Media Brawn Versus Media Brains

Jason Tonelli is the CEO of Zenith Media in Australia and New Zealand. He believes there is an opportunity for media agencies to be smarter in strategy and planning and media trading. 

There was a time when media was all about the buying. For some advertisers (and their procurement teams), it still is. But with the rise of technology and the impact this is having on media, increasingly, the discussion is about brains over brawn.

Jason shares his view and experience on how data and research can be best applied to enhance real-time media decision-making in strategy, planning, and trading.

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There is now more ad served than there are human beings on the internet at any time.

Transcription:

Darren:

Hi, I’m Darren Woolley, founder and CEO of TrinityP3 Marketing Management Consultancy. And welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media and advertising with industry thought leaders and practitioners.

There was a time when media was all about the trading, the buying. For some advertisers and their procurement teams, you could still argue it still is. But with the rise of technology and the impact this is having on media, increasingly the discussion is about brains over brawn.

How can data and research be best applied to enhance real time media decision making in both strategy and planning and trading?

To discuss this challenge, please welcome to Managing Marketing, the CEO of Zenith Media, Jason Tonelli. Welcome, Jason.

Jason:

Thanks, mate. Thanks for having me, Darren. I’m looking forward to the chat.

Darren:

Well, look, it wasn’t that long ago that it was all about bigger is better. And I think RETMA still reinforces this: “We’re bigger than everyone else, so therefore we must do media better than everyone else.” But it’s not true, is it?

Jason:

No, we’re finding that it’s not more and more, and increasingly so. I think it’s not how much money you manage for your clients and look after, it’s how you bring intelligence to it. We’re starting to see, as you are saying more and more clients split media assignments up to in-housing assignments and how we work with that.

So, we are seeing this rise of intelligence across the business, be that on how we think about humans and Australians and New Zealanders, how we think about strategy and planning, and really specifically, how we start to think about trading smarter with audience fragmentation and everything that’s going on in the marketplace.

Darren:

Now, that’s really interesting for me because most people, when you talk about media brands are talking about strategy and planning. That’s, “Oh, you’ve got to be smart there.” But in actual fact, you are arguing that in trading, there’s a need to be smarter as well.

Jason:

Yeah, absolutely. I think when I came into the role at Zenith, I said to the team, “Show me everything we’ve got.” And I was blown away by a number of things. One, was how we think about audiences through our research team. I thought that was really something that we needed to turbocharge and we have over the last eight months or so.

Strategically, I saw that we had all the tools, but I wanted everyone to get out of the tools and into real life to understand consumers better and help our clients navigate that. And I think the work’s grown because of that, and we’ve increased our strategy team because of that.

But in investment to your question, what I saw was a lot of rigor on analysis. I’ve said this a couple of times now. I get a weekly schedule of all the spots we’ve bought on television, and we look at clients across the board and who’s run in a competitive spot or a conflict within an ad break.

That’s just one thing. We look at quality scores, we look at competitor conflict, positioning break. We’re looking at this weekly for every single client as well as the entire marketplace. And it’s really interesting when you start to dissect. In the last three weeks, I can tell you that we haven’t had any conflicts. The average market conflict’s 96.

Darren:

Wow.

Jason:

Right. So, you’ve got 96 ad spots in market right now, and I can tell you which clients too that are running against competitors.

Darren:

In the same break?

Jason:

In the same ad break, which is a no-no. That’s where I grew up planning and buying, like let’s not trade like that. And so, that analysis, that understanding and that deep rooted sense in do a good job for our clients, is absolutely at the heart of what we do.

Darren:

Now, it’s interesting because you are using television there, and I think people forget that television it’s been around for what, more 70 years or close to 70 years. And it’s become a platform that has spent a lot of time, money, and effort on being very rigorous in collecting data.

I know there’s questions about the methodology, but that they really do provide a lot of data. And yet, there’s so much money going into digital channels, and yet we’re now seeing after voices in the wilderness calling it out, that a lot of the data that they’ve been providing is not up to scratch.

Jason:

Yeah, there’s two sides of that. So, let’s talk about this, and I’m sure we’ll go into MMM modeling and what our thoughts on that as well.

Darren:

And real time bidding and programmatic.

