Should SBS relocate to Parramatta?

Should SBS relocate to Parramatta?

“SBS should move to Parramatta. That should be their head office. They could clearly differentiate the organisation and go to the – as we know – absolute centre of Sydney, which is the centre of all sorts of ethnic groups.”

With this statement, the chairman of FreeTV, Russel Howcroft, set the cat upon the pigeons. Howcroft, also GM of Network Ten and panellist on ABC’s ‘Gruen Transfer’, was defending SBS from a merger with the ABC.

SBS responded, telling advertising industry publisher Mumbrella: “With employees across different cities, SBS tells stories from around the nation. The location of our headquarters is of no consequence. We’re focused on investing our resources in great programs, not moving offices.”

As a Western Sydney resident and former SBS employee, I would love to see SBS jump at the chance to move to where its constituents live, to showcase the diverse voices in the West.

The argument against the move included the usual: Parramatta is too far to travel. Really? You’d queue 30 minutes for a Messina gelato in Surry Hills but a 23-minute express train from Redfern to Parramatta is too far?

…if you want a workforce that reflects Australia’s diversity, Western Sydney is a recruiter’s paradise.

And then there’s the argument that a Western Sydney location makes it’s harder to recruit good staff. Bearded inner-city staff sporting tattoos and ironic long tees with dreams of directing an indie movie or at least produce a ‘This American Life’-style podcast, maybe. But if you want a workforce that reflects Australia’s diversity, Western Sydney is a recruiter’s paradise.

SBS Migrant MapTop three birthplaces for immigrants in Sydney and SBS’s Atarmon location. Source: SBS.

Western Sydney is one of the most diverse areas of Australia, with 38 per cent of the population speaking a language other than English at home, and up to 90 per cent in some suburbs according to the Centre for Western Sydney’s profile of the Greater Western Sydney region.

According to the study, 87.7 per cent of the residents in Cabramatta speak a language other than English at home – the highest anywhere in Australia. Other Western Sydney suburbs Bankstown and Canley Vale (my home) are also over 80 per cent.

Diversity is more than reflecting it from the North Shore or inner city.

Brexit and the Trump election clearly demonstrate that much of the media is living in one huge echo chamber. Their values don’t necessarily reflect Australia’s views. People are rejecting the establishment and will vote for change that reflects them and their values.

Western Sydney is home to 44 per cent of Sydney’s population.

Diversity extends to understanding the day-to-day experience of Greater Western Sydney residents. People like me who get up at 6am to catch a packed train and don’t get home until dark, and who still aspire to a green lawn while greenies in the inner city think it’s a drain on the environment. Others who brave Parramatta Road, the Great Western Highway, the M5 or M7. People who eat at modest Ma and Pa restaurants who have never heard of heirloom tomatoes and don’t get excited about foraged food.

But arguments against moving away from the city are not new.

Earlier this year, Sydney’s elites came out against the NSW Government’s relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta. They claim the move would ‘destroy’ the Powerhouse.

That’s insulting.

Other supporters of the status quo banded together to form the Powerhouse Museum Alliance. Collectively, they workshopped 10 Reasons to Save the Powerhouse Museum (presumably from the clutches of Western Sydney).

None of these reasons address why cultural institutions such as the Powerhouse Museum shouldn’t relocate to the West and be accessible to families and school children of the West. Isn’t Parramatta the geographic centre of Sydney anyway?

Sugar-coat the defence of keeping services inside the echo chamber all you like. The glaring truth is the media and advertising industry live in an inner-city bubble. And they want to keep it that way.

Outdoor company Adshel commissioned a survey of advertising agency staff which found “only 24 per cent of people have been to Parramatta while 62 per cent have been to North Bondi Italian”.

According to the survey:

  • 41 per cent of Sydney agency folk live in the city or inner city, compared to just 4 per cent of the public.
  • Another 25 per cent of agency staffers are in the eastern suburbs, compared to just 5 per cent of the general population.
  • Agency people travel 6.8km to work on average while the general public commutes 21.7km.

