Talking Media with Nine: Beyond the Byline – The Science of Storytelling​

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Episode Seven

Beyond the Byline - The Science of Storytelling

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BEYOND THE BYLINE - THE SCIENCE OF STORYTELLING

Turning journalists into CX specialists and performance marketers – while still remaining true to the craft; future-proofing news as AI rises, platforms wield power

Nine’s masthead editorial teams are becoming performance marketers and CX specialists, using data analytics to drive conversion and keep readers loyal. But as AI rises and platforms make major shifts, they crucially also remain instinct-led and locally focused, says SMH Editor Bevan Shields and Nine Publishing audience growth chief Aimie Rigas.  

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The newsroom

Nine’s news teams are increasingly thinking – and acting – like performance marketers, using data and analytics to drive conversion, i.e. new subscribers. But also as customer experience specialists, building deeper connections with audiences by using aggregate audience consumption data to write better stories, build loyalty and increase trust. Sydney Morning Herald Editor, Bevan Shields, is “bullish” on the data-led approach in the newsroom, because it’s enabling better decision-making in terms of both strategic resource allocation and day-to-day coverage. But he says it doesn’t trump instinct – and bots won’t be making the editorial big calls. 

“When I started, people were like, ‘what’s a conversion?’” says Director of Audience Growth – Publishing, Aimie Rigas. “Now there are people within the newsroom who know more about what stories convert the most than I do because they're so into the metrics and the data.” 

The dashboards created by Rigas and her team are “the very first thing I look at when I wake up, maybe after a TikTok scroll, to be fair”, says Shields.  

“When the newsroom gathers each morning to have our news conference, the data is actually the first thing we talk about: What was great for subscriber conversion the previous day; where there might be opportunities to double down on that today. It's now ingrained in the newsroom culture and processes.” 

“We've always operated on instinct, and we always should. But it has allowed us to make really informed decisions and it means we're more responsive to our audience – because the data is not some random collection of meaningless numbers, it is actually our audience telling us what they want.” 

Sometimes this throws up surprises, and Shields underlines that stories that might be in the dashboard’s ‘red zones’, where metrics are down, rather than the high-performing ‘green zones’ don’t necessarily get dropped. Instead, “it gives us the chance to say, let's drill into that – why is that occurring? How can we try and get that better?” 

Local shift

Publishing division analytics are showing a definite trend towards local news, especially post-Covid.

“Having that data has given me the confidence to double down in that area to the point where we've shifted more reporting resources to that part of the newsroom,” says Shields.

Likewise, “the way people are consuming news, in particular when, has changed a lot since the pandemic”, says Rigas.

“We had a super-interesting graph that showed when we published stories versus when our audience is online historically, and it has changed. They were completely opposite ends of the day,” she says.

“If you don't know, you can't change it. So the way we publish – the flow of stories throughout the day – has changed quite a bit to align with when our audience is online.”

Humans in control

Shields insists editorial instinct and control remain critical. For example, keeping the recent Bondi attack news in front of the paywall and open to all, but also choosing not to publish Ash Good’s name, despite knowing early on that she was the woman tragically killed after passing her injured baby to a stranger.  

“I have no doubt if we published that story it probably would have been well-read. A lot of our competitors ran it that night.In my gut, I just thought it was way too soon,” says Shields. 

“If you had a robot making those decisions, it would have run that story straight away. But having instinct, insight and understanding of what is right and where the lines are is still important.” 

Another example is where he says instinct lay behind the decision to campaign hard for pokies reform in NSW.  

The only jurisdiction in the world with more poker machines per capita is Las Vegas, Nevada.So it’s an absolute source of human misery in New South Wales and Sydney. There was a big report from the Crime Commission that said the government is going to have to deal with this and we used that as a stepping stone to campaign on this issue,” says Shields. 

My instinct was, there's a moment here and a time here for change, and we went really hard on that. Initially there was very little audience for that story and for that issue. We built that over time, and it did become very good for us and our brand and it led to public policy change. But if you were driven solely by the analytics and didn't factor in anything else you wouldn't touch that story.” 

Rigas agrees. 

“One of the reasons there has been such a keen uptake in the data is because we do acknowledge that if you are an editor and a specialist in whatever field, and you really believe that something is an important story to tell, then we're going to back you,” she says. 

“If we are just looking at data constantly, we're never going to surface any of those original yarns, and that's really what we're about. So, you can't just go 100 per cent on data, and that's also not our strength.” 

Shields says commitment to public-interest reporting, balanced journalism and doing the right thing ethically is why readers come to mastheads like the Herald. 

We’re nothing if our readers don't trust us. It begins and ends with that, in my view. Readers have to have confidence that we're not some AI robot, that we're actually humans who are making informed decisions and have the readers’ best interests at heart – and also the journalism. 

AI and algorithm shifts

AI is rapidly disrupting just about every industry. News media is no different. 

There's lots of talk of AI and so many ways you can use it. But it's probably more interesting for us from a journalism standpoint to talk about how we're not going to use it we're not going to use it to completely edit our home pages, and there's a whole bunch of different ways that we're not going to use it,” says Rigas.  

But she does see AI making it much faster to dig into analytics and surface insights, and Shields is likewise keen on more real-time smarts on what is converting and when. 

As global platforms become more aggressive gatekeepers, he thinks immediacy of intelligence will become increasingly critical to drive new subscriber growth. 

“There's a lot of news fatigue at the moment. Social media companies have changed their algorithms and it's harder to get social traffic to our sites. So we have an unusual situation at the moment where our subscriber audience is growing extremely strongly, but it is harder and harder to make sure that overall audience is big.” 

Though ultimately, says Shields, that may not really matter as audiences seek local, quality news over that served by global algorithms at scale. 

“I think that's going to be the big story in media over the next little while, that big is not necessarily better, big is not necessarily powerful. I think that's a big shift that's about to happen in the landscape, and it's happening here as well.”

Either way, Rigas says Nine’s data strategy and ongoing push to build direct audiences insulates the publisher from algorithm changes and platform pivots, politically motivated or otherwise.  

“We're in a really unique and privileged position. But we've also done a lot of work to get here, in that more than 70 per cent of our sessions come direct or via our app,” says Rigas. “That's a pretty decent chunk and that doesn't even include newsletters”. 

“The Herald is 193 years old. We’ve been here before … platforms come and go, and the challenge for us is to keep track of what is the next thing.... thinking about the future is fundamentally fuelling our business strategy.” 

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Rising Above: Chris Bond’s Paralympic Journey of Inspiration

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Chris Bond's Paralympic Journey

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As the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games approach, we are inspired by the stories of athletes who have overcome incredible odds to represent Australia on the world stage. Chris Bond, captain of the Steelers Wheelchair Rugby team, shares his journey from an able-bodied Australian to a Paralympic champion. His story is a testament to the unifying and inspiring power of sport.

Growing Up in a Sporting Nation

Chris describes growing up in the 90s in Australia, a sporting nation.

