CMO50 2016: #21: Lisa Ronson

  • Name Lisa Ronson
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company Tourism Australia
  • Commenced role February 2015
  • Reporting Line Managing director
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 40 staff, 5 direct reports
  • Twitter @lisaronson
  • Industry Sector Tourism and hospitality
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    A key metric Lisa Ronson uses to demonstrate the effectiveness of marketing with her c-suite peers at Tourism Australia is “living up to our vision to be the most desirable and memorable destination on Earth”.

    “Obviously a lot of metrics roll up to this, but put simply, that’s it,” she tells CMO.

    Ronson has orchestrated a host of changes during her first 18 months as the marketing lead for Australia’s premiere tourism body that illustrate this ambition.

    One strategic exercise, linked with other foundation pieces of work such as vision, values and brand architecture, was around the need to review the target market logic, definition and application to boost productivity in strategic planning.

    Based on a robust data set gathered over four years in key markets, a behavioural and attitudinal target audience definition was established and tested against previous demographic approaches, she says. The new definition is based on propensity to travel out of region, along with experience alignment and high-yield spend.

    Insights gained about this target group are significantly more sophisticated than what can be derived from looking at age and gender, Ronson says.

    “The new global target customer work was validated during the recent media services tender and facilitates a much more targeted approach, reaching the right customer at the right time, with the right message,” he says.

    From the CMO50 submission

    Innovative marketing

    Australia offers a wealth of aquatic and coastal experiences, making it an incredibly alluring destination to overseas travellers. Research shows these types of experiences hold significant appeal, and are a driver for destination choice for about 70 per cent of visits to Australia. However, upon analysis of a number of data sources from across 11 international markets, Tourism Australia realised Australia’s story was getting lost in a competitive market.

    To combat this, Ronson led the development of the new aquatic and coastal campaign, based on the insight, ‘Australia is a place you immerse yourself in’. This insight was carried through every aspect of the campaign, which has since become the most innovative and comprehensive Tourism Australia has launched to date.

    Immersive assets developed included 18 virtual reality films of 1-2 minute duration shot in some of the country’s most captivating locations. A Samsung VR app with simple UX was built to showcase the assets. As well as a Google cardboard app, 360-degree footage featuring the same scenes and experiences as VR was replicated across Web, tablet and mobile. Both the VR and 360 assets developed are industry leading and a first for Tourism Australia.

    To provide additional cut through and amplification, the team enlisted Australian actor, Chris Hemsworth, as the voice and ambassador for the campaign. The campaign was launched on Australia Day in the New York winter. Industry and consumers were encouraged, and got behind the activities by sharing their own images and video. These were pulled through onto and using technology from Livefyre, another first for Tourism Australia.

    Ronson says the results have been outstanding and are some of the best achieved by the promotional body. These include record engagement on in January and February (up 64 per cent), more than 10 million views of TV and 360-degree footage on Facebook and YouTube, an average time onsite of 8 minutes, 30 seconds, and a 102 per cent increase in leads to the industry.

    “From a team perspective, it really demonstrated the new culture of innovation that as a leadership team we have been embedding across the organisation,” Ronson says.

    Empowered business thinking

    Ronson has also been instrumental in developing and articulating a vision for the whole organisation, supported by new organisational values and brand architecture.

    “I had a very forward-looking approach across the organisation but know that the foundation piece for innovation and evolution is the culture of the business to embrace change,” she says.

    The new vision for Tourism Australia is “to make Australia the most desirable and memorable destination on Earth”.

    This vision has galvanised the TA Team and has been very positively received by the industry and the board. It was the first step in the cultural evolution of the group, and led Ronson to subsequently champion the revision of Tourism Australia’s corporate values to United, Commercial, Innovative, Positive and Genuine.

    Having clear vision and values for TA has resulted in increased staff engagement, and a greater association with TA and innovation, she says.

    Data- and technology-driven approach

    Another facet to Ronson’s role is to lead the digital transformation program for Tourism Australia. To do this, she’s working very closely with the CIO.

    The objective is to make Tourism Australia’s digital channels the best in the world for user experience. This program of work includes a detailed audit and recommendation for user experience enhancements on and, the first CRM strategy and implementation plans, identification of the right audience using data and segment management, and data sharing with key partners.

    It’s also about deeper content, including user-generated content, and has seen marketing set up a bespoke trading desk to enable audience-based media buying and efficiencies.

    “The linkage between this work and the recent media services tender has set the foundations for Tourism Australia keep pace with, and to take full advantage of rapid changes in consumer behaviour,” Ronson says. “I led the recent media services tender and used this as an opportunity to not only test the market but push the boundaries on what can be achieved using data to target the right customer with the right message at the right time.”

    Consumers have dramatically changed since the last tender was undertaken, so the brief was heavily weighted a demonstration of using data to ensure more sophisticated targeting, dynamic creative and brand safety measures to facilitate a more effective and efficient use of marketing dollars, she explains.

    At time of print, Tourism Australia had commenced implementation of the program of work and entered into data sharing arrangements with several key partners including Virgin Australia.

    Fostering team capabilities

    Collaboration and increasing capability are critical in the marketing function, particularly in an environment where consumer behaviour is changing so rapidly. In the past 12 months, Ronson has instituted a number of initiatives to foster both.

    One example is a full-day, quarterly meeting offsite for the whole marketing team that features team building activities and guest speakers and experts from the travel industry and across the marketing discipline.

    Tourism Australia’s new media agency, UM, has also taken the whole marketing team, plus members of other divisions within Tourism Australia, through a series of intensive immersion sessions to learn about changing media consumption habits, trends in digital and social, programmatic buying and the use of data and insights to target the high-value traveller.

    More broadly, as the executive leadership team ‘champion’ innovation, Ronson has brought external speakers in to speak to the whole organisation about innovation in and out of the travel category.

    Agility is another component to how teams must operate. A recent program of work as part of the overall digital transformation program involved launching 26 websites for the ‘Aussie Specialist’ program, a training program for travel agents offshore to better equip them to sell Australia. This project employed a fully agile way of working between marketing, distribution and IT, Ronson says, and agile working was subsequently applied to the recent relaunch of led by marketing.

    “I have always ascribed to Gail Kelly’ s [former Westpac CEO] belief that you ‘can’t design work practices for the 2 per cent of people you don’t trust’,” Ronson comments. “I have found at Tourism Australia and across all of the teams I have led that this fosters a much better culture of loyalty and high performance.”


    Without creativity, innovation simply isn’t possible, Ronson says. Diversity of opinion and background is central in fostering creativity and these are things she’s trying to bring to all of marketing’s programs and efforts.

    For example, in developing the response to the Aquatic and Coastal brief, Tourism Australia’s agency immersed itself in aquatic and coastal experiences and had team members from the China agency co-create with the Sydney team and in collaboration with client-side staff.

    Creativity isn’t restricted to the development of campaigns, however; its central to digital strategy and enhancements on the site. Ronson says the team is focusing more on the creativity of the industry international and domestic consumers who contribute outstanding user-generated content that can be pulled through all digital channels.

    “Creativity ultimately allows us to connect with consumers on a deeper and more emotional level and this is central to changing behaviours or encouraging them to get Australia off a bucket list and come now,” Ronson concludes.

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