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2011 Big Thinkers


Battle of Big Thinking is one of the pinnacle events in the annual Communications Council Circus. The event brings together 15 experts from 5 diverse fields of industry, each with a big idea they believe is worth fighting for.
In 2011, Rogan Jacobson was crowned the Biggest Thinker, you can read more about his idea in the Interviews section.  

Battle Speakers in the Media

A selection of speakers featured on ABC 24 Big Ideas on 30 April, you can view them here:


2011 Category winners:

  • Advertising/Marketing – Jon Casimir
  • Government/Social – Rogan Jacobson
  • Media – Thang Ngo
  • Business – Rob Campbell
  • Storytelling – Cath Keenan


The 2011 Big Thinkers:


Jon Casimir – Producer, The Gruen Transfer
Jon Casimir is the co-creator of The Gruen Transfer. This, he says, does not make him an expert on anything. He describes himself as an enthusiastic observer of advertising and marketing. Before Gruen, he was a producer of Enough Rope and a senior writer at the Sydney Morning Herald for a decade and a half. A Web pioneer, he was also behind the SMH news site in the first years of its existence. He has written four books and edited six others. He thinks The Social Network is competent but over-rated filmmaking, pretty much a cable channel movie of the week. He likes tea.

John Johnston – JJ Projects
John Johnston is a social media advocate and strategist. He makes, speaks and writes about social media ( He is a keen advocate for improved online communications through the use of social software, online communities, and emerging mobile technologies.
Over the past few years, John had developed a particular interest in the intersection of connectivity and sustainability, and in projects involving social and environmental responsibility.

Professor Byron Sharp – Director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science
Professor Byron Sharp is the Director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia. The Institute’s fundamental research is used and financially supported by many of the world’s leading corporations including Coca-Cola, Kraft, Kellogg’s, British Airways, Procter & Gamble, Nielsen, TNS, Turner Broadcasting, Network Ten, Mars and many others.

Dr Sharp has published over 100 academic papers and is on the editorial board of five journals. He recently co-hosted a conference at the Wharton Business School on laws of advertising and with Professor Jerry Wind is editing a special issue of the Journal of Advertising Research on the topic.

His recently completed book “How Brands Grow: what marketers don’t know” , a book about research uncovering scientific laws about buying and brand performance, was published early 2010.


Rangan Srikhanta – CEO, One Laptop per Child, Australia
Rangan Srikhanta is the Executive Director and founder of OLPC Australia. In his role he manages the organisation’s partnerships with departments of education and training, Indigenous Land Councils, Universities, state and federal Government representatives and major Australian corporations.

Rangan is a graduate from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) with a double degree in Business (Accounting Major) and Computing. He spent four years at the United Nations Association of Australia, NSW Division as a Director and three years as Treasurer.

Rangan is a recipient of the Elizabeth Hastings Memorial Award for his work contribution to the wider community as a student of UTS.

Professor Jane Burns – Director of Research, Inspire Foundation
Associate Professor Jane Burns is the Executive Director of The Cooperative Research Centre for Young People, Technology and Wellbeing (YAW-CRC). YAW-CRC is an international research institute, led by the Inspire Foundation that focuses on understanding how technology can be used to promote the mental health and wellbeing of young people. The establishment of YAW-CRC is a culmination of Jane’s work in suicide and depression prevention over the last decade which has focused on international and national partnerships with academic, government, corporate, philanthropic, not for profit and community sectors.

Jane holds a VicHealth Principal Research Fellowship at ORYGEN Youth Health Research Centre, University of Melbourne and an Honorary Fellowship at the Brain & Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney. She was a Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellow in 2004-2005 at the University of California, San Francisco. She joined beyondblue: the national depression initiative in its start up phase and established and managed the youth agenda (2000-2004). Jane completed her PhD in Medicine (Psychiatry and Epidemiology) at the University of Adelaide (1994-1996).

Rogan Jacobson – English Teacher, MLC School Sydney
Rogan Jacobson is a brand new High School teacher, at the age of 40. He currently teaches a yr10 gifted and talented class, co-coordinates the International Baccalaureate English Teaching at MLC School in Sydney and last year his students got higher marks than America. He was made Valedictorian at Sydney University during his Masters of Teaching course, and was last year’s winner of the beginning teacher scholarship from the English Teacher’s Association of NSW.

In a previous life, Rogan debated for his uni, his state and his country then went on to make media in Australia, the UK and North America as an on-air personality, writer, designer and manager  – building magazines, websites, newspapers and radio for over 20 years for award-winning (and some very not award-winning) marketing and communication clients all over the globe. He has a passion for argument, change and beer and is always available for any of them.


Joel Gibson - Opinion Page Editor, Sydney Morning Herald
Joel Gibson publishes the big ideas of others daily as Opinion Page Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald. He has previously covered legal and indigenous affairs for the paper, and edited its Radar youth liftout and Stay In Touch column. His journalistic career began with writing wine articles for HQ magazine and satirical news for the Chaser. It’s been all downhill ever since.

Dr Rachael Dunlop – Vice President, Australian Skeptics
Rachael Dunlop PhD is a campaigner for science-based medicine in Australia, with a special interest in refuting the claims of the anti-vaccination movement. In her day job, she works as a medical researcher with an interest in motor neurone disease and ageing disorders including heart disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Rachael is a reporter for The Skeptic Zone Podcast and blogs at the Skeptics Book of Pooh Pooh and She is also a vice president of the Australian Skeptics, and a member of Mystery Investigators science show for children. In 2010, Rachael won the Shorty Award in the Health category for the most interesting health and science information on Twitter. As an ex-graphic designer and copywriter, Rachael enjoys combining her love of science, art and social media as a means of communicating science to the public.