“In my able-bodied youth, my twin brother and I played everything from indoor-soccer and four-square handball to footy to get us through the school day. After the bell we would build jumps and ride our bikes until the streetlights went on. On the weekends it was all about rugby league. We idolised our national teams, gathering around our small box TV with pride as we felt connected to fellow Australians battling it out in their green and gold. Sport was a major part of our lives, keeping us fit, socially connected, and giving us a strong sense of belonging and community."

A Life-changing Diagnosis

Chris’ life took an unexpected turn when he was diagnosed with cancer. Subsequent infections led to the amputation of both legs, his left hand, and all but one finger on his right hand at the age of 19.

"After three years in the hospital system fighting for my life and regaining my independence with my newly acquired disability, I knew that something was missing – my passion for sport. And from there, my eyes were opened to a world of Para-Sport."

Finding Purpose in Wheelchair Rugby

Joining a new community of like-minded people, who had similar life journeys and a shared desire to compete, was the vehicle that drove Chris back to motivation.

"Wheelchair Rugby was the best form of rehab, fitness and therapy for me. It taught me to be grateful for the function I have remaining and gave me hope for the future. It pushed me to do more for myself in everyday life and provided real-world examples of others with severe disabilities achieving what seemed like unattainable milestones."

Determined to pursue his passion, Chris moved from Canberra to Brisbane to start his Paralympic pathway. "I dropped everything I was doing and hit the road with my black lab, at the beginning of a journey that gave me a strong purpose in my new world and reignited my childhood dream."

Becoming a Paralympic Champion

Fast forward over a decade, and Chris Bond is now captain of the Steelers, a two-time Paralympic gold medallist, two-time world champion, father of two, and homeowner living independently on the Sunshine Coast.

"The Paralympic movement has grown tremendously, and we now have the opportunity to consume increasingly impressive Para-sport on free-to-air TV every four years. Australians are now realising that sport is sport, and they love to back the green and gold, regardless of the event. We love a good story of our fellow Aussies having a crack, it’s what unites us."

Uniting through Sport

Chris highlights the growing recognition and inspiration drawn from Paralympic athletes.

"Australians are beginning to get to know our Paralympic athletes and feel inspired by their unique stories in their quest to reach the pinnacle of sport. Nothing has been given, it has all been earned, and that resonates well with the average Australian battler."

Impact on Future Generations

Reflecting on the impact of the Games, Chris says

"I have heard countless stories of kids wanting to be like the Steelers after watching us play - dreaming of one day wearing the green and gold.

Life is full of unexpected challenges. We can’t predict what will happen, how long we’ll live, or what illnesses or injuries might come our way. But seeing a fellow Australian survive a near-death experience, lose their physical abilities, and still smile with determination and purpose is a powerful reminder of the incredible resilience of the human spirit. It shows that no matter the setbacks, we can reset our mindset, set new goals, and achieve our dreams. Life is short, so why wait? Start chasing your dreams now."

Golden opportunity: Creating a lasting legacy

The Paris Games are an opportunity for brands to align with the values of resilience, unity, and inspiration, embodied by our Paralympic athletes. We have never had more access, exposure and connection to the hundreds of individual stories, characters and proud Australian athletes who drive the core message of living a healthier, active and more purposeful life. And the momentum of the Games is set to continue as Australia continues to back ALL athletes, the power of mateship, community and a fair go for all.

Stay tuned for more insights and stories from the Games as we continue our conversation with those closest to the magic.

Looking to put your brand at the heart of the Olympic and Paralympic Games on Nine? We'd love to hear from you.

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Celebrate the Olympic Spirit: Insights from Anna Meares

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Insights from Anna Meares

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As we approach the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Nine is proud to celebrate the history, athlete spirit, and impact of the Games. To start a series of conversations, we had the pleasure of speaking with Anna Meares, the Chef de Mission for the Australian Olympic Team. Her insights offer a profound understanding of the cultural chemistry that animates the Olympics, and in turn engages millions of Australians time and again.

Navigating the Games as Chef de Mission

Meares describes her role as Chef de Mission as multi-faceted.

"Firstly, I am in charge of the environment and culture set for our Australian Olympic Team in Paris. I achieve this by building a leadership team around me, including Olympians Mark Knowles, Kaarle McCulloch, Bronwen Knox, Kyle Vander Kuyp, and Ken Wallace. I work with the Australian Olympic Committee to build relationships with member sports, coaches, high-performance staff, presidents and CEOs to understand their needs and create a cohesive Olympic Team."

Anna's passion for the role is evident as she emphasises the honour and pride she feels in leading the team and working with like-minded, motivated individuals. 

The timeless appeal of the Olympic Games

"There is great history in the Games," Anna reflects. "It is great because of the people, the stories, the effort, the love, and the unity through common value and purpose."

Anna's personal connection to the Games began as an athlete, and she found the experience addictive. "To be involved beyond my competitive years, given an opportunity to impact the lives of others as they have their moment in the Games and the Australian Olympic Team, is what gets me up every day."

A multi-sensory celebration

Highlighting the multi-dimensional nature of the Games, Anna says they are

"the biggest multi-sport event in the world and are ‘multi’ in so many ways. They celebrate our multicultural world. The Games are truly multi-sensory, multi-emotional, multi-colourful and multi-dimensional. It is where participation and unity combine with high performance in a showcase that comes around just once every four years. It is a celebration, and one that athletes and other participants savour for the rest of their lives." 

The making of an Olympic champion

"For those rare few who stand atop the podium, we all know it takes a great deal from themselves, their family, friends and community. They are exceptional.

There is a lot that must go their way and a lot out of their control. What contributes to those who succeed at the Olympics is that despite there being no guarantee of success, they commit and dedicate as much as anyone else, prepare as much as anyone else, and are able to execute across more facets than anyone else on that one day of competition. You do not have to be perfect. You just have to be better on that one day, in that one moment. To have the composure, confidence, and instinct – not just the physical traits. The body is one thing, the heart and the mind are another."

Memories and moments

Anna's first memory of the Olympics is from 1996, at the age of 12, watching the men's 1500m swimming final at Atlanta on televisions in a shopping centre. She recalls weaving through the crowds to get to the front and witness Keirin Perkins win gold for Australia, and Dan Kowalski silver.

"It wasn't the results that I remember as a young girl, but the impact on an enormous group of people who didn't know them, didn't know each other, but were pulled together through their sporting efforts at those Games." This memory underscores the unifying power of the Olympics.

At her first Games in Athens in 2004, just 20 years of age, Anna felt like she was "plucked from watching to now being inside the TV," surrounded by athletes from various disciplines – 150kg weightlifters, four-foot gymnasts, seven-foot basketballers – as she walked through the Olympic village. Her final Games memory is equally vivid, carrying the flag for Australia at the main stadium and being hit by a wave of noise, colour and lights – a memory she will never forget.

Golden opportunity: Creating a lasting legacy

From iconic city attractions, powerful stories, breathtaking athletic performance and ground-breaking sports to pure entertainment, the Games provide an unparalleled opportunity for brands to make their mark in history. Through Nine’s unified content ecosystem, brands have a unique opportunity to create a legacy, make an impact, and be part of a celebration that resonates with 98 per cent of Australia.

Stay tuned for more insights and stories from the Games as we continue our conversation with those closest to the magic.