Jason:

Alright. And that’s kind of my heartland, so I’m happy to go deep there. But the one thing I always said in digital was you got to measure the right things. And the real time nature, the AI part, the real time bidding part is all well and good if you’re assessing and optimizing to the right data sets, and it’s true in every channel.

The richer the data coming in, the more information we’ve got, the better job we can do with our clients. Now, we all know Zenith is not the largest trading agency in the country. But I know where we buy in the market and I know that we definitely trade at the lowest levels possible for a couple of our clients.

Now, some of that’s client led and we welcome that. And some of it is strategically led too. And so, we know that size doesn’t matter, intelligence matters, and that’s how you get results for your clients. Digital, to your point, there’s an abundance of data almost drowning in it. And what you find is unless you’re looking at the right metrics, you actually don’t move forward pretty quickly.

Darren:

Yeah. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? What is 60% or 70% of media spend is going into these digital channels. And personally, I’ve seen it because procurement people are running media pitches based on cost per impression.

Jason:

Price.

Darren:

Yeah, price. It’s all about how cheap. An interesting model considering media up until the digital age was a limited resource, there are only so many pages in a newspaper or magazine. There was only so many minutes of advertising in the hour on radio and television. There are only so many outdoor spots. But now, inventory’s unlimited.

Jason:

Well, it is, and it isn’t. So, what’s really interesting is you should start to look at the makeup of paid advertising in digital. So, to use that, it wasn’t an infinite resource back (I’m going to age myself here) 15 years ago.

Darren:

Well, that’s still this century.

Jason:

I’m still in the century.

Darren:

I go back to the pre-

Jason:

That’s very true.

Darren:

I worked in advertising in the previous millennium. So, that makes me very old.

Jason:

So, look, when I think about that, I still remember the day where some of the key publishers came and saw me and said, “Oh, we’re going to put a banner and a skyscraper and in-rack, and another banner at the bottom.” I’m like-

Darren:

We can fill the page.

Jason:

We’re going to put four ads on a page, it used to be one. So, they started to increase and we’re going to have different ads in there and you can buy a takeover. So, that infinite nature wasn’t always there, of how many impressions.

But what we’ve seen, and COVID drove a lot of the uptake here. It was this real bottom of the funnel drive to getting new customers as cheaply as possible because everyone was on the internet, we went out and about.

So, you had a rise in how many ads you could get out there. You had more ads on a page and more advertisers coming into that sphere. But what we’ve seen out of COVID is this real recalibration of brand and the role of other channels to drive brand.

Because what’s happening is, unless you fuel the funnel, there’s no one to convert at the bottom. I’m not saying digital is solely a bottom of the funnel channel by any stretch of the imagination.

Darren:

And it’s not, we don’t have to go through that argument.

Jason:

We’re not going to go that route.

Darren:

But the point is, and I agree with you, that if you’re only doing last click bottom of the funnel, then you’re actually doing a bigger job for the platform than you are for your client.

Jason:

Absolutely agree.

Darren:

Because you’re actually creating inventory to actually fill those spaces.

Jason:

Absolutely, you are.

Darren:

Whereas and the smart marketers are working out and we’ll get onto MMM. But the smart marketers are working out that you do need to fill the top of the … but what I’m talking about is the fact that the Augustine Fou in the U.S. is saying there is now more ad served than there are human beings on the internet at any time.

That a lot of this is actually bots. And I wonder whether the problem is unlike TV where in most markets, it’s at least independent or cross-category measurement system — that that doesn’t exist in digital because in most cases, they’re marking their own homework. And we’ve seen it with Google (and you don’t have to comment on it).

But that YouTube ads are not appearing on YouTube. They’ve actually been feeding them off to other video platforms just to meet the demand.

Jason:

Look, that’s a setup. There’s no doubt that I’ve had those conversations with Google and I’m going back years. This isn’t new. We’ve known about it just how you set up your campaigns, like to get technical. And so, it’s an option. It’s not a mandatory.

So, absolutely, everyone would love to get more revenue. There’s not one sales director I’ve spoken to in the last year that wouldn’t love a little bit more, another ad spot or an election on TV to get more ads away and all those things there. So, I definitely see that everywhere.

Digital’s got the means to do it, and they have. But again, if cinema wanted to add a new ad spot, they could, and we could print more if the demand was there and readership was there. And so, it’s all comes down to audience, it comes down to how — and this is that kind of brands bit you were talking to.

