More than the marketing money needed to keep the newsrooms open

May 27, 2013

Whilst making his acceptance speech for deservedly winning the Media Pioneer Award at the recent Media Awards, Dermot Hanrahan threw down the gauntlet to the young media planners in the room – support indigenous media. His point was that if the young media planners did not support our indigenous media today, it might not exist tomorrow.


The globalisation of everything in the world is an everyday topic. Economies of scale and more choice giving the consumer what he or she wants or a dumbing down of culture and quality that leads to Kardasahian TV and horse meat in our burgers.


There are undoubtedly serious implications. Many large multinational organisations have relocated their marketing functions to the UK, with comments like Ireland is a marketplace the same size as Birmingham echoing down the empty hallways. Increasing multinational media ownership is creating a new look Irish media landscape. The recent report, commissioned by TV3, by the London-based consultancy, Oliver and Ohlbaum (O&O), on the issue of foreign broadcasters in the Irish market stated that the British broadcaster Sky took 43% of television revenues in the state amounting to €382m, €157m more than RTE’s €225m. RTE’s much publicised financial woes have tangible effects on the products that they produce. Programme budgets decline and with them the quality of the product goes down so the theory goes.


I see an analogy in the world of food. The top chefs receive the top awards for producing great food, in season, sourced locally, yet potentially influenced by their experiences in other parts of the world. In the marketing world, we call it sharing best practice. You can’t cook a great meal in Dublin from Birmingham. And even if your recent knowledge afforded you some local knowledge in what to cook and when to cook it, you’ll soon find that tastes and fashions evolve quickly and it’s very easy to lose touch and relevance swiftly. The need for local knowledge will always be there, but people will only want it if it is coupled with excellence. Bacon and cabbage can be the best or worst meal in the world, depending on how it is prepared and presented.


Love Hate, Off the Ball, Vincent Browne (the written word or the Television show) are all brilliant examples of quality media delivering an experience that will resonate more with the Irish consumer than the Kardashians ever will. What they have in common is a true understanding of their audience (I can’t imagine Vincent going down well in downtown Birmingham) that is unique to the Irish people. The marketer based in London might not be aware of the change in personnel presenting Off the Ball (and indeed might not care), but the Irish based marketer will and will act accordingly. In a social media world where the importance of talking with and not at the consumer is paramount, these subtle differences will generate long term brand health.


The underlying theme to all of this is excellence. If we produce media choices to the highest standards budgets will follow. Indigenous media does not have a divine right to budgets. I believe Dermot would agree with me as his body of work of successful media companies show.


Australia has very similar issues. I read an interesting article in Monocle magazine about Australian print and broadcast media and what it described as the bloodbath of breakfast media setting the agenda for the country. One of the senior executives from the Fairfax media group, who face the potential threat of the Guardian entering the Aussie marketplace, had this to say, which rings true from an Irish perspective:


“Audiences are bigger than they have ever been in the history of Fairfax,” agrees Matthews. “[The editorial team] are delivering deeply engaged audiences. They get impacted by business issues, clearly, but the problem is the monopoly profits of the old days are gone. We don’t have an audience challenge; we have a business model challenge.”


Until recently Australia’s old media institutions operated in relative comfort, protected by generous regulation and offering limited options to a locked-in audience. But in the new landscape, threats, challenges and opportunities arrive from all angles at impossible speed. Sound familiar?


So a need to deliver excellence, which many of our media outlets do, is necessary, but there appears to be less progress in cracking the commercial imperative, and not all of those woes can be laid at the door of media buyers. Media buyers, under the instruction of their clients, will chase value, which sometimes means the lowest price, but often means buying the best environment and paying a premium for that. In cracking the commercial environment, new approaches need to be taken around the board rooms (and indeed the Union halls) of Ireland’s indigenous media players, to ensure that they can deliver all levels of value to the Irish advertising community, which will in turn lead to a stronger Irish marketing community and not one that’s feeling a little unsure of itself in the current challenging environment.







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