Looking to put your brand at the heart of the Olympic and Paralympic Games on Nine? We'd love to hear from you.

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Talking Media with Nine: Paint by Numbers – How Data, Strategy and Creativity Combined Make Magic 

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Episode Six

Paint by Numbers - How Data, Strategy and Creativity Combined Make Magic 

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CREATIVITY AND DATA IN TANDEM

Econometrics, creative effectiveness and pre-testing perils unpacked: Previously Unavailable’s James Hurman and Magic Numbers’ Dr Grace Kite on what CMOs finalising FY25 budgets need to know

Deep in the weeds of econometrics, creative effectiveness and their impact on growth, Previously Unavailable’s James Hurman and Magic Numbers’ Dr Grace Kite say marketers can harness both in tandem to drive greater growth, make better bets on which ads and which channels will deliver best bang for buck – and link their efforts directly to the P&L. Just don’t fall into the creative development research trap – or believe everything Scott Galloway says about advertising.

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The gold standard

As marketers wrap up 2025 budget planning, a good chunk of them will be using econometric modelling – interchangeable with market mix modelling or MMM – to inform those decisions. Smart move says Dr Grace Kite, founder and economist at magic numbers.

Econometrics, says Dr Kite, is the “gold standard of marketing measurement”. In simple terms, “it’s untangling all the things that make your sales move the way they do and explaining that”, so the likes of the CFO can see the returns marketing is delivering.

It also helps to prove whether ad creative actually works, which channels “give you the best bang for your buck; which combination of channels work really well; which have longer lasting effects and shorter-term effects; and which work best with which creative idea,” she says. Basically, “all of those fantastic things that are going to help you make your media plan the best it can possibly be next year”.

Crucially, says James Hurman, founding partner at Previously Unavailable, econometrics also helps marketers prove both their value.

“What's really cool is everyone in the organisation has their bias – they think it was their thing that did the job and made the sales increase. And most people outside of the marketing department are pretty suspicious about whether the marketing did anything,” says Hurman.

“It's very easy to discount the effects of creativity and advertising. What econometrics can help you do is really make that case and prove that the work made a difference, so we [the business] should continue to invest in that sort of work. In terms of the ‘marketing of marketing’ within an organisation, it’s just such a useful tool.”

Death by research

As marketers prepare to apportion next year’s media budget, Hurman urges brands to make better ads – not paint by the numbers that come out of research or treat that research as predictive. Testing a finished ad for effectiveness is a very different thing to the early-stage stuff, he says, but the two are too often confused.

“Creative development research is only any good if we combine it with the experience, wisdom and judgment of the agency and marketers on the client side,” says Hurman. “Often, if we treat it as predictive and just go with what gets a green light in those early stages, we can go off in the wrong direction and end up with poor outcomes.”

Hurman suggests that is why most ads in creative benchmarking firm System1’s database “score so badly – because they’ve been put through that process, and there been points in that process where we've been put wrong. Because often we’ve thought of things as predictive and used them to get a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ and only move forward when we get a ‘yes’ from that research,”.

“And that is, unfortunately, the reason why a lot of advertising turns out a bit shit. So I think it’s really important not to confuse creative development research with predictive pre-testing. Because they are totally different things – even though most marketers tend to think of them all as pre-testing.”

Plus, he says, there is no way an early, unfinished concept can be properly appreciated. So killing them off by overly prescriptive research means losing potentially great, brand-building ads.

Consistency across channels = ROI

System1’s data on 15 years' worth of campaigns shows that half of an ad’s effectiveness comes down to the quality of the creative and the other half comes from the media.

Dr Grace Kite says that is why it is critical to turbocharge great creative with enough media spend across multiple channels – and not to chop and change too often.

“Consistency over time and backing your idea for a decent amount of time with a decent amount of money, that's really, really important,” says Dr Kite.

Her research – consistent with findings by the likes of Peter Field, Warc and the IPA – suggests that “the more media channels you use, the higher return on investment you get”.

The challenge is, if brands are pushing ads across “five, six, seven different media channels, it’s a lot of work to get them working together”, says Dr Kite. Hence “consistency across platforms” is key, and Dr Kite thinks ensuring that level of brand consistency “will become a really important skill” as fragmentation continues.

Rational ads crimp future demand

On best bang for buck channel selection, Dr Kite says start-ups and younger brands can find high ROI and rapid traction via simple, tactical stuff such as search, social and performance-type ads. But as brands get bigger and more mature, that stops working, “and performance marketing isn’t good enough anymore”.

“So at that point, things like TV are really important and tend to come out with the highest return on investment,” says Dr Kite, and they also have a halo effect on performance channel investment.

Plus, brand-building channels like TV help prime what James Hurman calls ‘future demand’, which performance marketing by nature can’t do if people aren’t immediately in market and ready to buy. Which is why he and many others urge marketers to focus more on emotion within advertising and less on the rational side of things.

Plant memories, make people feel something

“If [a consumer is] not going to come into the market for six months, or 12 months, then it's all about planting memories not trying to get them to do something they're not going to act on,” says Hurman.

“The reason why TV is so powerful is that it's the best thing for planting emotional memories and feelings into people.

“If we want someone to remember something in 12 months’ time there is no point giving them a fact, because there's no way they will remember it. But they will remember how we made them feel. And if we made them feel great, then when they turn up in the category they're going to bias towards us”.

“When we're rational all the time, we're not able to plant those memories. And then six months later when people come back into the market, they forget.”

Hurman thinks even relatively fast-moving consumer goods brands can underweight future demand building and overweight performance.

He points out that FMCG staples like laundry powder – the original soapbox TV advertisers – are actually aiming at consumers who may be in market only every six months if they are selling packs with 50 or 100 tabs.

“So we think about these fast-moving consumer goods as if they're categories that people are in every day, but they're actually not. Most people come and go and there’s really large amounts of time in between.”

Why Scott Galloway is wrong on advertising …

Both Dr Kite and Hurman are proponents of effective advertising as a cornerstone of brand building, even in an age of fragmentation. But some marketing luminaries, such as Professor Scott Galloway, have suggested otherwise.

“Show me a company that has added more than $100Bn in market cap in the last decade and I’ll show you a company that doesn’t advertise very much” says Galloway.

Hurman’s a Galloway fan, but says that’s not actually true (Mi3 has also debunked that claim). Google, Facebook and Netflix are among the biggest advertisers in the world, says Hurman, while “no company has ever spent more than $20 billion in advertising in one year other than Amazon, and they've done it for the past two years running”.

He says the fact that those companies started off without much advertising – but now are among the biggest spenders in the world – underlines Dr Kite’s point about performance advertising and ‘growth hacking’ maxing out once companies get to a certain size, because they eventually run out of pre-existing demand.

“They reach that point where you end up needing advertising to remain competitive, and that's not a bad thing. That's a tool we have at our disposal to ensure that our companies remain competitive and continue growing.”

… and why big brands grow bigger

Plus, says Dr Kite, those big companies realise that advertising investment delivers a profit multiple – they just haven’t always been able to quantify it. But that’s where econometrics comes in.

She cites the latest Thinkbox study by Ebiquity, GroupM, and WPP-owned Gain Theory, by way of example.