How do we think about capturing the right people at the right time? What’s attention look like? And I don’t want to go down the attention route today, but how do we drive attention? How do we capture people, and then how do we connect with them?

And there’s that whole media creative debate too. So, how do we find the right place? And then how do we kind of create some magic so we can get that interaction going?

Darren:

Yeah, because the point you made earlier is there is so much data. But is it all valuable? Do you think that-

Jason:

I don’t think it’s all valuable to be perfectly frank. I think that the conversation and maybe controversially looking back two years to make a future prediction on what you’re going to do, for us, is not a conversation. I just don’t see how it’s right.

I don’t think spending three months mining into data that’s two years old can inform what we should do. It’s a nice proxy and learnings are important, don’t get me wrong. But we can get those learnings really fast out of clients and our partners and move forward really quick. But you’ve got to know where the heartbeat of your audience is now.

Two years ago, interest rates were pretty much zero. The cash rate was 0.1. It’s now over four. That’s 12 months, not even 24 months. Going back two years and looking at campaign data that we were in lockdown, et cetera. It’s null and void.

Darren:

Forget about it. Forget about it.

Jason:

It was a different world and consumers are different. We’re seeing consumers change monthly, and that’s been very interesting, fascinating-

Darren:

Consumer behavior or consumer motivation? Because I actually think human beings haven’t changed, but the way they operate is being influenced by the options that are given to them. We are creatures that can make free will choices. We just happen to all make the same choice.

Jason:

Well, I think both are true to your point. I think that how we speak to how we find them, consumers are changing their habits, their usage habits of media and we’re seeing that. But also the things that are stressing them out is changing pretty rapidly at the moment. And that’s what we’ve been very, very focused on.

I’ve spoken quite a bit about our research and insights capability that we now have our own kind of consumer insights panel that we go to every month. It’s not a one year dip, here’s the state of the nation kind of thing. That’s interesting.

But I think our clients are looking at what’s happening in July? What’s happening in August? Tell me that, and what do I need to do to pivot now to capture that change of behavior? A couple of things we know.

Right now, consumer sentiment in this, the major Australian sentiment is really following the RBAs decision on interest rates. There’s no hiding that. And we’ve tracked that now for seven or eight months. Every time there’s an increase, sentiment comes down. Every time they hold, it actually goes up significantly.

Darren:

Well, because we’re expecting to get whacked, and when you don’t get whacked, you go, “Oh gee, that’s a relief.”

Jason:

What’s super interesting is that obviously, we’ve now had a change in who’s running the show at the RBA, and we asked Australians, what did you think of that decision? They welcomed the decision, but they don’t think it’s going to change anything moving forward.

So, that’s quite interesting in itself. That they don’t see the behavior going to change. And that’s quite telling of where we’re at. I said to somebody last week, actually, we are acting almost like we’re in a recession without being in a technical one. And that’s very different to COVID. It’s the opposite of COVID.

We were in a technical recession, but we were acting and spending because we had surplus income. We now have the opposite, which is technically, we’re not there, but we are thinking about being in one. And that’s how consumers’ headspace is at. And using that intelligence, that’s how we’ve got to trade media, strategically get to them and do all the right things for our clients.

Darren:

So, it’s interesting from my perspective, because so many agencies, particularly media agencies we talk to, when they talk about data, they’re talking about the data that’s coming from the media platforms.

Jason:

Yeah. Be it media platforms or syndicated.

Darren:

Or syndicated. But you are actually investing in and participating in consumer sentiment which I agree with, because what you find in most of the media-based data or the syndicated data is behavioral data, which doesn’t answer the question why. It tells you what they’re doing, but it doesn’t give you any insight into why.

Jason:

Absolutely. And that (well, I’ll build on your point), it doesn’t give you why. And that’s so critical to understand for anyone in a planning or strategy role, but also investment. When they’re thinking about, okay, why is a consumer using this channel and therefore, how do I best connect with them? It’s very interesting.

But it’s also the data it’s a little bit old because you’re getting these kind of quarter roll up of annual data. And again, back to that point I made earlier, 12 months is a long time in advertising.

Darren:

At the moment.

