all of them made him even more dismissible.)

I tell you this not to seek justice for those of us who have escaped Metropolis and become serenely unfashionable. It is just that people have attitudes and they take these to work with them. And these become company policy. So city-bound marketers imagine (they have to imagine it because they rarely go and see it) that regional markets are dull, unrewarding and dying a death as the farm sector shrivels in drought.

But forget the farmers. (The Federal Government has.) Everybody else out here is rolling in it. There’s a bloody mining boom on. Where do the bloody miners live? Within cooee of the mines. And where are the mines? (Not anywhere near your office.) No, they’re out here. The only people getting richer from the mining boom than regional consumers are the investors in mining companies.

But do you think the media buyers or marketing managers know this, or care? The money never follows the line of best ROI. It follows sentiment. Imagine the desperation of the media executive who lands the plum job of selling regional media. They experience something akin to racial prejudice. The advertising media is structured like the Hindu religion and regional media are the Untouchables.

Nothing they can say will change sentiment. Yet the foot soldiers of regional media soldier on: “Thirty-six percent of the total national population (around 7.9 million people) live in… blah blah blah… population skews to high-spending demographics such as… blah blah blah… average discretionary income is now on par with the metro average… blah…”

It’s not just me saying that there’s gold in these here hills. Charlie Nelson, director of Foreseechange says, “The improvement in regional Australians’ financial well-being has been a significant trend since 2003 and in contrast there has been no net improvement of capital city Australians since that time.”
My friend Juliet Duffy runs her business from Dubbo. You know. The place Virgin Blue lampooned in an ad… You remember: “Theres no points expiry if you earn or redeem points within any three-year period – so you wont have to take a holiday in Dubbo if you really wanted to fly to Vanuatu.”

Nationals’ New South Wales upper house MP Duncan Gay immediately responded: “They sit around in their black skivvies, drinking imported beer with their ponytails dangling, and dont think about the harm theyre causing the community. Its an embarrassment in the Dubbo community and its caused anger in the community. They dont need smart arses making these sorts of statements.” Oh Duncan. Shut up.

Dubbo is where we go to buy books and have a half decent meal out here. Juliet publishes Regional Business Magazine and she recently discovered that people out here are greener than average. “Regional consumers have a high level of environmental awareness and will support proven green companies and brands,” she says. She has conducted the research and found that half of the survey respondents sought investments based on environmental considerations, while three-quarters of the survey respondents had boycotted a company due to poor environmental performance. Now that’s serious stuff.

But curiously, when asked to identify green businesses, they mentioned local and regional businesses more often than larger organisations, which means that “green messages from large corporations delivered via traditional marketing media are not getting through,” says Juliet.

“Survey respondents indicated that third party endorsement is important in establishing green credentials. Communication material issued by environmental groups, independent research and rating agencies, and even referrals from friends and colleagues, hold much more weight than material issued from other sources,” she says. “They also identified the internet, radio and magazines as more trustworthy media.”

Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she? Juliet publishes a magazine. But she runs a great operation and she’s as sharp as anyone I worked with in the big smoke. And if you can stay in business in regional media, you’ve got guts and grit beyond the average. Degree of difficulty: 10. (Selling metro TV, degree of difficulty: 2.)


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