The study pooled £1.8 billion worth of media spend across 141 brands and 14 categories, “and they were able to go all the way through to the profitability of different advertising” says Dr Kite.

Crucially, these were large, mature businesses.

“In terms of profit, they came out with something like £1.90 for every £1 spent in the UK [on advertising]. That's fantastic. You can almost double your money by doing advertising if you are that type of [large] business.”

And that’s just the short-term profit impact, immediate and up to three months out. Long term – 14 weeks to two years – the data showed average ROI of £4.11 for every £1 invested in advertising across the pool.

Interestingly, Dr Kite noted the study found that for those larger businesses, “print, audio and TV were the strongest [channels] on profit”.

Something to bear in mind for those marketers still finalising FY25 budgets.

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Talking Media with Nine: Off the Island – Is Australia’s Distance a Tyranny or an Advantage? ​

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Episode Five

Off the Island – Is Australia's Distance a Tyranny or an Advantage?

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CURIOSITY QUOTIENT

Belinda Rowe and David Alberts: Mindless media, ‘juniorisation’, shallow purpose and why CQ – curiosity quotient – is replacing IQ and EQ in marketing’s future supply chain

High-calibre Australian exports Belinda Rowe and David Alberts have bossed it globally in media, creative agencies and beyond. They think Australia’s marketing supply chain can remain relevant by simplifying, heading upstream, building businesses around curiosity, and better matching more diverse junior and senior talent to where media, marketing and advertising needs to head to survive.

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It's not rocket science

Australia is insulated from the rest of the world. That brings both upside and downside, say two industry heavyweights with global experience at the highest level.

Brash confidence can only get people so far, suggest Belinda Rowe and David Alberts. “Be a learn it all” instead of “a know it all”, says Alberts, while Rowe thinks Australia would benefit from more diverse leadership instead of the same faces job-hopping at the top – and listening to, and employing, a broader, more diverse range of voices full stop.

Meanwhile, they think experience counts now more than ever – yet media owners and agencies continue to shed older heads as Alberts’ “juniorisation” runs rampant. That leaves older staff facing narrowing options and robs junior staff of mentors and imparted wisdom.

Rowe, a former global boss at Publicis-owned Zenith, thinks diversity and difference of thought is why independent agencies are thriving locally and globally as brands recognise that the “cookie-cutter” scale on offer from global holding companies is less relevant now that technology is cheap and widely available.

Alberts, a one-time regional creative director at BBDO, Publicis Mojo and ECD/Chairman at Grey Global before founding leadership network BeenThereDoneThat, thinks media and marketing can solve its problems by stripping back complexity, de-siloing and focusing on what matters, i.e. a race to the top instead of a race to the bottom.

That is, “considered media” and nudging consumers to “buy less, but buy better” versus “TikTok made me buy it”.

The enemy, says Alberts, is “mindless media”. The fix, he suggests, is focusing on relevance and simplicity, with businesses leading from the top on purpose that inspires staff and permeates outwards – enabling brands to walk the talk and giving consumers and customers something genuine to believe in.

In that sense, brands should aim to be more Pukka Tea and less Kendall Jenner-era Pepsi, according to the duo, harnessing the full potential of their collective experience and financial firepower to contribute to culture instead of trying to “own culture”.

Says Alberts: “It’s not rocket science, just talent pointed in the right direction.”

Culture, nuance, diversity, purpose

In a wide-ranging podcast, Rowe and Alberts unpack how the Australian market differs from its global counterparts when it comes to change. Australian CEOs are “much more hopeful about the future of their business”, says Rowe, while in the US, there’s a much stronger “imperative for reinvention” – “they feel that potentially in 10 years that their business might not be relevant as it is today”.

Rowe says that sentiment is something that leaders may look to embrace locally, and for Alberts, it all comes down to the need find different ways of working. “It’s a simpler model, a talent-based model that actually can help solve problems, because we’re not solving a lot of them at the moment,” he says.

Diversity of thought begets better brands, suggests Rowe – and embracing diversity must come from the top so that it flows through the entire organisation. “Because that gets reflected out to what you’re doing in society and how you’re interacting with customers,” she says. “If you don’t have that, if you’re not authentic, if you’re not living your values and your culture internally, then it’s really hard to get momentum.”

Longevity, ageism and curiosity as differentiator

For much of the last century a high IQ was seen as an indicator of problem solving, logic and likely success. Then EQ, or emotional intelligence, came along and seemingly trumped it. But Alberts thinks CQ – curiosity quotient – is the new differentiator.

“Going forward, I think EQ is going to be replaced by CQ,” says Alberts. He thinks it can help solve what he calls the “juniorisation” of media.

“The curiosity quotient is something that can happen at all ages of your journey. In fact, our job now is to help make a more curious workforce. A lot of corporations have got so used to cutting senior people and taking away the agency of the employees and outsourcing the thinking. But if we can find a way to stimulate that curiosity within organisations, then I think you’re going to once again breathe life back into organisations that are stagnating.”

By instilling and rewarding curiosity, Belinda Rowe thinks businesses will find the answers to the existential challenge of remaining relevant in a rapidly changing world – because a diverse, curious workforce will help find those solutions naturally. But that means making work work for the workers.

“We need to look at different models and different ways of working,” says Rowe. “And that is a simpler, talent-based model that actually can help solve problems – because we’re not solving a lot of them at the moment.”

Media, lose the bias; advertisers, think what you’re funding

While social media is eating the lion’s share of digital ad dollars, Alberts suggests those dollars are fuelling division.

“I’m currently very involved in a project for the European Commission on how to tackle hatred in society. It’s a project where we bring 150 citizens from around Europe together to discuss the issues and challenges being faced,” he says.

“One of the things these citizens said is that the whole algorithmic role of social media to get clicks and as a marketing tool is to divide rather than bring people together. I think they really identified the vested interests of those platforms to do that.”

But he says “traditional and independent media”, i.e. legacy publishers, are also increasingly perceived as unbalanced, divisive and part of the problem.

“I think there’s a very strong feeling coming through that the role of different media companies is to put forward their own points of view and use their media channels to divide and conquer as well,” says Alberts.

“Brands need to understand the audiences they’re talking to and where they place their media. But I think people [publishers and platforms] need to start understanding what the citizens of society are looking for and understanding the responsibilities we have in tackling hate in society.”

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Talking Media with Nine: Stoking the Cultural Campfire – How Content is a Constant in an Era of Fragmentation

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Episode Four

Stoking the Cultural Campfire - How Content is a Constant in an Era of Fragmentation

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THINK BIGGER

Telstra CMO Brent Smart says brands need to ditch omnichannel obsession, ‘luggage matching’ and junk ads for a deeper cultural connection, bigger ideas and ultimately 5x bigger impact

Telstra CMO Brent Smart thinks most ads are “pollution” and marketers are way too rational in their messaging, missing growth as a result. Meanwhile, omnichannel obsession will deliver diminishing returns. Think bigger across fewer channels, says Smart. His CEO appears to agree, as do Nine CMO Liana Dubois and Content Chief Adrian Swift. Plus, what great TV content – and great TV ads – look like.