Jason:

At the moment. And I think it will continue to become that, how consumers are using channels today flips in three months’ time. You’ve got seasonality in that, where social in summer versus winter. Think about that. We’ve got other seasonality.

We’ve got a World Cup on right now in this country. There’s another global World Cup happening in rugby later this year. We’re a year out to the Olympics in 24. Consumers are going to change how they consume media and at what time. We’ve got to know that as we head into those things, not 12 months after they happen.

Darren:

It’s interesting because you also work Australia and New Zealand. And New Zealand, there are cynics that say it’s the eighth state of Australia, but it’s actually a very different market, isn’t it?

Jason:

Yeah.

Darren:

Both from a media and an advertising perspective.

Jason:

Yeah. New Zealand’s really interesting. So, we’ve got this happening in New Zealand too. And looking at the audience, they’re close to being in a recession technically.

Darren:

I think technically, they’ve just gone into a recession.

Jason:

Or they might just be in one. But over two months ago, we’ve been speaking to them. Three months ago, 74% believed they already were. So, they weren’t technically there, they’ve just got there. But three months ago, the mindset of the New Zealander was there.

And if you can empower a marketer with that, I think, and that’s what we love talking to our clients about. Do we have a bit of gold dust here that together with your creative agency and all of us sitting in a room, do we have some gold dust here that actually, we can create something that helps our clients, being our marketers’ clients or their customers? And how do we start to think about that?

And I think that’s very interesting for me. They’re the big, big business problems I like to solve. What’s the big challenge out there? How are consumers thinking about it? How do we go after it in really new creative ways?

Darren:

It’s interesting because the way you’re talking is much more as a holistic approach rather than just a media approach. Is that also partly because of the approach the Publicis Group takes, which is a much more integrated offering between media and content?

Jason:

Oh, look, I think …

Darren:

Or is that your approach, Jason?

Jason:

Oh no, look, I don’t think it’s … or it could be. But I identify with really being firm on being really good at media. That’s what we do. And everything that we’ve spoken about today is really about how do we better inform the decisions we make on media? How do we invest our client’s money like it’s our own money? And we really hand on heart think about it like that.

The reason why we like to sit a little bit holistically, is probably from the relationships we’ve got with our clients, where even outside of the group, we work hand in glove with creative partners all the time at a strategy level.

But definitely, over the last, since we’ve gone into the power of one type model back in 2015, 2016, there’s a lot of muscle memory in knowing how to think broadly about business problems, but then stay in your lane and bring the right partners in.

I’ve said it a lot of times — I have a wonderful opportunity to invest in our media solution because if I require digital transformation work, if I require CRM work, if I require e-comm work, if I require creative work, PR work, et cetera, et cetera; I have friends or my fellow CEOs.

Be that Skye at Herd or Adrian at Digitas or whomever it might be, who I can call on and help, and go, “Mate, I think we’ve got a problem here, but we need your help to solve it.” And that allows what I call our kind of imagination team, our strategy team, gives them the breadth to open the aperture and go, “Okay, if it’s not a media solution, that’s okay, we’re just not going to implement it.”

Darren:

So, you’re talking about creating a larger canvas that they can then look and give more levers to push and pull than just one or two.

Jason:

Yeah. But know that, be very comfortable in the fact that this might end up being back at a creative business as a problem statement that they’ve got to think about and be really comfortable with that, that we’re not always going to a client saying, “Thanks for that business problem and the solution is media.”

So, that’s where our kind of strategy planning team come into their own, where they can think broader, but what we do is media. And that’s how we think.

Darren:

My team from the UK attended the ad forum consultant summit in New York earlier this year. And every single agency and holding company they met talked about one topic, I’ll let you guess what it is.

Jason:

It’s either going to be attention or connected TV, AVOD.

Darren:

Well, it was actually artificial intelligence.

Jason:

Oh, AI. How could I forget.

Darren:

Which I think is going to be voted the word of 2023. The interesting part was that lots of people were talking about it but they’re actually not implementing it necessarily at the core of their business.

What do you see as the opportunity, particularly from a Zenith point of view, because we’re talking about smart planning, smart strategy, smart trading. There’s still a need for human intelligence. But do you see AI as helping address some of the issues or actually complicating some of the issues?

