Best of the Week: Henry Tajer's next act; and radio's losers
One of adland's big beasts has returned - and this time he's got skin in the game; and the ratings pie chart that tells the real story
Welcome to Unmade, written in drizzly Horsham in the UK while you were sleeping on Saturday morning.
I’m just about over the jetlag now. Comedian Hannah Gadbsy offered a fine performance at the Brighton Dome on Wednesday night, nonetheless it was a battle to keep my eyes open.
I never did find out what the “runway pavement failure” I mentioned in the last edition of Unmade was all about, or why it led to Qantas offloading my luggage in Darwin. However, an angry Polish van driver, frustrated by the vagaries of British motorways and baffling housing estate layouts (“we foreigners don’t stand a fucking chance,” he informed me) turned up with my suitcases on Thursday afternoon. After a fashion, the system works.
Speaking of systems that work (or don’t) the content of today’s email is a tad choppier than I’d prefer. While Unmade is hosted on Substack, the unmade.media URL is registered via Go Daddy. While Australia was asleep, something bad happened to Go Daddy’s interface with the Domain Name System that links website names to the internet. As a result, Unmade was among the sites unreachable for a while, including this at the time half-written email. I started sweating on missing my preferred 10.10am Eastern send time.
Today’s writing soundtrack: Kirsty MacColl - Kite (and Go Daddy hold music).
Happy National Urban Ballroom Dancing Day.
Getting down to business in radio
We’re now ten weeks into the year. And I’m certain I haven’t yet ticked off 20% of the items on my 2022 to-do list. Indeed, I haven’t even ticked off 20% of the items on this week’s to-do list.
It feels more like we’re only just getting into second gear for the year.
NRL only returned on Thursday night (the 48,000 who streamed the Penrith - Manly game live on 9Now was a new record). Formula 1 starts again this weekend (which heralds season four of Drive To Survive on Netflix - hurrah.) And AFL kicks off again on Wednesday (don’t miss today’s excellent piece in The Age explaining how sports betting underpins AFL).
This week also saw the first set of radio ratings for 2022. And Havas’s parent company Vivendi was the last of the major holding companies to release its 2021 financial results. I’ve started to crunch all the numbers, but I’ll wait until this time next week, when Sir Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital has reported too, to offer some thoughts.
So let’s start with the radio ratings.
The first survey of the year is usually the least consequential. It covers only six weeks, from January 16 to February 26 in 2022.
For the most part, the radio results reflected a return to normal patterns as the pandemic drifted towards endemic. The extraordinarily large listening shares of the speech based stations dropped slightly as the appetite for news faded. And as usual, the ABC’s Triple J enjoyed its annual Hottest 100 boost.
As The Music Network observed, one of the few notable changes was in Brisbane, with what looks like a misfire by the usually reliable branding team of Australian Radio Network.
The repositioning of 97.3 to Kiis 973 appears to have cost the station its lead in the market. Its Monday to Sunday audience share fell from 11.2% to 8.5%, putting it behind Nova (10.8%), 4KQ (9.4%), ABC Brisbane (9.3%) and B105 (9%).
However, there are insights to be had if you go digging for them. One I chose to look at this time round was how the parent organisations stack up in total audience.
As an initial exercise, I looked at Sydney, which vies with Melbourne as Australia’s biggest radio market.
As a pie chart, a couple of things leap out.
One is that although Nine (in red) owns the top station in 2GB, its audience share of 13.8% is less than that of ARN’s two stations, Kiis and WSFM, with a combined share (in yellow) of 17.2%.
The two Nova Entertainment stations (in light blue) of Smooth FM and Nova are not far behind on a combined 14.5%.
The scale of the challenge facing Southern Cross Austereo is a bit more obvious mapped out on the bottom of that pie chart in that tealey-green colour. between them, 2Day FM and Triple M have just an 8.8% audience share, half that of ARN.
Also noticeable on that chart is how much of a challenger the ABC stations are for their commercial rivals when it comes to listeners. Across the five ABC stations (in purple) nearly a quarter of all listening (23.9% in fact) goes to the ABC.
Meanwhile, what the numbers don’t show is that ARN actually has an even bigger chunk of Sydney ears. Western Sydney station The Edge isn’t included in the survey - radio companies are only allowed two licences per area, so the industry abides by a polite convention (and a previous court case) that The Edge doesn’t count in the Sydney numbers.
Speaking of The Edge, Brag Media’s new purchase of The Music Network (which now seems to be becoming a rebirthing of its former sibling Radio Today) broke the news this week of ARN’s plans for the rebrand.
ARN has registered the trademark CADA and the URL cada.com.au (hopefully not via Go Daddy).
As I wrote a couple of weeks back, the rebrand is going to be a big one.
ARN told the ASX it had created a war chest of an extra $8-9m on the new music offering. They pulled it off in 2014 when they rebooted Mix Sydney as Kiis. I suspect the name Cada will become quite familiar to you.
Henry Tajer’s third (or fourth, or maybe fifth) act
One of the things which strikes me about the media and marketing industry is that some of the most interesting and entrepreneurial people don’t end up owning their own businesses because they instead get trapped by the safety of big salaries.
It’s understandable. As talented people find themselves well rewarded to work for The Man, why risk the ability to pay school fees and mortgages by rolling the dice on going it alone?