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Don't match luggage

An “obsession” with “360-degree omnichannel” marketing campaigns risks killing growth, warns Telstra CMO Brent Smart, because the tail is effectively wagging the dog – and the pursuit of quantity over quality is turning off audiences and customers.

“Most advertising is pollution,” says Smart. He instead aims for “the right 360 degrees” done well, in the right channels, where everything ladders back to a “big idea that’s going to have a big impact, but most importantly is able to integrate everything across multiple channels.”

Marketing effectiveness rulebooks, says Smart, show that harnessing multiple channels drives effectiveness – because ongoing media fragmentation requires stitching audiences together. “But that taps out at five or six channels,” he says. “Once you get beyond that, you’re getting diminishing returns.”

Which means picking the right channels to create scale and network effects – and crafting creative specifically for those channels. Not “matching luggage,” says Smart, but “how does it to turn up in a way that’s really fit for the channel, fit for the platform … but still laddering up to a core idea.”

Linear TV, he says, doesn’t deliver the mass reach it used to in a single Sunday night hit, but it remains a brand-building cornerstone. “It still plays a critical role, but you’ve got to build around it – it can’t be the silver bullet for reach it used to be.”

Neither can it be a silver bullet for business results if the ads are dull. Emotional, well-crafted storytelling over rational messaging is crucial to moving the needle, says Smart, because “most people aren’t ready to buy now”, so hitting them with rational retail offers is a waste of their time and marketers’ money. “I think most marketers are missing that opportunity,” he suggests.

Play a bigger role

Adrian Swift, Head of Content, Production & Development at Nine, says brand marketers and TV networks are effectively in the same game: Finding audiences across multiple channels through storytelling. Audiences won’t hang around if the stories are boring, says Swift, while Nine CMO Liana Dubois says both the ads and the programming have to be great – because humdrum ad breaks risk people switching channel and crimp the consumer experience.

Swift agrees with Smart that tapping into emotion is key, but “not to be too highfalutin about it.” He says TV has a duty to go beyond emotional resonance and into cultural fabric by telling the human stories and surfacing societal issues that might not otherwise reach a mainstream audience.

Smart says marketers must likewise help to shape culture – and thinks while many CMOs are morphing into chief customer officers, there is a further step required.

“I don’t think it’s enough anymore just to be the voice of the customer as a marketer. I think the unique perspective that marketers can bring – and should bring – is to be the voice of culture. Understand what’s going on in culture,” he says.

“I always say a desk is a dangerous place to do marketing from. Get out and watch the latest Marvel film, go and watch what people are watching on Netflix, watch Swifty’s shows, understand what’s going on in culture, because ultimately brands need to have that cultural lens when we create stuff.

“The truly great brands don’t just reflect what’s happening in culture. They create things that become a part of culture.

“If you can get to that level as a brand, then it creates a whole different level of conversation about your brand, connection with your brand, a really revered place for your brand. For me, that’s the ultimate goal.”

Find untapped niches

Tapping into culture means going beyond mainstream thinking and traditional mainstream audiences. Nine’s Dubois and Swift suggest FAST channels can play a role in packaging those niches to create a richer cultural whole.

“The Olympics is the perfect example of that where Nine will have up to 40 FAST channels – it will be everything from a curling FAST channel [for the Winter Games], the skateboarding channel, to the breakdancing channel – both are new sports for Paris,” says Swift.

“There will be a serious audience for those things, and it means we can go from the macro [of mass audiences] to the non-macro [of deeper, highly engaged niches] and bring them into our world.”

What great integration looks like

In its latest financial filings, Telstra’s CEO called out its “strong” Christmas campaign as driving Q4 results. Smart says the ad – a story of a lost reindeer which ultimately encouraged kids to call Santa for free on Telstra’s payphones – saw those call volumes increase 5x and engagement rocket.

“It’s awesome to have our CEO talk about marketing,” says Smart. “We could have just done classic retail ads like the rest of the category. But we took the opportunity to tell a bigger, richer, emotional story.”

Smart thinks the best example of integration done well lies across the ditch. As an ex-insurance marketer at IAG, he lauds insurer Partners Life’s recent efforts. He reckons it sets the benchmark for TV-brand partnerships.

“They came up with this incredible idea called ‘Last Performance’. They partnered with New Zealand’s most popular murder mystery show, The Brokenwood Mysteries. In each show, someone dies,” says Smart.

“What they did quite brilliantly was at the end of each episode, just before the credits rolled, they brought that person back to life, the actual character – and they talked about how surprised they were that they were dead, and that they should have got life insurance.

“It was seamlessly integrated into the show and they only ran that one spot at the end of each episode. That’s all they did – and it was amazing.

“I think leads to their website were up over 150 per cent. It was incredibly successful and incredibly effective – such a fantastic piece of storytelling and understanding of content.”

What powerful TV looks like

Nine’s Adrian Swift likewise looks overseas for the most powerful piece of storytelling he’s seen of late – ITV’s Mr Bates vs. The Post Office.

The show dramatised a sadly true story of “state and corporate malfeasance”, in which the UK’s Post Office prosecuted sub-postmasters – people running small post offices – for accounting errors that were ultimately the fault of its IT systems, accusing them of theft. “It led to not just prosecution and bankruptcy, but suicide,” says Swift.

Despite the problems being reported on in the UK for years, there was “no real effect,” says Swift.

“Then ITV put out Mr Bates vs. The Post Office and the entire nation sat up and took notice. People were handing back OBEs and MBEs, people were being sacked. Suddenly the earth moved and now they’re all going to be compensated to the tune of millions of pounds,” says Swift.

“That it took a drama on ITV – on free-to-air television with ads – to galvanise a nation in defence of these people who, to this point, hadn’t been properly defended, fascinated me.

“I wasn’t even sure TV still had the power to do that. It turns out it does.”

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TODAY: Your Way

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TODAY, your way

TODAY is more than just a breakfast show. We are a family to our viewers, bringing Australians all the latest in sport, entertainment, weather, finance, breaking news and more, seven days a week. We are a trusted voice, a place to laugh, and a safe space to guide our viewers through challenging times.

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The TODAY EXTRA team covers everything from entertainment, celebrity interviews and news to practical lifestyle content such as fashion, beauty, parenting and relationships, health and nutrition. Hosted by David Campbell and Sylvia Jeffreys, airing nationally Monday to Friday 9.00am-11.30am and Saturday 10.00am-12.00pm.​

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The TODAY Weekend team bring you the latest in news, weather, current affairs, sports, politics, entertainment, fashion, health and lifestyle. It goes to air nationally on Saturday and Sunday from 7.00am to 10.00am, hosted by two of Australia’s most respected journalists, Clint Stanaway and Jayne Azzopardi. ​

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The TODAY Weekend team bring you the latest in news, weather, current affairs, sports, politics, entertainment, fashion, health and lifestyle. It goes to air nationally on Saturday and Sunday from 7.00am to 10.00am, hosted by two of Australia’s most respected journalists, Clint Stanaway and Jayne Azzopardi. ​

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Check out how we've helped brands realised their big ideas by connecting with Australian communities far and wide

Stat1

57% Female
43% Male

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61% are main Grocery Buyers

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40% of TODAY viewers are working professionals

People 18-59 make up 50% of the TODAY Show audience ​

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Source: OzTam ( 5 City Metro) Nine Primary, 12/02/2023 - 16/04/2023, 01/04/2023 - 02/12/2023, Today, Profile, Reach, Total People, Consolidated 7.