Jason:

Look, if we were going to sit here and suggest that AI would be to ending the business, I would say it’s going to complicate it. You’re force-fitting solutions or a solution into a pretty complex space. For example, if you go to ChatGPT now and go, “How will Australia vote on the referendum?” It won’t give you an answer.

Actually, it hasn’t got the data to give you … even ChatGPT-4 won’t give you an answer. So, that heartbeat is missing in terms of really deep knowledge in real time about where our sentiment is. But we are definitely looking at different ways. I mean, let me step back a second.

AI has been in our business for a long time. We spoke about real time trading, we spoke about predictive modeling on those things — that is AI, and that exists now, how we do dynamic creative optimization. So, that sits within cause of our business definitely today.

However, with the evolution of kind of, let’s call it the new wave of AI, what’s very exciting I think is what tasks can it remove out of our teams, and what are those tasks that we can then elevate our teams into more thinking. And really thinking about the future for our clients and solving big problems — well, tools can help us do things.

I love to use the terms of our media queries. Could AI come in and just make sure we’ve got no media queries? Our media partners would love that, our clients would love never getting a late invoice. And our teams would love the fact they don’t have to worry about media queries anymore, especially our finance team.

And so, that’s something we’re definitely working on project for. You’re seeing all the stuff coming out of Microsoft and Adobe now, which is really exciting about creating creative in real time, presentations in real time. And we’re playing with all that tech.

The one thing Publicis I think’s done is invested here. Obviously, we talk about Marcel a lot. And we were pretty cheeky when we were in Cannes this year to show, hold on, we were the first on this train many, many years ago, and we’re proud of that.

But the fact that everyone in this business globally has access to ChatGPT through Marcel. And so, that’s … Atua and Mic are definitely talking to us about, think about how this applies. And yeah, I’ve got a task force right now working on two things.

What is the future of the agency model? How do we build culture? How do we really think about putting our people first? How do we manage mental health? That’s a big topic that we’re working on right now.

And the other thing we’re thinking about is how do we put AI into our business to alleviate some of those tasks that we don’t need our people to do? And I think those two things are pretty closely linked as well.

Darren:

Yeah, it’s interesting, there seems to be two streams, and I agree with you. Machine learning has been around for years and it’s been built into so many applications without people even wondering or querying what it’s doing. And yet for some reason, ChatGPT, just the presence of it writing things, suddenly people went, “Oh my God, this is revolutionary.” Not really.

Jason:

No. Well, it made it accessible.

Darren:

That’s the point, it’s accessible. But where I see the biggest opportunity is (and you’ve hit the nail on the head), how do we turn all those mundane activities that go over and over and over again that some poor person has to do over and over again to be automated.

Jason:

Yeah, that’s what we want.

Darren:

So they can then be used to do the things that can’t be automated.

Jason:

Yeah, I was speaking to somebody the other day; AI enables us to open up the aperture on the roles we have in an agency and get people to do new things. And I’m going to go back in time a little bit and if we think about the printing press-

Darren:

Yeah, the Gutenberg printing press, which revolutionized humanity.

Jason:

It did because people used to write out those manuscripts all the time.

Darren:

Monks usually sitting there writing out copies of the Bible, yeah.

Jason:

You bring in the printing press. But all these jobs were created. They didn’t go away. When you think about industry, there’s more jobs through the industrial revolution because people had to do more things: fix parts, build parts, and do all those things.

And we think about the tech age, there’s been more jobs, not less since computers and the internet and all those things. So, I don’t see AI removing jobs because that’s a question I get all the time.

Darren:

Just creating new jobs.

Jason:

It’s creating new jobs. I mean, I think the fastest growing course that’s being undertaken by people, and I’m one of those people, is something called prompt engineering. So, how do you ask questions of the AI-

Darren:

Questions of the AI.

Jason:

To get the best outcome for yourself. So, I think it’s fascinating when we see what’s ahead of us, it’s so exciting. So, definitely, AI’s a topic of conversation. It’s not dominating the conversations we’re having here, but it’s definitely something we’re looking at.

Darren:

So, then the other opportunity, and you alluded to it earlier, when we talk about a marketing mix modeling or medium mix modeling, is that the traditional econometric modeling process, the manual process could take up to 6 or 12 months to actually build a model.

And to your other point on, based on data that’s largely out of date. So, the other opportunity is then to use AI to be able to crunch huge amounts of different sources of data in real time to actually then inform decision-making processes.

