Katie McGrath is usually a behind the scenes player in one of Australia’s most well-known media companies, but for now she’s swapped out roles on the brink of launching her first book.
Chief People & Culture Officer at Seven West Media, McGrath’s book ‘Deadly Earth’ is the true story of her parents’ deaths (in their thirties) as a result of exposure to radioactive waste as well as what happened to her and her siblings after becoming an orphan at age four.
Seven’s Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer James Warburton described the book as “a harrowing read, but more than ever shows us the importance of being vulnerable, supporting our friends and colleagues, listening when they share their troubles and urging them to seek help.”
McGrath’s first three years of life were idyllic (pictured above, she’s the baby), surrounded by love and family in the affluent Sydney Harbourside suburb of Hunters Hill. Her parents worked hard to create a beautiful home for their young children, unaware that deadly radioactive waste was buried beneath the garden and foundations — a seeping malice which would destroy many lives.
Both her parents died mysteriously from cancer in quick succession, leaving behind four young orphans. The grieving children were forced into a hostile foster home where they had to learn to survive. Katie’s only escape became an imaginary white brick house with no doors or windows where she cocooned herself to escape the horrors of her young life.
Years later, after she has forged a successful life for herself with two daughters and a high-flying corporate career, McGrath’s world was once again turned upside down. She discovered suspicious details surrounding her parents’ deaths – and the deaths of others who lived on the very same idyllic street – and she vowed to uncover the truth at all costs. McGrath embarked on a deeply personal investigation that exposed the devastating impacts of systematic government failures at every level, on a young family just beginning their life together.
McGrath told B&T “having to go back and dig all the details up and get the dates and the people and all that kind of stuff” was traumatic. To cope with the process, she had six months of psychotherapy while she was writing the book.
Her psychotherapist she taught her techniques to handle re-living the trauma. “I started having flashbacks at night . . . it was really dangerous. But, you know, look, in the end it was all worth it. My brother says I did it to try and create the story of my life because I just never had the story of my parents or anything about them. He says I wrote this book to try and fill in all the missing bits of our life.
“I thought I was doing it to give my parents a voice because theirs were taken away from them when they’re in their mid 30s … this was my small way about trying to give some justice to them and give them a voice. Their names never got mentioned again after they died. We never talked about them. We went to a foster house where they said don’t talk about your parents. There’s no point talking about them. They never got talked about again. Never.”
Having dealt with personal tragedy on such a scale, you get to understand why McGrath has been able to carve out a career for herself in turning around businesses in crisis. Seven’s recent woes are well documented, and prior to that McGrath was instrumental in turning around publicly listed agency group Enero from the ruins of The Photon Group.
On Seven, she says the business under the leadership of Warburton is “definitely becoming a better place to work”.
“I think what we’ve been through, we’ve absolutely been through trauma for the past few years as the company faced up to the reality of its debt position. COVID, to be honest, didn’t destroy us. COVID was an opportunity for us to deal with all that stuff in a way that other businesses were just having to face up to.
“COVID was actually almost a cover for us because we had to do all our debt refinancing, we had to do more cost and cost out and restructuring. So I think we’ve got we got to the absolute bottom and now because we’ve got real clarity in the strategy around our content, that growth and the fact that out first, new content plays like Big Brother and Farmer Wants A Wife have absolutely nailed it.
“So, there’s a real confidence in the business and people who had forgotten what winning was like are now winning, but they’re also in a in a place where they can actually where the future lies ahead.”
McGrath says the bigger strategic picture for the company is it needs to be a bigger business.
“We need to be a business with greater scale. We need other assets, we need to diversify our revenue stream, and that’s what all of our debt reduction is going to allow us to do.”
Having worked in agency land and now Seven, B&T asked McGrath what were the biggest differences.
“I think the difference is that agencies better than any other businesses understand the importance of pitching to win. And the importance of team culture at a broad company level. A big media player like Seven is a big business. There’s 10,000 people on the payroll, there’s productions that happen, it’s a massive ship to turn around.
“Agencies are much more agile, they kind of get being the underdog. They’re not always the winners, right? Whereas Seven had been a winner for a really long time, and then when they don’t win, they’re not great at knowing how to not win.
“Whereas agencies have to pivot and manoeuvre really quickly and then change their focus and play the underdog. I think that actually, big media companies have a lot to learn from those smaller businesses, which is why we do a lot of agile development. The digital part of our businesses should be the leader, they should be setting the tone for every other part instead of the other way around.”
Deadly Earth’s launch will be this Wednesday in Sydney.
