Adrian always believed he would have a career in advertising. He studied for an Economics and Marketing degree at Sydney University with an extra art subject of Mandarin. The state school in Brisbane that he went to, had mandarin on the curriculum from year 7, so the option seemed a good one.
By halfway through the degree, Adrian’s dream was set. He wanted to work in New York, which he saw as the advertising capital of the world. There, were three month work program visa’s available at the time, but you had to get your own job. Adrian describes how he was just a 19-year-old, raw Australian kid, writing letters to top advertising agencies on Fifth Avenue. He was lucky enough to get some replies.
He moved to New York, knowing no-one. There was a one-day orientation program for the kids on the program and that was it. He started living in Manhattan and he loved it.
It was an exciting time. The internet was just taking off. He was working on big campaigns such as Omega Watches, and on a Cindy Crawford campaign, a pretty ideal start to a career in advertising.
However, a few years in, Adrian could see that if you wanted to get on, your own business was the way to go. There were too many politics, too many people in front of him. He wanted to control his own destiny.
After three years, he returned to Australia and set up his own business, based in Sydney. He never had a business plan, bar being determined not to work for anyone else and to pay his mortgage.
Birth of Believe Advertising
He called it Believe Advertising. He started the hard way, with yellow pages and fax and phone. He called it Believe, because he had no clients. He had given up an amazing job to come back to Australia and do this and belief was all he had.
At night, he worked in a call center, selling charity raffle tickets on commission. Adrian says a side benefit was that it hugely improved his telephone selling. He also realized that selling was all a numbers game. If you call enough people, some will say yes. So for Believe, he started with A. and six weeks on had his first client
At that point, Believe Advertising was doing traditional billboard campaigns, product design, and advertising, which meant working with a designer. The work was scheduled for only as long as a campaign lasted which meant erratic workflow. Then his designer came to him and complained they had too much work to do.
Adrian shifted to publicity, tapping into the skills he had learned in America. PR works all year round and didn’t rely on other people so this solved both problems. Believe Advertising had then evolved into an Advertising, PR, and Marketing Agency.
Adrian’s first client was a new MG Rover dealership. He managed to get GQ to do a weekend test drive, got several celebrities involved. All of it featured in the Sunday papers, which was the best possible placement at that time. Another early client was Furla, the luxury bag company, based in Italy but with its headquarters in Asia and who were launching in Sydney. He got Furla a million dollars’ worth of press coverage.
It set him on the road of that would include many advertising and publicity for lifestyle brands including Seiko, who he has now worked with for six years. He has worked with the tennis player, Novak Djokovic through both Seiko and Head’s tennis rackets. Adrian tells me that Novak is just the nicest guy.
Recently, Adrian also worked with Fabian Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau through Seiko. He took selected media on an amazing trip to the Barrier Reef, and out for a day to the eco-friendly, Fitzroy Island.
Believe Advertising is now 18 years old. Adrian works across the globe, getting clients national and international press coverage clients from the USA, Australia, UK & Europe. He is even doing some work for his old boss in New York.
Markets have changed massively over the years. The international brands are now available in Sydney, making it tough for local competition. In addition, technology has caused the rise of what Adrian calls the “million-dollar-millennials”.
I had originally met Adrian though one of his million-dollar-millennials, the awe-inspiring Harry Sanders or StudioHawk, who carried on his now, global, business while living homeless. StudioHawk is now the SEMrush agency of the year.
Adrian tells me of others, including Eli Dangerfield, who had no intention of going to university and now makes 300,000 AUD. a month from his watch company Elmore Lewis, and Matthew Lepre, who dropped out of dentistry and now makes more in a month than he would in a year of dentistry with his Ecom Warrior Academy
Adrian believes that in business, the best thing anyone can do is simply give it your best and aim to move forward every single day. His own aversion to more formal business plans, he points out, has been supported by the un-forecasted appearance of COVID-19.
Adrian’s high school motto was “Nothing without Hard Work” and he is a great believer in that. He also gives back a great deal, working with schools in Fiji, providing school meals to kids in India, grain to nourish children in Malawi.
I wanted to ask Adrian for advice for other entrepreneurs who want to gain publicity and he says it is all about sharing your story. You have to develop a story that people want to hear. So the first step is working out what that is, and then you start communicating it. Doing that will naturally develop your own tribe, the people who identify or connect with your story. Then that tribe will multiply.
We also chatted about influencer marketing. He feels that they are still there and the bubble hasn’t burst yet. But there are changes going on. It is the rise of the micro-influencer.
Many brands are far better off spending a small amount on a micro-influencer who is really targeted at their market and associated with that market. People will believe someone they identify with over the big names who have nothing to do with their market or industry and who cost huge sums.
The landscape that Believe Advertising works in has changed. There was a time when everyone worked on campaigns months ahead. Now publicity has become virtually instant. And it is clear that these constant changes mean Adrian still loves doing what he does.
Adrian’s book “Believe – Start Living the Life you have always Dream of. Today,” can be found here if you would like to read more about him and his strategies, from changing your life physically, spiritually and emotionally, from that power of believing in yourself.
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