Would Mia Freedman have created the Mamamia empire if her move to Channel Nine hadn’t been such a horrible experience?
Would regional publishing mogul Antony Catalano ever have voluntarily relinquished his $491,000 salary at The Age if internal politics hadn’t displaced him?
Would creative Andy DiLallo - rumoured to be Australia’s first ever million dollar ECD - have ever started his intriguing new offering Milk & Honey with Steve Jackson if both hadn’t been restructured out of their network agencies within a week of each other in the early stages of the pandemic?
And would Chris Howatson ever have walked away from The Clemenger Group, where he was heir apparent for the top job, if Omnicom had treated its staff better during the Covid emergency?
If you’ve already rolled the dice and come up with a five, gambling on the long shot of a six is a big ask. Yet the prize can be a big one.
So I’m excited to see Henry Tajer taking a stake in what he’s doing next.
In Act One, a bit more than a decade ago, Tajer reinvented Interpublic Group’s media model in Australia, bringing UM and Initiative together to create IPG Mediabrands, and adding services under new ancillary brands. The group was also better than most at maximising the profitability of the programmatic advertising chain.
Tajer’s achievements were all the more impressive in that they came at exactly the same time IPG was losing its way locally in the creative agency space. These days McCann and MullenLowe are franchised operations locally while FCB doesn’t even have a front door in Australia.
In Act Two in 2015, Tajer’s impressed bosses made him global CEO of IPG Mediabrands. He took an entourage of executives with him to New York and attempted to apply the model globally. He lasted two years before falling to Manhattan politics.
Then came a blink-and-you’ll miss it four month stint for Tajer as the first local MD of Amazon Media Group in Australia. Given the gravity that Amazon has exerted on ad spend in other markets, I wonder what he might have achieved there if he had stayed.
Tajer never really talked about the reason why he so quickly jumped ship from Act Three to Act Four as CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network in January 2019.
And Dentsu become the third big role in a row that didn’t work out. Tajer inherited from his predecessor at Dentsu, Simon Ryan, an operation that was facing a number of issues, some of which have since been the subject of gossip rather than substance.
But Tajer quickly fell out with his bosses in Japan and the UK and left after just ten months, just before the pandemic. Again, it’s an experience he hasn’t talked about. (This week he “broke his silence” to tell Mi3 that he couldn’t talk about it.)
It’s only in recent months that Dentsu has started getting back on an even keel. The organisation has made some big moves in recent weeks including Thursday’s appointment of former Clemenger Melbourne CEO Gayle While as chief digital officer at Dentsu Media, and November’s appointment of Cummins & Partners CEO Kirsty Muddle as CEO of Dentsu Creative Group.
Which brings us to Tajer’s Act Five. This time he’ll have skin in the game.
Tajer has taken a stake in the newly minted The Influence Group. The main parts of the group (for now at least) are research business Pollinate and influencer agency Social Soup, run respectively by husband and wife Howard Parry-Husbands and Sharyn Smith.
The two agencies have been on the scene for ages. Social Soup was into influencers before Instagram made that a dirty word. Social Soup would have a good claim to being Australia’s first word-of-mouth agency.
I must admit that over the years, I’d assumed Pollinate was mainly Howard’s consulting business so I’m surprised to see on its website that it has 20 staff.
Boutique is how I would have described both of the agencies.
Local groups seem to be having a moment. Ben Lilley is using his franchising of McCann from IPG to build his Hero Group. Jack Watts is building something similar under the Bastion Collective umbrella. And the New Zealand based Cam Murchison looks to be doing the same with his Attivo holding company picking up 303 MullenLowe from (once again) IPG.
On a slightly larger scale, the ASX-listed Enero Group, owner of BMF, Hotwire and orchard among others, is on a tear, with its $300m market capitalisation more than triple what it was two years ago.
There’s something going on at that level. Still, compared to the thousands of staff under Tajer’s command in his global role, The Influence Group is a more modest undertaking. But what makes it interesting is that this time round he’ll be one of the owners. I’d be surprised if the organisations remains boutique for very long.
The Unmade Index back below 900
Having crawled back above the 900 mark, The Unmade Index of locally listed media and marketing companies slipped back down again on Friday with a drop of 1.26%
The stocks continued to follow the ASX’s Ukraine volatility along with local jitters about the housing market and wider economy.
Domain - which is now down by a third since the start of the year - saw the biggest fall. Ooh Media and Seven West Media are both well below their $1bn market capitalisations again.
The only stocks to rise were Enero and ARN owner HT&E.
As ever, I welcome your thoughts at email@example.com.
Time to let you get on with your weekend. Or indeed, depending which state you’re in, your long weekend.
I might just binge all ten episodes of Drive To Survive before the flag drops in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night.
By the way, today marks your final opportunity to sign up to the paid tier of Unmade with a 60% discount to mark the arrival of Damian Francis on the team.
As we gear up, a larger proportion of the type of analysis you’ve read above will be available to paying subscribers only.
That analysis includes next week’s deep dive into the financial performance of each of the global communications holding companies.
If my maths is correct, at the time this email drops, we’ll be into the final 13 hours of the offer. You can subscribe to Unmade for the reduced price of $260 per year, rather than the usually $650. To access the offer, use the button above.
Have a great weekend.