CMO profile: Redhill reflects on 18-year career with Deloitte

David Redhill has called time on his marketing leadership role at Deloitte. Here, he reflects on 18-year career with the accounting and consulting firm and some of the highlights of the evolving chief marketing officer role

Creativity at the heart of strategy is the interesting place to be, says Deloitte Consulting global CMO, David Redhill. And having occupied such a position with the consulting giant for over 18 years, it’s one he’s confident he can find in his next professional role.  

Last week, Redhill officially called time on his 18-year career with Deloitte, a stint that’s seen him move from marketing and brand leader locally to global CMO responsibilities.

The former Australian chief marketing officer, who was promoted to global marketing chief of the consulting business in mid-2016 and has spent 16 years leading marketing at the group, is now looking to pursue fresh consulting opportunities around leadership, creative and brand strategy and editorial and communications.    

Redhill described his time as “a fulfilling and wonderfully kaleidoscopic 18 years” where no two days were ever the same. 

“I’m very proud of what the people of Deloitte have achieved in Australia and globally over the years, and to have been part of teams who continue to make a positive difference through their extraordinary skills, creativity, and passion,” Redhill said in an email announcing his decision. 

Redhill said he’ll now focus on consulting in the areas he’s most loved while working at Deloitte: Leadership coaching and organisational culture; creative and brand strategy; and narrative, editorial and communications.

“I have the appetite to keep going in marketing, brand building, narrative, editorial messaging – that still fires me up with enthusiasm. But it’s time for the next generation to go forward with the Deloitte brand,” he told CMO.   

Redhill joined Deloitte Australia as CMO in 2003, when the professional services firm was known as the ‘sick puppy’ of the big four on these shores, chalking up revenues of about $350 million. By the time he took on the global CMO position for consulting, the company had grown to a $1.5 billion market player and was in second position within Australia’s major consulting firms.

Over the last five years and through his global remit, the more recent emphasis has been building Deloitte’s global creative network. To do this, Redhill has been working across the entire organisation to stitch together its three levels of creative marketing agency, internal core services and market-facing agencies in the US, Australia, UK and Canada. It’s resulted in a full-service, multi-media design, video production and campaign strategy, development and execution creative network.

This is also being connected into the Deloitte Digital business, which includes professional services firms like ad agency, Heat, in California, Market Gravity in the UK and Swedish digital agency, Acne, plus engineering and design shops branded under the Deloitte Digital umbrella globally. To help, Redhill has facilitated introductions, fostered live events, encouraged people to share their work, articulated the vision to provide exemplars and also worked on key projects to bring this combination of creativity and left-brain thinking to life.

The work saw Deloitte win its first two Cannes Lions a couple of years ago. “This gave us legitimacy and a target to say see, when we stitch together great creativity and design thinking and apply them to the world’s most complex and intractable business problems, we can solve them with creative and design brought in upfront, rather than plonked in as an additive at the end,” Redhill told CMO.

“That is becoming a very convincing narrative for the whole business to start connecting Deloitte Digital as one creative network.”  

In Campaign Brief last week, Deloitte Digital Australia was rated the biggest creative agency in Australia, ahead of other external creative agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi and Ogilvy. It was also ranked the fourth most creative.

“Our best consultants, cyber security folks, analysts - they all understand the power of great marketing and great creativity. They know they need to engage audiences and to communicate with power, using data and technology to target audiences and develop messages that resonate,” Redhill said.  

“All the pieces are in place within an organisation like Deloitte. We have a track record of producing these solutions with creativity. We have the appetite to embrace new ways of working. All it needs is people who want to do that and who are prepared to put their time and energy into making that happen.”  

Balancing left-brain and right-brain thinking

Among Redhill’s proudest achievements are working with economists and partners on valuations of iconic Australian natural landscapes and structures including the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Opera House and Kakadu National Park, as well as on advertising’s contribution to the Australian economy.

“Looking at these iconic structures, environmental features and symbols of Australia, putting a value of brand on them, then presenting them in a way that’s really compelling, accessible and enjoyable to consume, has been fascinating,” Redhill commented.

The Great Barrier Reef evaluation work also resulted in two Cannes Lions for creative data presentation. “It was a good piece of work for a good purpose, beautifully executed,” Redhill continued.  

“That’s a good example of work in action. It’s also the first time Deloitte had been considered in a forum like that. To win two awards off the bat electrified our creative network and showed us it’s possible to do it. And we can potentially do it better as we build on the platform of increasingly complex consulting projects.

“We’re using creativity to not only galvanise audiences and inspire participation, but to get the work done. Such work is transformational.”

As to how far the CMO has evolved in his career to date, Redhill said it’s “helped to have a big toolkit” of skills. At an individual level, this includes Redhill’s background in journalism, photography, creative writing and music.

“It’s been a creative journey all the way along,” he said. At one extreme, Redhill highlighted being founding editor of the ‘Building the Lucky Country’ series of whitepapers, working closely with Deloitte Access Economics economist, Chris Richardson.

“These deep dives were into issues transcending economic cycles or political fluctuations and focusing on issues that shaped policy for Australia – the national skills shortage, digital disruption, or a growth strategy for the nation. That played to my research and journalistic instincts,” he said.  

At the other end, Redhill co-created the iconic Green Dot branding and as a final act, produced a video on the Green Dot in his last week at Deloitte as a kind of ‘love letter’ to the team.

“I’ve had emotion in the game – it was never just a job for me. It’s been about taking people with me to be part of a big adventure,” Redhill said. “It’s been about transforming and realising the full potential of professional services through the additives of creativity and humanity in the work.

“Whether it was storyboarding, scripting, musical composition, campaign design, leadership and mentoring, strategy, data and research – they’re all elements in the marketing toolkit, and all of them presenting opportunities to work with great people. Sometimes it was leading those teams, collaborating, or just lighting the fuse. I get great joy out of creating opportunities for people to do their best work and things they didn’t think were possible.

“It’s been about pushing, provoking, going into new spaces, using lateral insights, and putting disciplines together not usually considered complementary. It’s a cliché to say no two days have been the same, but it has been the case with me.”  

Redhill also attributes his success to digging deep to try and deliver his best work in every circumstance, and not to rest on his laurels or repeat, but to originate. “It’s what kept me hungry, agile and enabled me to stay relevant,” he said.  

While he might be stepping into the unknown, Redhill said he’s not daunted by the new and pointed out he had six careers before joining Deloitte. The focus now is on his three key skillsets and loves: Leadership and board coaching and organisational culture; creative and brand strategy; and narrative, editorial and communications.  

Redhill also sits on a couple of not-for-profit boards including Sydney-based Ocean Impact Organisation, a startup accelerator for technologies and innovations dedicated to keeping oceans clean as well as deriving sustainable energy sources from the ocean. In addition, he works with University of NSW Art and Design Faculty and on the board of its galleries advisory.

Redhill was listed among Australia's most innovative marketers in CMO's 2015 CMO50 list.  

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