Woke up this morning unsure what you achieved in 2023? Not sure if you remember anything from the past year? Get up to speed on what’s been happening with part two of our industry round up. You can read part one here.
L – Lisa Wilkinson
Lisa Wilkinson found herself being the news rather than reading it in 2023 following her now infamous interview with former political staffer Brittany Higgins. As B&T publishes this article, Federal Court Justice Michael Lee is sitting in the defamation case brought against Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson by one-time accused rapist Bruce Lehrmann. Following an aborted trial owing to juror misconduct as to whether Lehrman was guilty of raping Brittany Higgins as she alleged, Lehrmann brought the defamation case that will ultimately decide on the balance of probability whether he did.
The saga has been one of the ugliest and most damaging politically in Australia’s history. In a twist of fate, Wilkinson is separately suing her employer Network 10 for its failure to pay her legal fees. Wilkinson famously joined Network 10 and The Project in 2017 after a pay dispute with Nine where she had co-hosted the Today Show for 15 years with Karl Stefanovic. She quit the program in November 2022, citing relentless attacks on her character as the main reason, but has remained with the network to work on other projects. No doubt there is a few more twists and turns in this tale for all involved.
M – The Murdochs
Lachlan Murdoch had his very own succession moment in 2023 when he finally ascended to the throne of his father’s empire News Corp. Like the Wilkinson story above, Murdoch junior found himself embroiled in a defamation case when he brought proceedings against the Private Media-owned news site Crikey. The most remarkable thing about this whole affair was its departure from Murdoch family policy to not sue people for defamation. Perhaps Lachlan had a change of heart of taking a new approach when he settled with Crikey and paid Private Media’s $1.3 million legal fees. So it was considerably happier news for the eldest of Rupert’s children when he became the sole chairman of News Corp and continued in his role as chair and chief executive of Fox Corp in September. A meeting this week with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was as good an indication as any as to the world controlling ambitions of the new king of news.
N – NFTs
Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) came crashing back to earth in October 2023 so much so that the month became known as ‘Floptober’ in crypto circles. While blockchain remains an incredibly useful technology, its ventures into the art world may have reached its peak. Hyped and sold by Paris Hilton and Jimmy Fallon, Bored Ape Yacht Club is one of its most famous series of NFT art. Individual images in the series sold for millions. But here’s the rub: Anyone can view it online and even copy and save it, but only the buyer has the status of being the official owner of its token. Proof is etched onto the uneditable record of the blockchain – a giant spreadsheet of transactions published online. B&T is still considering making its awards available in NFT format.
O – Open AI
Open AI was a name we all came to know this year as the owner of Chat GPT. Last week and this, it’s a name we cannot get away from. We also all got to know the name Sam Altman as well as the structure of the Open AI board and its apparent impotence. This story has changed so quickly you’d think it was evolving as quickly as AI itself. For now, it appears Altman is back, the board is almost certainly gone and Microsoft is ready and willing to take over the role of AI leader if Open AI does in fact fold. What is less clear, is how has a technology with so much significance for humanity and its future been allowed to operate in a structure where the fiduciary duties of the board can be shoved to one side and what was that board so afraid of?
P – Publicis Foundation
Publicis Foundation launched Working With Cancer, the first cross-industry coalition designed to remove the stigma of cancer in the workplace.
Publicis’ pledge includes providing cancer patients with job security for at least a year, and bringing the necessary career support for them and for caregivers in its organization. The company said the pledge would be amplified by a campaign – “Work/Life” – that shows what cancer patients go through when they hide their condition from their colleagues.
Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun, who was diagnosed and treated for cancer in April last year, said, “It is a tough reality, but whether directly or indirectly, every one of us will have to confront cancer in our lives and in our workplaces. Companies have a key role to play in that.
Publicis later took its Working with Cancer initiative to the biggest stage in the US: The Super Bowl.
The holding company said it will use the Super Bowl to build on the momentum of the global pledge it launched to galvanise the business world to better support and de-stigmatize employees working with cancer.
Q – Queer
Queer was all the rage in Australia in 2023 when for the first time Sydney played host to World Pride alongside the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Marketers were falling over themselves to get involved with P&G, Qantas, Deloitte, Coles and American Express just some of the household names to throw money at the event. Pink washing was again thrown around but funding for the pink dollar doesn’t appear to be drying up any time soon.
R – Rugby Australia
Rugby Australia has had a bad year and that’s even when you consider it’s probably had a bad decade. The game preferred by private school boys saw Australia bundled out in the group stage of the recent World Cup. One time Network Ten boss Hamish McClennan was this week shown the door from his role as Chairman by Rugby Australia after a coup of board members pointed to his tendency to make captain’s picks as the reasoning. Major sponsor Harvey Norman abandoned the code saying it would not renew its multi-million dollar contract and principal sponsor Cadbury is also reported as considering its sponsorship options. The code now finds itself in a precarious financial position.
