Brisbane markets to the world as Griffith prepares for G20

The Australian newspaper’s gloss magazine, The Deal, published a compelling article by journalist Phil Hawkes on September 20 looking forward a year to the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane. Griffith University’s Professor Andrew O’Neil spoke with Phil and explained the partnerships the University is developing across the globe in the lead up to the big event. Read the original article here :

By Phil Hawkes, The Deal, The Australian.

GRAHAM Quirk has one message for foreigners thinking of investing in Australia: Choose Brisbane.

The city’s low-key Lord Mayor is yet to have the national profile of his outspoken precedessor, now state Premier Campbell Newman. But Quirk, who took over from Newman in April 2011, has been quietly working to promote the international image of Brisbane as “Australia’s new world city”.

It’s a message being delivered everywhere from upmarket international publications such as theFinancial Times‘ glossyHow to Spend It, and Tyler Brule’s fatMonoclemagazine, 1500 outdoor advertising sites in Britain, France and Spain and more than 1000 bus shelters in Hong Kong. Brisbane Marketing, the marketing arm of the Brisbane City Council, is spending about $1 million on international advertising this year alone to promote the city ahead of the G20 meeting in November next year.

The event will bring world leaders such as US President Barack Obama, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel to the Queensland capital in what will be the largest international event in Australia since the APEC meeting in Sydney in 2007 and the largest in Queensland since the Expo of 1988.

“Our aim is to position Brisbane as the ideal choice for business investment, meetings and conventions, research and development, export industries, a tourism gateway and top location for international students,” says Quirk.

“The G20 is an ideal opportunity for us to capitalise on worldwide media exposure, both before and after the meeting itself.”

More about the Brisbane G20 Summit

Quirk says the campaign to leverage the G20 meetings is “one component of a bigger plan we embarked upon several years ago to brand Brisbane as Australia’s new world city and emphasise our strong connections to Asia via the Asia-Pacific Cities Summit, a forum we established in 1996”.

The campaign plan began soon after former prime minister Julia Gillard announced in July last year that Brisbane would host the G20 meeting of world leaders in November 2014. It was an important coup for the Queensland capital, one not lost on the leaders of the larger capitals of Sydney and Melbourne. Immediately, the phones starting ringing all over Brisbane as the city’s leaders realised the benefits would reach further than the two-day leaders’ summit on November 15-16.

History of G20

The G20 grouping was established 14 years ago, in September 1999, when finance ministers and central bank governors of the seven major industrial countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the US) met in Washington in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 1997-98. The crisis had highlighted the vulnerability of the international financial system as economies became increasingly globalised and the need for key developing countries to be involved in global economic discussions.

As well as the original G7 countries, the G20 took in the “rising nine” of Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey as well as Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the European Union. An inaugural meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors was held in December 1999 in Berlin.

In 2008 the grouping took a step up with the beginning of annual meetings of the G20 leaders in Washington DC. Russia, the current president of the group, hosted its leaders’ summit in the historic city of St Petersburg earlier this month.

Today the G20 members represent nearly 90 per cent of the global economy, 80 per cent of global international trade and play host to two-thirds of the world’s population. Australia takes over the rotating presidency of the G20 in December, an event that should get more attention now that the federal election is over. The Brisbane meeting, the highlight of Australia’s one-year presidency, will attract more than 4000 delegates and 2500 media representatives. The Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre will host the heads of 19 countries plus the European Union and high-level representatives from the UN, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the International Labour Organisation, the OECD and the Financial Stability Board.

Quirk sees the event as a major step in the city’s ambitious development strategy to double the size of its economy over the next 20 years, increasing the number of jobs and average wages by 50 per cent. Quirk was first elected to the Brisbane City Council in 1985, at the age of just 27. He stepped up to become deputy mayor to Newman in 2008 and took over Newman’s job in 2011. He was elected to the position in his own right last year and now oversees a budget of $3 billion a year. Quirk has an apparently laid-back style and he has been keen to put his own stamp on the city. He grew up near the Doomben Racecourse, north of Brisbane, and maintains an active interest in horse breeding and racing. He calls himself “a very small-time punter” who will place a bet only when an opportunity is too good to be missed. But he is gambling big-time on the potential long-term benefits of the G20 meeting for his city.

Brisbane Marketing, which is overseeing the promotional campaign, is a company owned by the Brisbane City Council that was formed more than 10 years ago as a tourist promotion organisation. Overseen by a board of local business people, it functions as an economic development board with a staff of more than 130. Unique among Australian cities, it takes an entrepreneurial attitude to its role, which includes marketing the Brisbane Convention Bureau, Invest Brisbane, Study Brisbane and, more recently, Digital Brisbane, South Bank and the Asia-Pacific Film Awards.