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Our morning TV audience is growing across all screens

2.2M

Weekly Total TV reach

+25%

Year-on-year
BVOD average audience growth

+90%

Of viewers are in the Eastern Seaboard

+308K

Total TV average audience per episode

+87%

Of minutes viewed was via a Connected TV in 2023

Source: TVMAP VOZ Analyser, VOZ Data 5.0 © OzTAM Pty Limited [2023], National, Metro 5 Cities, Regional (Incl WA RoA), Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Queensland, Northern NSW, Southern NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, Regional WA, Nine Content, 12/02/2023 - 01/04/2023, 16/04/2023 - 02/12/2023, Cumulative Reach, Today, Today Season 2023, Total People, P 18-39, P 25-54, P 55+, GS 18+, Total TV, Consolidated 7. ​OzTam (5 City Metro + Regional Combined Panel) Nine Primary, 12/02/2023 - 16/04/2023, 01/04/2023 - 02/12/2023, Today, Total People, P 18-39, P 25-54, P 55+, GS 18+ w CH, Average Audience, Consolidated 7. ​OzTAM LIVE VPM, Today, 12/02/2023 - 16/04/2023, 01/04/2023 - 02/12/2023, includes co-viewing on connected TV devices.

Today delivers information
your way

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"As Australians morning routines evolve...TODAY welcomes people into their living rooms, joins them on their commute and entertains them on their phones long after the program is over."

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A powerful ecosystem​​

Reaching Aussies no matter
where they choose to engage

TODAY is building a community on social media 

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Facebook

Followers

2.5M followers

61% female vs 39% male

Majority of audience 25-44

Avg. 18.7M
video views per month

Avg. 870K
engagements per month

Instagram

Followers

74% female vs 26% male

Majority of followers 35-54

13% audience from Sydney and 11% Melbourne

Avg. 3.2M
video views per month

Avg. 233K
engagements per month

TikTok

Followers

our fastest growing online community

53% female and 47% male

Largest demographic is 18-24 (33%) followed closely by 25-34 y.os (26%)

Avg. 3.9M
video views per month

Source: Meta Business Suite and TikTok Business Suite (Feb 2024)

Today x Shell’s Way

Teaming up with Australia’s top Breakfast show was the ultimate way for Shell to connect with their target audience of everyday Australians always on the move. ​​

This partnership with TODAY ensured year-round brand visibility with the consumers they wanted to reach.

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Chery Motors strategically leveraged Australia's TODAY show for the OMODA 5 launch, featuring a high-stakes stunt where six contestants fought to keep their hand on the car, with the winner securing a brand-new OMODA 5.

Our market leading experts lead the way, across all categories

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Experience the all-new Nine's Traffic Network: a premium upgrade to your morning routine. Recently revamped with a sleek new look and feel, our traffic reports seamlessly blend into TODAY Show and TODAY Extra, offering valuable and timely information to an engaged audience. ​​

Trusted by Aussies for over 60 years, Nine remains committed to delivering reliable information at scale. Brands can align with this premium service via a host live read and visual on screen, ensuring their message reaches engaged audiences during their morning commute. With multiple updates each weekday covering Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, Nine's Traffic Network keeps Australians informed and prepared for the day ahead.

Don't miss the opportunity to elevate your brand with the credibility and style of Nine's all-new Traffic Network.

Amplify your brand story by aligning with TODAY

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The TODAY Show loves to engage directly with viewers through fun and exciting consumer promotions. With the cost of living placing pressure on households all over Australia, put your brand front and centre by giving back to Aussies through a TODAY Consumer Promotion.

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The TODAY weather host broadcasts live from different events and locations around Australia and abroad, and across the morning showcases these for our viewers. This is the perfect opportunity for brands with an event, activation or special location to showcase.

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Align your brand to TODAY’S most popular regular segments: Weather, Sport, Entertainment, Your Money, Tech, Property and more.

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Integrate your brand within a Sponsored Editorial Segment. TODAY creates tailored integration opportunities to meet brand objectives and align with campaign goals. The best opportunities exist when aligning to contextual news or calendar events.

To find out what your brand can achieve with morning TV, request a tailored response to help realise your marketing objectives. 

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Talking Media with Nine: The Unfair Advantage – Brands and The Power of Sport

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Episode THREE

The Unfair Advantage - Brands and The Power of Sport

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GO ALL-IN EARLY

‘Medals equal memories’: How brands can realise huge growth, ROI and loyalty – if they start their Olympic and Paralympic journey now

Catherine Clark, CEO, Paralympics Australia, urges corporate Australia to support athletes on the journey to Paris through to Brisbane and beyond. Gemba’s Adam Hodge says the ROI and pay-off is huge for brands that get it right – and go all-in early.

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Eight-year runway

Brands now have an eight-year runway to prepare for Brisbane 2032. The smart ones are already on the journey – and will reap the benefits, according to Catherine Clark, CEO, Paralympics Australia.

“It’s the ultimate reality TV,” she says, “the ultimate human storytelling.” And for brands, the Games – and sports sponsorship in general – represent “one of the best ROI options that we have” for building communities.

Latest data from Gemba backs that view, says its Head of Marketing Strategy, Adam Hodge, with massive increases in brand trust as a result of sports sponsorships, which in turn builds brand loyalty.

This is backed up by Nine’s latest Consumer Pulse – Sport research, showing that 1 in 5 of Nine’s audience are more likely to trial or purchase a product if that brand is a sponsor of their favourite sporting team (higher among under-45 year-olds) and 1 in 6 are more likely to trust a company that sponsors their favourite sporting team.

He says brands must walk a fine line between “stepping too far and trying to save the world with a sponsorship, and forgetting that end of a day ‘I've still got to sell cars or soft drinks or shoes.’ What we’re seeing now is that the brands getting the best results are those who are finding the middle ground.”

Toyota template

Authenticity and values alignment is crucial for a successful sponsorship – where the likes of Toyota, says Clark, are setting a template that other brands could lift. 

The carmaker is the mobility partner for the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics – supplying a fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles as well as accessible people-movers, wheelchair e-pullers and three-wheeled electric scooters to help people get around.

It’s showcasing its business beyond cars while providing a genuinely useful service that sits at the core of the Games.

“Many people incorrectly call them our automotive partner,” says Clark. “Yes, they do great cars, but Toyota with the Paralympics, that inclusion and diversity piece, has also created solutions for all kind of mobility aids that can help people – athletes, coaches, support staff who are in wheelchairs – make their way around the village or anywhere around the Games precinct.

“Toyota for me is one of those brands where they have really gone all in.”

That runs through the business – well beyond marketing, she suggests.

“Talking with some of the people who are in and around the Toyota community about how proud they are of their partnership, recalling stories of working with athletes, working with people with disabilities, knowing that they have made a huge impact on their life, that has really sat with me,” she adds.