Thang Ngo – Strategy & Planning Manager, SBS Audio & Language Content
Thang Ngo’s career spans over two decades and several industries.  In advertising he’s been on both the client and agency side, including a stint as Star City’s Advertising Manager.  In politics, he served nine years on Fairfield Council, one of the most culturally diverse in Australia.  His media career has been mainly in radio sales, most recently at SBS.

These days, he’s embracing the brave new digital, culturally diverse world by doing what he does best… juggling many projects. By day, he works as SBS’s Strategy and Planning Manager, Audio and Language Content.  By night, he’s one of Sydney’s most popular food bloggers as publisher of  On sunny weekends he leads cultural tours of Cabramatta.

He sums up his eclectic, hectic life in four words “I eat. I tweet.”


Richard Sauerman – The Brand Guy
Richard is one of the most experienced Brand Strategists in Australia. He acquired his brand expertise working in the ad industry for 17 years, where he has worked on some of the world’s most iconic brands [Cola-Cola, Microsoft, Vodafone, Campbell’s, Nescafe, Levis, Milo, Penfolds] for some of the world’s largest marketers [Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, Boots, Goodman Fielder] at some of the world’s biggest ad agencies [Saatchi & Saatchi, Ogilvy & Mather, DDB, McCann-Erickson, George Patts].

In 2003 Richard set up his own brand consultancy, Brand Alchemy, which gave him the opportunity to expand his ‘brand’ area of focus beyond marketing, into all areas of the organization.

Major projects he has worked on have been for Macquarie Bank; BT; AMP; Opportunity International; AAPT; QBE Insurance; Vodafone; and the Liberal Part of New South Wales.

Margaret Seale, Managing Director, Random House Publishing
Margaret Seale is Managing Director of Random House Australia (RHA), one of the region’s largest publishers, and part of the Random House Group, one of the largest publishing houses in the world. 

Margie joined Random House Australia as Deputy Managing Director and Head of Publishing in February 2000 and was appointed Managing Director and Publisher in September 2001. Since joining RHA has been expanded to include responsibility for the company’s New Zealand operations and most recently in 2010 she was appointed President, Asia Development which involves exploring and evaluating potential business opportunities in Southeast and Northern Asia on behalf of Random House worldwide.

Margie began her publishing career in the 1980s at Pan Macmillan, Australia, as a sales representative.  Margie’s final role in her eight years at Pan was as national marketing manager.  After several years in other industries, Margie returned to publishing in 1997 as chief executive of Lansdowne Publishing and The Macquarie Dictionary Company before joining Random House in 2000.

Cath Keenan – Arts Writer, Sydney Morning Herald
Catherine was born in Perth, Western Australia, in 1970. She fell in love with writing stories in year 9, when Miss Matthis highly praised a piece she’d written about an alien called Sputnik. She went on to study English at the University of Western Australia, and completed a doctorate in literature at Oxford University. In 2000, she joined the Sydney Morning Herald and in 2005 was made literary editor. She gave up the job when she had her first child. She now has two children, and works part-time at the Herald writing arts features.


Rob Campbell – Regional Creative Head of Strategy, Wieden & Kennedy
Rob has worked around the World for agencies and companies  including HHCL, Mother, cynic, Y&R, Google and now, W+K.
Rob thinks it’s great he’s been asked to speak at the Circus festival, because only 7 years ago, no one in Aussie adland would give him a job.

Rob is the founder of homeless lobby group Human_2, co- runs the Global Planning School On The Web & believes in creating fate, not ads.

Justin Baird – Innovationist, Google
Justin Baird is an Innovationist at Google.  Joining Google in 2007, he brings over ten years of product management and high tech experience, in areas ranging from R&D, embedded DSP and software development, product management, high speed digital networks, and large scale entertainment systems.  During his tenure at Google, Justin has helped launch local YouTube portals across Asia Pacific, supported the rollout of numerous consumer products, helped launch the first Android mobile devices in the region, brought the Google Creative Sandbox event to Australia’s shores, and co-created DNA, a digital thought leadership series in Australia and New Zealand. 

Originally from the United States, Justin worked in the Silicon Valley, San Francisco Bay Area before moving to Sydney, Australia in 2003.  Justin holds a dual degree in Electrical Engineering and Music from the University of Miami, providing a unique background in both technology and the creative arts.  He applied this expertise in the professional live sound industry as a product management director and as a research and design engineer. Justin additionally holds a Master of Business Administration from the Australian Graduate School of Management.

Remo Giuffre – REMO General Store
Remo is the founder of the REMO General Store; and cofounder of the General Thinking network. He is also the licensee for TEDxSydney, an independently organised offshoot of the US based TED Conference. Prior to founding REMO in 1988, Remo worked as a lawyer in Sydney with Baker & McKenzie, and then as a consultant to communications businesses located in both Australia and the US. He was the Director of Branding & Strategy at frogdesign in Silicon Valley from 1997, and later the resident Brand Strategist at pioneering online developer Organic in New York.

Remo earned Commerce and Law degrees from the University of New South Wales, and an MBA from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business; majoring in marketing, communications management and organisational behaviour. Although not formally trained as a designer, Remo has been dreaming, designing & doodling for much of his life. Remo lives in Bondi very near the beach with his wife Melanie, two children: Lola (15) & Roman (12); and a small black dog named Pearl. He swims every day in the ocean pool at the Bondi Icebergs.

Highlights from Battle of Big Thinking from APG Australia on Vimeo.

More details on how to book tickets to the Battle of Big Thinking and Circus.

Battle of Big Thinking is supported by Mumbrella.
The Inspire Foundation is the partner charity of the APG & Communications Council.

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