RMIT advertising graduates lead the way in conscious advertising

From period advertising for transgender men, non-binary and a-gender people, to recognising the importance of connection to country for Indigenous mental health, these RMIT grads are leading the way for more conscious advertising.

After meeting in the second year of their Bachelor of Communications (Advertising), Riana McKenzie and Giordano Paoli partnered up to tackle first assignments and then real briefs, winning an internship at advertising agency Cummins & Partners.

Under the guidance of the agency’s creative director Sarah McGregor, they worked on a pitch for new client Libra, helping to win the business and inform the subsequent campaign.

McGregor then challenged the pair to develop a new direction for the brand, giving them free rein to identify a problem and present a creative solution.

The result, Libra for Every Body, is an inclusive campaign for transgender men, non-binary and a-gender people who experience periods but are entirely overlooked in advertising.

“We wanted to find a deep human truth and when we thought about that fact that not just women experience periods, it was obvious we’d found a problem that hadn’t been addressed,” Riana said.

“We decided to pitch a campaign for people of every body, every gender and every identity who experience periods.”

The pair reached out to the relevant community they were looking to engage in order to understand the barriers they faced and found the project morphing from assignment to passion project.

“It quickly grew beyond an assignment or even an industry project and started to feel like we were directly helping people and could make a real difference,” Giordy said.

Fiona Finn, a lecturer and industry fellow at RMIT, taught Riana and Giordy in the pilot research program on sexist advertising where they first met.

“They have incredible rigour when attacking a project, doing their own research and interviewing their audience to bring a real sense of genuine empathy to their work,” she said.

McGregor was equally impressed by their work at the agency. She gave the pair a new pitch, inviting them to participate in Snapchat’s Creative Council competition as a junior team represented by Cummins & Partners.

In Snap Back to Country they proposed a virtual time machine made using augmented reality portals to raise awareness of Indigenous land and culture.

Finding that Indigenous Australians are disproportionately represented among youth suicide rates, they set out to understand how looking back at history could facilitate cultural healing.

“Loss of land from colonisation has led to loss of culture and identity, and for Indigenous Australians mental health is deeply rooted to connection to country,” said Riana.

“The idea behind Snap Back to Country was that we need to look back in order to move forward.”

Reflecting on a whirlwind year that included a brief pre-lockdown stint in the office at Cummins & Partners before adapting to remote study, Giordy said the pair were excited for their next steps.

“We’ve grown so much this year and we’re so grateful for the generous guidance of mentors like Sarah and Fiona,” he said.

“As we graduate and look to enter the industry we plan to continue leading with empathy and social good and pave the way for more conscious advertising.”

“We’ve also become best friends and just feel so lucky to be able to do what we love together.”

Source: Media Release


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