“Whether we’re talking about the automotive category like Toyota, or to the Nikes, the Lulu Lemons, whatever your product offer is, accessibility is becoming really important so that people can connect and see that you have an offering that suits them from where they are in their life.” 

Emotion wins

The emotional rollercoaster of sport provides huge scope for brands to deliver long-lasting ad effectiveness.

Gemba’s data – the Gemba Creative Score – shows that brands investing in creative relevant to the environment get markedly better results. 

“Over the last 12 months that we’ve been tracking hundreds of ads through sponsorship, we’ve seen between four and six per cent uplift in cut-through for those brands who are creating advertising specifically for the environment,” says Hodge.*

“Five or six per cent might not seem a lot, but when you factor that out over the volume of spend we are talking about, it is a really significant difference.”

Untapped ROI

Beyond the Olympics, Gemba’s data also underlines that women’s sport provides one of the strongest returns for brands – far higher than men’s sports. 

“We did a study at the end of last year, which showed that for every dollar invested into women's sport in Australia you’re seeing a return of $7.29,” says Hodge. “You don't see that anywhere else in the men’s formats. It’s a really great opportunity for those brands that want to come in and make a big change.”

Westpac, he says, is a standout example of a brand walking the talk.

“What Westpac have done with their dollar-for-dollar investment in rugby league across men’s and women’s is the first time a brand has in the contract written down ‘every dollar we spend on the men, we will spend on the women’. The bank is going to audit the rights holder to make sure at the end of the year they show the receipts that they’ve actually done it,” says Hodge.

“That’s going beyond the lip service of putting your logo on the women’s team – and paying them a tenth of what you pay the men.”

Commit now

Clark is asking Australian brands this year to make similar commitments to support Australia’s diverse sporting community – from grassroots all the way to Brisbane 2032 and beyond.

“I really want to see corporate Australia get behind our Olympic and Paralympic teams,” she says, many of which “do it tough from a commercial point of view” and struggle to get from one Olympic cycle to the next.

“I’d love to see our big brands supporting our athletes, getting engaged, celebrating and sharing those stories, becoming part of the Aus squad, and joining us on our journey – because we can’t do it without them.”

Gemba’s Hodge says brands that get on board now will drive long-term growth.

“Aussies love a winner. I think all the predictions for this Olympic squad is that it’s going to be the best since Sydney 2000. Medals equal memories in this country – and those medals will directly translate to results for the brands that are involved,” says Hodge.

“This is really the beginning of the journey to Brisbane 2032, and an Olympics investment is not a small one – you need to be in this for the long term.

“If you’re waiting until the games in ’32 to start talking about your association, you’ve missed 10 years.”

Clark agrees, saying: “We need to prepare ourselves for having the biggest sports party we’ve ever dreamt of.”

*Source: The Impact of Tailored Sponsorship Content/Advertising. Gemba 2022 

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Talking Media with Nine: Disruption, fragmentation and convergence – what is the Future of TV?​

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Episode Two

Disruption, Fragmentation and Convergence - What is the Future of TV?

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CONSENT NOW KING

FAST accelerates as Nine primes 40 channels, backs VOZ Streaming to keep scale, add targeting – but consent is now king and advertisers are missing tricks

Rapidly scaling FAST channels and new buying tools mean advertisers can still build massive TV reach fast, say Nine’s Liana Dubois and Nick Young. But brands and buyers could be smarter about how they harness formats and targeting capability. On the flip side, going too narrow will ultimately crimp growth. Meanwhile, spelling out exactly how data is being used is critical.

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VOZ is here

Nine Commercial Director of Digital, Nick Young, is backing the launch of the cross-network VOZ Streaming system to unlock greater scale for advertisers, while sharpening targeting and reducing wastage. Due in market this year, he urged other BVOD players to plug-in to the initiative alongside Seven, Nine and Paramount-owned Ten.

Despite accelerating fragmentation, shifts in consumption habits and linear TV moving from antennae-delivered to internet-delivered shows, Young, and Nine CMO Liana Dubois suggested advertisers can still tap massive TV audiences at speed – if they harness all the tools at their disposal.

VOZ Streaming uses the OzTAM identifier to enable advertisers to plan, buy and post-analyse reach across participating BVOD platforms. It’s designed to reduce duplication and solve cross broadcaster frequency capping challenges – i.e. hitting the same people with the same ad too many times across multiple broadcasters.

Young said VOZ has gained traction since launch, enabling marketers to “measure their investment back to campaign goals”. But he said that is just “stage one”. Total TV activation – i.e. optimising reach outcomes across broadcast & Digital TV – is the next stage.

“VOZ Streaming is a product that will enable reach and frequency-based buying across – 9Now, 7Plus & 10Play - for the moment– but we hope other providers will see the benefit and want to get involved,” he said.

“It provides a cross-broadcaster BVOD reach product and it also enables data matching for BVOD. So the combination of VOZ from a measurement and planning perspective with the streaming activation that will happen this year will enable marketers to still reach mass audiences at scale while being able to target using data.”

Hitting FAST accelerator

While traditional TV drives “water cooler” moments, particularly live sports, underlined by huge audiences for last year's Women’s FIFA World Cup and this year’s Australian Open – there is only so much sport, and spectrum, to go around.

Delivering sport and live events via IP-delivered TV adds targeting capability to that scale – as well as the ability to create a collection of niche audiences that advertisers can stitch together in order to engage more deeply with viewers around subjects and content they care about.

Which is where FAST channels – free ad-supported TV – start to open up new opportunities. These channels are based on specific genres or even a specific show, curated in a linear fashion: i.e. the shows keep playing, non-stop, with ad breaks.

Their attraction is to pull in audiences to the things they are most interested in, while removing the hassle of searching for things to watch. “That’s a very real problem,” says Young, with more than a kernel of truth in the “joke that it takes longer on Netflix to find a show than watch it”. Nielsen data from 2023 suggests on demand viewers spend an average of 10.5 minutes searching for something to watch, about 40 per cent more searching time than in 2019.

FAST channels mean brands can ‘own’ the environment and reach audiences that, albeit smaller, are deeply engaged, reducing potential wastage. The trick is then stitching those audiences together – using tools like VOZ.

Nine currently has two FAST channels in market – youth-focused Pedestrian TV and a dedicated Seinfeld channel that houses all 180 classic episodes.

The network has more coming this year, “something like 40 FAST channels over the period of the Olympics and Paralympics” alone, according to Liana Dubois. “They give incremental viewing choice to consumers who seemingly have an insatiable appetite for content”, particularly when it is packaged up and made easy for them.

Creative thinking required

But Nick Young urges advertisers to be smarter about how they tap into FAST to move beyond a “limited view” of its potential.

“The flexibility we have as a broadcaster around that uncluttered environment, and the ability to develop a TVC with that brand for two minutes of an ad break that reflects the content of that particular channel … There are so many ways we can work with a brand to integrate within a FAST channel in a far better way.”

“These shows and products are hugely popular with that relevant audience – a small audience, no question, but hugely popular. Which means the engagement and trust they have for these brands can be reflected in new and innovative ways. Because they are served digitally, there’s things like sequential ad messaging and dynamically served ads, so many different approaches that we can utilise – but that I'm not seeing that much of. I'd like to see more.”