Jason:

Absolutely. That’s the exciting bit where you start to go, “Okay, I can ingest two years of data and give you an answer in half an hour. Or can you give us your data or can we give you our AI and by the end of this meeting, we’re going to have a couple of outputs?” That’s exciting.

Darren:

Or ingest a hundred different sources of data.

Jason:

That’s right, and five years’ worth, whatever it might be. And I think that’s the exciting bit. And quantum computing and the cloud-based computing power we’ve got now is bigger and it’ll continue to grow faster and exponentially. So, that’s very exciting because then, it doesn’t become the dominant force. And that’s the one thing here.

Whereas, if you are spending quite a bit of money on looking back a couple of years on data and time, six to eight months, and lots of people pulling that data — that becomes a dominating bit of information. And it’s just one that we have today.

So, I think AI in that case cannot only speed up the process, but probably bring that type of level of information back into kilter with everything else we’ve got in front of us to make the right decisions.

Darren:

Yeah, because to your point about smart planning, smart strategy, smart trading; that type of information in a consumable form would be invaluable, wouldn’t it?

Jason:

Absolutely. And in a fast form. Meaning something we can use.

Darren:

Real time.

Jason:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Darren:

Interesting. What do you see then, and I know this is a bit crystal ball — but what do you see as the immediate impact? Because the other thing we’ve seen is marketers playing with in-housing in media function to mixed results.

But do you think that type of innovation of being able to use a technology to help inform what they do? Because I’m sorry, just to take a step back; the biggest issue that I find with marketers, particularly in-housing media, is their ability to attract and keep the best talent.

Jason:

And I would say I would underscore that point, which is it can be difficult to attract them, find them, but train them because of the training systems that we’re fortunate enough to have access to, both locally and globally. So, that education piece, keeping those individuals relevant and being able to see all the newest solutions is really critical to that.

But to your question, we’re seeing in housing’s been a conversation for 15, 20 years. And I remember when I was running search campaigns, some clients did it in-house, some used an agency, and we’ve seen this and then they come back again. You see the ebbs and flows.

And I think this time around, we’re seeing it happen again. And you’re right, to make success, but it’s no lack of probably this time more than any, there’s no lack of agency willingness to make it work. I talk about some of our clients like Nicole Bardsley over at Cashrewards has that exact model where it’s in-house performance. But all the strategy is the work we do.

We do all the strategic work for them, and then all the offline trading and planning, we also do all the research for them. And we are feeding their performance team, the strategy, the research, the insights, everything.

And in fact, we’ve gone from a model where we’re spending the majority in performance to almost now, 50/50 what they would call brand and performance, or let’s call it traditional media and performance media.

And so, much so that the performance team are going, “Can we run more brand activity because it’s filling my funnel?” And I mean, it’s not rocket science (we know this), but it’s two teams working as one, and that’s the power of it. It doesn’t matter where the money’s spent.

Darren:

So, so sorry. You said it’s not rocket science. It’s not rocket science except that there’s a whole generation of people that grew up with digital media thinking that and I’ll use the term ecosystem was the be all and end all. That everything existed in that world.

Jason:

Yeah, on the screen in front of you. But I think more and more when we’re spending time, you’re not the consumer all the time. I mean, I joke about this, and again, going back to the early briefs I used to get of people 25-54. I was in that same category as my mum. We didn’t use media the same way.

So, really quickly, you can get into the mindset of, hold on a second, there’s different consumer segments within a broad audience and they use channels differently. And how they’re using channel’s changing on a monthly basis.

Where we’ve seen certain channels … I was kicking around some cinema data yesterday just to have a look at it. And we’ve seen cinema audiences come back a little bit in May, June, go up again, now. And so, you’re starting to see how people’s usage changes over time based in cinema, maybe a film release.

Darren:

It is very title-driven. I mean, apart from the health considerations of the pandemic, cinema’s always been title-driven, hasn’t it?

Jason:

Always been title driven. You look at television and you go, “What hit shows, sport, reality?” You look at now, not only do you have a writers’ strike in the U.S. but now. you got an actors’ strike. The first time we had the strike of the writers, there was no content. So, they were writing almost for the content they had to make.