S – S4 Capital
S4 Capital had a rough year on the back of its heavy exposure to tech clients. Sir Martin Sorrell’s post-WPP venture ran into trouble early in the year and as of today was worth just two per cent of its high-water mark valuation of £5.2 ($9.9) billion. Many viewed S4 Capital as a way for Sir Martin Sorrell to prove his critics wrong after leaving WPP under a cloud. Allegations of misuse of company funds for a sex worker where never substantiated, but being forced to leave the company he built up to be the biggest in the world left Sorrell with a burning desire to prove he was still a titan of the industry. No doubt his business will recover along with the tech clients he has, but with ill health plaguing the knight of the realm how much he has left in the tank is yet to be seen.
T – Telstra
Telstra ended its long-term relationship with The Monkeys, CHEP and DDB in favour for a bespoke agency +61 being built by TBWA and Bear Meets Eagle on Fire for creative and incumbent media agency OMD. It was Telstra CMO Brent Smart’s first major shakeup since assuming the mantel of Telstra’s top marketer in June 2022. He insists this agency will be nothing like anything anyone has seen before despite being at least partially built by the same agency that built Apple’s Creative Arts Lab.
U – UnLTD
UnLTD, the industries favourite social purpose organisation connecting the media, marketing and creative industries with charities helping children and young people at risk, has this year brought some much-needed vaudeville to the industry. Hosted by IAB Australia and UnLtd, the world premiere of “Addy Lala and the MOOD Tea Thieves” will be held at the Seymour Centre in Sydney on 5 December. It will tell the tale of a poor young media sales rep, Addy, struggling to meet targets. One day Addy overhears a group of peers with a magic phrase that may just change his chances of success.
The cast includes a range of industry figures such as GroupM boss Aimee Buchanan, oOh!media’s chief revenue officer Paul Sigaloff, OMD head honcho Peter Horgan and the IMAA’s CEO Sam Buchanan. Casey Martin as Addy Lala and Olivia Scott as her work BFF Teddy.
V – VOZ
VOZ, once hailed as the new measurement that would reassert TV’s dominance, had a largely forgettable year. Finally delivered in May this year, some five or so years after it was originally promised, it suffered the ignominy of having one of its major partners, Foxtel, snub the metric. Long time CEO Doug Pfeiffer departed OzTAM leaving his successor Karen Halligan with a rather large challenge on her hands.
W – WPP
Having mentioned its founder previously, WPP has fared better than S4 Capital, but like all the major holding companies, it’s had better years. With earnings and profit both down by roughly half of the previous year, the world’s biggest advertising group has given an even more sombre outlook citing a slowdown in China as well as the general contraction in global marketing budgets as the main malaise.
There’s a few things we can thank Elon Musk for. A revitalisation of the electric car market, PayPal and proof you don’t have to be sane to be successful. However anyone writing an A-Z list will be forever grateful to the man for giving us something other than X-rays or xylophones to talk about when we get to this very letter. RIP Twitter.
Y – YouTube
YouTube showed off at its September Brandcast event dancing around its enormous reach as free to air TV has struggled. “People have never had so much choice of what they watch or how they watch it,” said Caroline Oates, Google’s head of YouTube, deals & programmatic sales.
“YouTube is the number one video service that viewers across Australia and New Zealand say they love the most, reaching more than 17 million Aussies [and] three and a half million Kiwis every month.”
Oates continued to say that YouTube has the “viewer side of the equation figured out” and that it was 67 per cent more effective than linear TV and drives 43 per cent higher ROI, according to Nielsen MMM meta-analysis.”
B&T’s favourite marketing guru Professor Mark Ritson was even on stage where he enthused about the tech giant’s capability.
“I’m fascinated by all advertising media but YouTube especially interests me and has done for a few years. When you look at the data, it has this very unusual capability. Obviously, it’s video but we can use it both to aim at the masses to do top-of-funnel, long-term emotional brand building as a compliment, supplement or even a replacement occasionally for linear TV. Also, its targetability makes it a really good bottom-of-funnel activation medium, as well,” he said.
Z – Zamparutti
Rarely does a day go by at B&T when we don’t hear from our number one critic, Queensland’s Alan Zamparutti. Sadly few of Mr Zamparutti’s comments ever get published owing to his spicy choice of words and oft-controversial interpretations of social norms. Regardless of his observations rarely reaching a wider audience, our man is never deterred from sharing his views. So, Alan, this one’s for you.
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