Brand vs demand

Large advertisers have been getting their first-party data in order – and using it to better target logged-in audiences via anonymised data matching. It means they can avoid targeting people who probably won’t be interested in their products – such as a car brand doesn’t want to waste budget on putting ads in front of someone who has just bought a car. Or targeting only those more likely to buy their product, like dog owners who will probably want to buy dog food.

“We’ve seen a huge rise as everyone gets a CDP [customer data platform], especially the big advertisers, investing in data analytics and crafting out that segmentation,” said Young.

“Certainly, now with cookies [going out] and privacy coming in, those products are in vogue, and we are working with clients day-to-day on the activation and suppression of audiences in real-time. We’re seeing a real focus by these businesses to buy in a way that is relevant to create conversion.”

But Young thinks segmentation can go too far. If advertisers end up targeting “one or two people in Bondi, that can be really expensive”, with advertisers better off just “knocking on their doors”, he suggested.

“So while we’re seeing great work in creating customer profiles and segmentation, you’ve still got to hit a broad audience – and you’ve still got to maintain a large volume to be able to shift the dial.”

Likewise, said Dubois, going broad builds brand and “future demand” for people who might be ready to buy in future.

Consent is king

Although content remains critical as TV networks and streaming platforms vie for audiences, consent is now likewise king when it comes to using audience data to serve targeted ads.

“Consent-based approval is actually the key to any data targeting products or data products that we use,” said Young. Audiences understand the exchange – free content for targeted ads. But both publishers and brands must ensure that audience contract is crystal clear in terms of what data is collected and how it is used, given incoming overhauls to Australia’s privacy laws.

“The old joke used to be that the biggest lie ever told on the internet was ‘yes, I agree’, and ‘I have read your terms and conditions’. But those days are over. So from a Nine perspective, we’re focused on making sure people understand the relationship between our content and their data, and how that can give them a better experience, both from an advertising perspective and a content consumption perspective.”

“Fundamentally, that puts the network in a position of complete compliance.”

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Talking Media with Nine: Data, AI and Marketing – Charting the Uncharted in 2024

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Episode One

Data, AI and Marketing - Charting the Uncharted in 2024

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MARKETERS ARE ON THE FRONT LINE

Nine’s Liana Dubois and Suzie Cardwell with ADMA’s Andrea Martens discuss incoming post-privacy, post-cookie impacts

Seismic shifts in data privacy, the demise of third-party cookies, and the burgeoning influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) make 2024 “the most pivotal year for marketers in decades,” warns ADMA CEO Andrea Martens, with marketers “on the front line” for ensuring compliance under the new rules of engagement. Nine’s CMO Liana Dubois, Chief Data Officer Suzie Cardwell and ADMA CEO Andrea Martens, unpack what’s coming rapidly down the track. 

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Data privacy impacts

The year heralds the most extensive review of the Privacy Act since its late-1990s inception. What we know so far is these changes redefine personal information and place new demands on businesses. Companies must adapt to these legal shifts, balancing the collection and use of consumer data with heightened transparency and ethical considerations. This evolution challenges marketers to rethink their data strategies, pushing them towards more responsible and transparent practices in how they handle customer information.

In another seismic shift, the imminent removal of the Small Business exemption spells a broader impact. Marketers across businesses of all sizes now face the challenge of pre-emptively considering the use of data, weighing its benefits against privacy and ethical risks. The narrative shifts from data collection to responsible data stewardship, emphasising consent, transparency, and consumer protection. As ADMA CEO Andrea Martens puts it: “There’s a real shift in the onus of responsibility from customer to the business to act more responsibly, and to be more transparent in the data practices and notices. Businesses will need to decide if collecting data is worth the risk.”

Cookies crunch

Suzie Cardwell addresses the game-changing scenario of third-party cookie deprecation, a move set to redefine digital advertising. This development underlines the importance of first-party data, marking a critical juncture for targeted communication and audience engagement strategies. The reliance on third-party cookies has been a cornerstone of digital marketing; its absence necessitates a fundamental reassessment of targeting practices. Marketers are now compelled to develop more direct, consent-based relationships with consumers, fostering trust and relevance in an increasingly privacy-conscious world. Cardwell stresses the importance of transparency in data collection and consent management, especially with new types of data being considered personal information. “We need to make sure that with those new types of data, if we are collecting it, first of all, we're very transparent with the consumer about the fact that we're doing that” she says. Plus, if people decide they don’t want their data held, businesses need to make opt-outs easy.

AI
ascendancy

AI’s ascent in the marketing domain offers a blend of challenges and opportunities. It automates mundane tasks, freeing marketers to focus on creative and strategic endeavours. However, ethical considerations and the need for responsible AI governance cannot be overstated. The integration of AI in marketing must be approached with a blend of enthusiasm and caution, ensuring data integrity and ethical usage. AI's potential to personalise customer experiences is counterbalanced by the need for transparency and adherence to privacy norms. Liana Dubois sees AI's potential to enhance customer experiences and personalise marketing efforts as significant, but it must be balanced with ethical considerations. She says: “The idea of [AI] can only be as good as the tradesperson using it.”

CMO warning

Businesses that are already applying best data practices “don’t need to be worried” about incoming privacy law changes, says Martens. “It is the marketers that believe compliance sits somewhere else in the business, that it sits with the legal teams or their agencies, they’re actually the ones that need to get across the changes. Because the reality is that the marketers are the ones that are going to be at the front line … It is not something that can be delegated to another department.”

In this context, internal collaboration within companies takes on paramount importance. As organisations grapple with the complexities of new data privacy regulations, the phasing out of third-party cookies, and the ethical integration of AI, the need for cohesive internal strategy becomes clear. Departments such as marketing, legal, data management, and technology must work in unison to navigate these changes effectively. This internal synergy is not just about compliance or technology adoption – it’s about creating a unified vision that places the consumer at the forefront, ensuring that all facets of the company are aligned in their approach to these new challenges.

Summary 

The year 2024 marks a significant turning point for marketers. Balancing the technical aspects of data privacy, cookie deprecation, and AI with the art of creativity and consumer centricity will be key to navigating these changes successfully. As we embrace these challenges, the internal focus must be on transparency, ethics, and collaboration whilst building trust and providing value to the consumer.

Key take-aways 

Embrace transparency in data handling: Understand and adapt to evolving data privacy regulations. Be clear about what data you’re collecting and why, ensuring transparency with consumers.

Focus on first-party data: With the deprecation of third-party cookies, shift your focus to building and leveraging first-party data. Develop direct relationships with your audience based on trust and consent.

Collaborate for better insights: Work collaboratively within your organisation and with external partners to share insights and strategies. This can help in better understanding and navigating the changing marketing landscape.

Prepare for AI integration: Acknowledge the role of AI in marketing and prepare for its ethical and effective use. AI can automate routine tasks and enhance customer experiences, but it must be managed responsibly.

Stay informed and adaptable: Continuously educate yourself about new laws, technologies, and market trends. Be adaptable in your strategies to stay ahead in a rapidly evolving digital environment.

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