A survey of the wider media industry would show similar results, I reckon.

In the end, opposition to relocating services comes down to self-interest. The argument is the same whether it’s in Melbourne, Adelaide or Brisbane.

Now is the perfect timing for SBS to go west. Next month, Multicultural NSW is relocating from the CBD to Parramatta to join many other NSW Government agencies including NSW Police and Fair Trading NSW.

Out here, in the West, the struggle is real. And location is everything.

Thang Ngo served as a local councillor in Fairfield for nine years (1999-2008). He is managing director of IDENTITY Communications, a multicultural marketing agency that is part of the global IPG Mediabrands network. He also publishes the noodlies food, travel and lifestyle blog.

Originally published by SBS.

Photo credit, Gabriele Charotte, SMH.

Multicultural Festivals – how to engage more effectively

Multicultural Festivals – how to engage more effectively

A bit of common sense and strategic thinking will go a long way…

Multicultural marketers will have been here before. Their agencies recommend activations at cultural festivals to engage with potential customers.

The most common cultural festivals recommended by multicultural agencies are Lunar New Year, also called Chinese New Year or Tet for Vietnamese migrants. Other festivals most commonly put forward include Moon Festival and Diwali.

These are colourful events. The larger ones attract over 100,000 attendees. The City of Sydney is said to be the biggest Lunar New Year celebration in the Southern Hemisphere.

The recommendations are usually based on reach – lots of attendees gives means you’ll drive awareness and sales for your product/service. Banks, telcos in particular are regular fixtures at these festivals, with special offers, brochures, lucky envelopes and staff engaging with the crowd.

How to make your brand stand out?

In the ultra-competitive banking segment, I’ve help St.George to boldly break away from the crowd and grab 100% share of voice. Instead of sponsoring, say the Willoughby Chinese New Year Festival and fighting it out with the other banks on the day, we created our own Lunar New Year event.

St.George Australia’s Longest Lunar New Year Table set a national record. 66 lucky members of the Sydney Chinese community were treated to a VIP experience, joining the Willoughby Mayor for a 10 course feast by world renowned Chinese restaurant, Din Tai Fung.



This activation delivered 100% share of voice and a unique experience which created buzz and excitement. It positioned the challenger brand as an innovative and clever bank that could successfully engage the community at a bigger scale and greater depth.

How do we know if a festival is right for my brand?

Bigger festivals aren’t necessarily better. There are a range of other cultural festivals in Australia that may be more appropriate for your brand, creating a deeper connection and greater cut-through.

Canterbury Bankstown Children's Festival 2016

Recently Transport for NSW engaged IDENTITY to help communicate the potentially life saving message of seatbelt use and the correct use of child restraints. Newer migrants come to Australia with different experiences and rules around the use of child restraints and seatbelts. Additionally, the right child restraint changes with age, so it was important to bring this message to the community.

Canterbury Bankstown Children's Festival 2016

Instead of a typical Lunar New Year festival, we recommended the Canterbury-Bankstown Children’s Festival. In its 18th year, this is Australia’s largest multicultural children’s festival with over 10,000 attendees. Children and their safety would be top of mind for many festival attendees, providing less wastage.

With a life-sized displayed unit, a knowledgeable Transport for NSW demonstrator and translators, we were able to explain the importance of the use of seatbelts and child restraints. We backed this up with in-language brochures.

Canterbury Bankstown Childrens Festival

While the parents were getting a demonstration, we entertained their kids with seatbelt colouring in activity.

It worked too. The client said this was the most engaged child restraint activation across mainstream or multicultural. But the best measure of success is the client’s confirmation that they want to be involved again next year.

So multicultural festivals don’t have to be the ‘biggest’ and most obvious ones. Marketers and their multicultural marketing agencies should consider other events that may be a better fit for your brand.

Thang Ngo is managing director of IDENTITY Communications, the intelligent multicultural marketing agency.