A fireside chat with Hugh Mackay, interviewed by Hugh Riminton, #AMSRS 

Live blogged at #AMSRS 2015 national conference. Any errors or bad jokes are my own.


  • It is harder to listen than it is to speak
  • Hugh has been in the business for 60 years
  • His dad went with him to his first job interview, as all dads did back then
  • he knew in the first week that MR was for him
  • there were no TVs, no computers, no women, no multiculturalism, he rode his bike to work without a helmet or lycra
  • job was face to face interviews at the doorstop, when through the questionnaire with a pencil, marks the analysis on a piece of paper
  • radio audience measurement was a big thing in 1956, attitudes to brands of petrol or retail stores
  • fascinated him almost right from the beginning
  • MR is a branch of social science – why people do what they do in a commercial context, but every question is far more than commercial
  • the great advertising firms are the best at knowing why people do what they do [not psychologists or sociologists!]
  • biggest change has been the gender revolution which began quietly in the last 60s and roared after the 70s, women were second class citizens, they couldn’t leave australia without their husband’s permission
  • [hugh mackay doesn’t need an interview to carry the conversation 🙂 ]
  • multiculturalism wasnt in our vocabulary
  • this changed most societal institutions
  • morphed from women’s movement into gender revolution, men have been slow and reluctant to get on board but here we are, not a men left standing who doesn’t know there’s been a revolution
  • younger men don’t know what this discussion is about, they don’t know what the discussion is [that’s what it ought to be!]
  • politicians exploit our existential angst – use it to get what you want, get people fearful of things [marketers try to do this to but in a more relaxed comfortable way]
  • he feels he is soft on the media, overrate the power of the media to influence public opinion, media reports what happens and then enforces predispositions, but media doesn’t ferment fear when they report on messages that are designed to create fear
  • we’re in a new phase of instability and it’s not bad. we are listening for the new messages.
  • there is a difference between winning an election and losing one. bad candidates make less bad candidates win.
  • we’re disengaged from politics but more engaged as citizens  – think LGBT rights
  • advice to a newbie – definitely get into the career, in the 60s research was thrilling because mass communication opened up and truly pioneering research was happening, now is another period like that, thrilled by how rapidly things are changing, all new ideas and we’re overdue for pioneering experimental work especially online which is still largely mysterious and being approached in a deeply unscientific way
  • when people communicate digitally it’s a different human experience than face to face, most nuances of human communication that are rich, posture, gesture, expressions, are gone
  • [he knows what a tweet is, i.e., stop saying you’re too old to understand this stuff!]
  • it’s fundamentally changed our view or privacy and identity, most young people have multiple identities, making it easier than ever to not see people [for me, it’s made it MORE possible to see people] The place of the person is disppearing and will come back in 15 years
  • machines can do everything THEY do better, people will do the rest

2 responses

  1. Gee, won’t be long till I’m 60 years in the Business! Will you interview me then?

    ( Is there actually an Australian whose first name is High?? )

    1. That was an unfortunate typo but it’s fixed now. 🙂

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