Because we had the pandemic, there’s lots of stuff that’s written ready to go into production because they couldn’t produce it. With no actors, though, there’s no one doing it. So, what will happen? Will we have another run on reality next year?

What will the up fronts look like next year? And so, that’s the intelligence Lizzie and I spent a bit of time talking about; what’s 24 look like with all these issues coming? AVOD, on average four video on demand streaming surface in every household, plus all the channels on free-to-air, people have choice and selection, so fragmentation’s a big thing.

Darren:

And also, the move by the traditional TV networks to push connected television.

Jason:

Connected TV and fast channels, I think fast channels are fascinating because of some of the research we’re seeing.

We’re seeing them now come in and really engage a younger audience. And our hypothesis, it’s not mine, it’s our team’s hypothesis, is that it’s because it’s very similar to social platforms, it’s content which is curated, and there for me to consume when I’m ready to consume it.

So, you think about a TikTok, that’s what it is. Think about fast channel, that’s what it is. And so, we’re starting to see younger audiences be attracted by fast channels on television. And so, that’s quite fascinating for us to think about. And that’s really recent. That’s like three months old, that information. And we’re starting to see that more and more.

That’s not the networks coming to us going, “Oh, look at what we’ve done.” It’s our research sitting there informing, “Oh, we’re seeing this correlation now.” And really starting to think about why we’re seeing that.

Darren:

So, sitting there in your role as CEO of Zenith for Australia and New Zealand, if you could have the industry address one issue, what would it be?

Because I know there are lots of issues facing media, everything from transparency and across the whole of the supply chain; ad fraud, targeting complexity, delivery, there are so many issues. What would be the one that you think the effort should be put into, or is there one?

Jason:

With all respect, it’s none of the ones you gave me. I think we’ve got a different thing that we need to as an industry to consider, which is talent and our people, and how we look after them. I think the biggest issue we’ve got is burnout.

And there’s so many issues here, but there’s burnout happening, there’s mental health issues happening. There are a lot of things happening around attracting people into our industry again. And if we can’t attract them, people are kind of doing more than they need to be and that’s burning them out and putting a lot of stress on people.

And it’s therefore, it’s a cyclical effect. It’s not creating the environment that people want to work in. And it’s the most wonderful industry advertising. I’ve made some of my best friends, I’ve been to weddings, I’ve seen babies, and it’s an incredible industry, and that’s why we’re all in it.

And I think right now, one of the biggest issues we’ve got is how we look after our people. We give them the skills to manage some of the mental stress that they’ve got,+- and that we help them through it. And we look after ourselves too as leaders.

And I think that’s, for me, if our industry could do one thing across creative media production, PR, and everything, that would be the one. Because all those other things, we’re talking about, be that should attention be a currency, how do we fix transparency, data privacy issues — are all things as an industry, we will fix. We will get through because we will, and I hope we do.

Darren:

I’m cynically sitting here going, “Yeah, well, you’ve had 20 years. In many cases, these have been issues that have been around for a long time.”

Jason:

We can have the voiced debate, we can have all those debates.

Darren:

But even the mental health issue, and I think it is a universal problem for the industry. But in most cases, the agencies have very few levers to pull other than at the moment, giving people flexibility in their workplace, giving them training.

And there has to be a bigger solution than just dealing with the symptoms of the stress. Because most of the conversations you hear, it’s addressing the symptoms, not the undermining.

Jason:

Or the problem as it comes up. And that’s why I think it’s the industry that needs to rise up together to come together around it. I think you’ve nailed it on the head, why. Because like I said, transparency, we’ve done a lot around, spent a lot of time on it. The government’s even got involved in it. And those things, they’re moving forward.

But without our people, we’re nothing. This industry, we are a people-based industry. We’re a service-based people industry. And you’re right, we are right now, we’ve got a wonderful things in place when you look at all the culture submissions in awards and all those things there, that there’s wonderful initiatives in place across the industry.

But are we really treating the causes? I have a question mark. And that’s what I’m really interested in getting after. And I think as an industry, we’ve got a responsibility to the industry to do that.

Darren:

Of course. Thank you.

Jason:

Thank you.

Darren:

Appreciate the honesty.

Hey Jason, thanks for taking the time, we’ve run out of time. But before we go, I do have a question for you.

Jason:

Sure.

Darren:

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

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