Cairns-born John Aitken took over as chief executive five years ago after running events such as the Sydney Royal Easter Show and Brisbane Riverfire. He talks enthusiastically about the city’s goal to become a major force in the Asia-Pacific, both economically and culturally. “We have a big story to tell and our brief from council is to position the city strategically for the future,” he says.”We have a global outlook and audacious goals.”

Aitken’s team, with creative input from advertising agency Cummins & Partners, came up with the “Choose Brisbane” theme, which was launched in March by the Lord Mayor.

This campaign features G20 images and messages to remind business leaders in China and Europe that the city of Brisbane is significant enough to host the world’s leaders, including Obama, Putin, Li Keqiang and Merkel.

The first poster featured an image of Obama and Merkel from last year’s G20. The idea was to trigger an immediate association between Obama and the “Choose Brisbane” theme. Further posters featured Chinese media personality Chen Lei and nanotechnology professor Max Lu from the University of Queensland. Others to come will include Brisbane-based immunologist Ian Frazer and feature high-calibre companies investing in Brisbane such as Bechtel and the BG Group (the successor to British Gas).

Most of the intensive poster campaign has been part of a deal with France-based outdoor firm J.C. Decaux, which operates Brisbane’s bicycle network. This has been supported by advertisements in leading financial media including theFinancial Times, The Economist, Bloomberg Businessweek, Wall Street Journal Asia, South China Morning PostandHong Kong Economic Times.

Digital media has also been a prime component sof the campaign and by the end of June the website had had almost 40,000 hits, 84 per cent of which were first-time visitors.

And in Hong Kong, research conducted by the Colmar Brunton group revealed that the campaign had been seen by nearly half of the business decision-makers surveyed. For those who saw the campaign, their likelihood to consider Brisbane as an investment opportunity had doubled from 24 per cent to 47 per cent.

Aitken argues that the “Choose Brisbane” theme goes beyond a simple positioning statement and invites a call to action.

Co-ordination among governments

The G20 meeting itself involves a co-ordinated strategyby the federal government, the Queensland government and the Brisbane City Council to manage the delegate list, invitations, the agenda, transport, accommodation and logistics.

Security is a top priority and all three levels of government will be deeply involved in these arrangements. A G20 taskforce has been set up under the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet with a Brisbane office to be staffed by the end of this year. The G20 announcement has spawned a host of other groups, taskforces and committees looking at ways to leverage the world’s attention on Australia next year.

The federal government has formed a lobby group called Queensland 20, or Q20, to showcase the attractions of the broader state. Announcing its formation, Gillard said: “This is going to be a great time for taking images and perspectives of Queensland around the world … bringing together business identities, local government and community representatives”.

Q20 will be headed by Brisbane-based BG Australia chairwoman and Reserve Bank board member Catherine Tanna. Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls, the Queensland government’s representative on Q20, points out that north Queensland will also benefit from media exposure next year. Cairns will be the venue for a September meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, giving the state two chances to capture heightened global attention.

Griffith University leading G20 partnerships

The “Choose Brisbane” campaign has a strong Asia focus, particularly on Hong Kong and mainland China. Tertiary education is one of the industries keen to benefit from G20 exposure and the “Choose Brisbane” campaign. Griffith University, which has five campuses in southeast Queensland, places great emphasis on its multicultural mix of students, especially from Asian countries, where it has partnerships and ties with dozens of institutions.

Andrew O’Neil, director of the Griffith Asia Institute, is a member of the G20 Studies Centre, based in the Lowy Institute, which will play a lead role in debate around the G20 including public forums and academic research projects.

The university will also hold a senior students’ debating competition and set up a public online forum involving key G20 questions and opinions.

Serviced by two major international airports and an upgraded transport system, Brisbane today has much more to show than it did during the 1988 Expo. Quirk has recently overseen a $215 million refurbishment of the auditorium ceiling of Brisbane’s City Hall, a 1920s heritage listed building, with the addition of 8500 LED lights.

He argues that Brisbane is a city that combines a rich heritage with a modern face and a strong future. “For a long time we were regarded as a big country town,” he says. “But since the 1988 Expo, we’ve been a city on the move and this is gaining momentum every year. Along with all the other things we’re doing, the G20 next year will propel us into a new phase of global recognition and reputation”.

* Sub-headings are added by Griffith University. They were not part of the article originally.