Interpublic Group (IPG) has named Philippe Krakowsky as its new global chief executive officer, effective from January 1 next year. Michael Roth, the current Chairman and CEO will remain in his current role until then and will become executive chairman of the board next year, the advertising firm said in a statement. Roth has been […]
A two-year partnership between Cricket NSW and the NSW Office of Responsible Gambling has been launched today, allowing cricket fans to enjoy their sport free of gambling advertising. John Dalzell, Chair of the Responsible Gambling Fund said the two-year ‘GambleAware’ partnership aims to address the normalisation of sports betting, particularly for children, and to raise […]
Seven’s Upfronts yesterday are the talk of media today. If you missed all the news, check out B&T’s reporting here. In this guest post, MediaCom’s chief investment officer, Claire Butterworth (pictured below), casts her expert eye over all of the announcements and has delivered these five key takeaways… Seven’s upfronts are the final of the […]
Quantium, Fetch TV and Adgile Media today announced a partnership that will finally allow consumer goods business to “close the loop” and measure the impact of their TV advertising on actual sales. The solution, Q.Measure TV, delivers the type of reporting that advertisers have come to expect in the digital world – timely, accurate and […]
Photoplay Films has launched the provocative ‘Letters’, a film aiming to raise awareness and mobilise political support for the Climate Change Act. Directed by Melvin J. Montalban, the campaign film encourages Australians to write to their local member of parliament urging them to support the new Climate Change Act, legislation essential to meaningful climate change […]
Australian diversified cleantech company, TrueGreen Group has appointed The One Centre to develop a new brand positioning strategy and launch its first-ever brand campaign, ‘Green is Good’. The campaign challenges Australians to think about how our collective superannuation savings can be used more purposefully to drive positive change by asking: “What future do you want […]
The year 2020 hit all the free-to-air networks hard, but perhaps none harder than Seven, a broadcaster who was already struggling to get its books out of the red. Even its chief executive James Warburton said at its virtual Upfronts on Wednesday COVID-19 hit Seven hardest, but by all accounts, the network’s key executives say […]
Grand Finalists Cameron Smith and Dustin Martin have topped Gemba’s NRL and AFL Gemba Asset Power Rankings for 2020, positioning them as the most marketable players in their respective leagues. The rankings are released today by Gemba, a leading sports and entertainment insights, strategy and communications agency. Topping the AFL Asset Power Rankings list are […]
It was labelled a ‘game changer’ for sport in Australia, more than 86,000 people piling into the MCG to watch Australia defeat India in the final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup. As well as making it the second-most attended women’s sporting event ever (falling just behind the 90,000+ crowd that watched the 1999 […]
In another step in the evolution of Val Morgan Outdoor (VMO), the NSW sales team has been consolidated into one team that now looks after all three business verticals – VMO Shop, VMO Active and VMO On-The-Go. To reflect the changes, VMO are proud to see two young team members progress into leadership positions. Both […]
The shift to virtual working looks here to stay, but when it comes to the annual Christmas party, Australian women are putting health concerns aside to mark the festive season in person, Are Media’s latest HerPulse 6.0 consumer sentiment survey has revealed. Despite restrictions easing in many states, more than a third of women (35%) […]
Sydney independent agency, This is Flow, has been appointed to handle all media strategy, planning and buying for Felix Mobile after a competitive pitch process. F elix is an exciting new brand born out of the newly merged TPG/Vodafone entity, TPG Telecom Limited. The merger of TPG and Vodafone in June this year created the […]
In this opinion piece, Shopify Plus APAC Director Shaun Broughton focuses on actions marketers can take to better understand their customer base and leverage learnings from success stories like Peter Sheppard and Aje during the pandemic on how to pivot and demonstrate agility in this fast-paced market… November is going to be one of the […]
Mission Australia’s new Christmas appeal highlights the pressures faced by Australia’s hidden homeless, people who are pushed into homelessness through no fault of their own, with a core message that every Australian should have a safe home. The fundraising campaign asks the community to donate to Mission Australia so the charity can support vulnerable individuals […]
Omnicom agencies are committing to move beyond the binary to mark International Pronouns Day as part of Open Pride, a global employee resource group committed to inclusion and diversity. As part of the initiative, Omnicom agencies, including DDB, PHD and Clemenger Group, have committed to ensuring all policies promote gender-inclusive language and have encouraged staff […]
As part of Lions Live in June, Lions Live challenged under 30s with a brief in partnership with the World Food Programme. It was free to enter, and nearly 1,000 young adlanders entered. It was such a success, Lions Live plan to run a second competition during Lions Live this week. This time the brief […]