Making sense of the Junkee sale; Doing the right thing when things have gone really wrong
Ooh Media's sale of Junkee is the end of a chapter, and puts Racat Group on the map
Welcome to Unmade, written in the UK while you were sleeping.
Happy Dewey Decimal System Day. As the son of a librarian, I endorse this somewhat antiquated celebration. Let’s hear it for classification 659.1.
I’ve changed my writing habits again. This week, it’s back to takeaway coffee from Pret A Manger, after the British government asked the public to work from home if they can, while medics race to get third doses into arms ahead of the spreading Omicron variant.
For practitioners of behaviour change, it’s going to be a fascinating real world experiment in the role that moral authority (or the lack of it) plays in how closely the public follows government health advice.
The main political conversation in the UK this week has been revelations that while Britain was in lockdown last Christmas (people were not even allowed to visit dying relatives in hospital), Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s staffers were holding a number of gatherings that sound a lot like secret Christmas parties.
Johnson had denied their existence until video emerged.
There are some parallels with Australian politics, with much of this week’s political analysis centring on the question of whether a Prime Minister can survive when the mainstream public start believing them to be a habitual liar.
There is another parallel. In the same way that Scott Morrison tends to appoint his former chief of staff Phil Gaetjens when he wants to announce an investigation into a political hot potato, Johnson has appointed his cabinet secretary Simon Case to investigate. The question of whether Case himself attended any of these gatherings is an awkward one which has not been answered but may make the “investigation” look a little less credible.
In supermarkets and public transport, my impression is that just about everybody is back to mask wearing, even compared to much more mixed behaviour a week ago. However, looking at how crowded tables still are in high street cafes, my impression is that the instruction to work from home is being treated as more of a guideline than a rule.
Whether the supermarkets are helping to get the message across is another matter. The biggest supermarket chain Tesco’s ad (created by BBH), using Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now is in high rotation. The accompanying slogan “This year, nothing’s stopping us” may yet look a little unfortunate.
Ooh Media’s Junkee experiment comes to an end
This week, the sale of Junkee Media marked the end of a chapter.
Contrasted to the big ASX announcement when Ooh Media bought Junkee back in 2016 for a valuation of $13m, there was no similar stock exchange announcement this time round.
As the press release about the sale to Racat Group explained: “The commercial terms are not material to oOh!media Limited’s reporting obligations.” In other words, Ooh got so little from the sale that it won’t make a difference to the share price. I presume the company will have to disclose it somewhere in the accounts in its next annual report though.
It was only five years ago, but it was a different M&A environment when Ooh Media surprised everyone by trying to diversify away from outdoor advertising by buying Junkee.
Just a few months before, rival youth publisher Pedestrian had been sold by its founders to Nine for a valuation of $15.5m, although the final earnout cost it a lot more. And just a few months later, Conversant Media went to HT&E for $11.6m, for what proved to be mostly a bust.
Along with the sale of branded content agency King Content to Isentia in August 2015 for $36m (a total bust), it was a frothy time for media acquisitions.
For me, two things distinguished Junkee. First, it was all-in on native advertising. The management team led by Neil Ackland knew as much as anyone about how to do that well. And second, they were really good at trade marketing. Their industry events offering insights into the youth market allowed them to act like a much bigger player than they were. They built a business on that.
But nonetheless, it was always a puzzle. Under CEO Brendon Cook, Ooh Media (and Outdoor Network as it was known before its rebrand) had always been an outdoor company. The announcement back on July 1 2016 had offered the rationale as being “in line with Ooh’s articulated strategy of delivering a media channel that combines the unmissability of out of home advertising with an integrated mobile, online and social digital offering.”
That never really unfolded.
Presumably one of the elements that de-risked the acquisition was that Junkee’s chairman at the time was Tony Faure, who was also an Ooh Media director, and is now chair.
He stayed out of the acquisition process but would have been useful continuity once Junkee was part of the company. (Declaration of interest: In a professional context, I know Tony quite well; prior to Mumbrella’s sale to Diversified Media in 2017, he was an adviser to us. I’ve not communicated with him ahead of this article though.)
However, it took the arrival of new CEO Cathy O’Connor to decide that Ooh, battered by Covid’s effect on the outdoor sector, should stick to its knitting, and get rid of Junkee.
After Ooh Media’s tier one list of potentially cashed up buyers willing to spend $10m faded out of the running, Racat Group emerged from the background.
By a curious coincidence, history repeated itself in the sale. Ooh Media and Racat have a common director in Joe Pollard, a former CEO of NineMSN. The $3m that the AFR speculates that Racat paid smells about right.
I must admit, I knew very little about Racat before the sale. Before we chatted about it on this week’s Mumbrellacast, I even had to check how to pronounce it.
Racat is a much more diversified media group than most of its size, owning TV production company Northern Pictures, NZ game developer Runaway Play and magazine Australian Geographic.
But there are grownups on the board. Along with Pollard, the company’s founder David Haslingden is a former chairman of Nine. Thanks to the Pedestrian acquisition, he’d know the sector.
But the Junkee purchase by Racat does not look like the whole picture. The original brains trust has not come across. Editorial lead Tim Duggan left back in 2020, and Ackland is staying at Ooh Media as chief content, marketing and creative officer.
I suspect there’s more to come. I’ve a hunch that soon, we’ll all know how to pronounce Racat.
Nine years on
Yesterday, I uploaded the seventh chapter of the audio version of my book Media Unmade.
One of the events the chapter covered was the disastrous 2DayFM Royal prank call that then saw the British nurse Jacintha Saldanha take her own life.
It didn’t occur to me when I uploaded it, but this week was the ninth anniversary of that tragedy.
Although she has previously spoken at Mumbrella360, I’ve never met Mel Greig, the Hot 30 presenter who, along with Michael ‘MC’ Christian, made the call. Over the years, I’ve come to greatly admire her.
Of all those involved in the disaster (and almost all the culpability lay with the behind-the-scenes management team who approved the prank’s airing, by the way) she was the one who faced the biggest struggle to deal with it and rebuild her life.
For Greig, her radio career ended that day. Mike Christian was more fortunate in that he was able to grasp that, tragic as it was, the nurse’s death was not their fault, and move on.
In terms of trying to do the right thing in a disaster, Greig did far more than I suspect many of us would.
Nobody forced her to, but she flew to the UK and attended the inquest. It’s easy to forget now just how ferocious the global reaction was. Despite that, she showed up.
Before she went, she wrote her will because of the danger she believed she was facing in attending. But nonetheless, she showed up.
That’s moral fibre.
Newsfeed - What you might have missed this week…
Adland job ads double
Adland’s recruitment crisis saw a bigger jump in job ads than in any other sector of the economy, data from job site Seek has revealed. Mumbrella reports that there were more than twice as many jobs in advertising, arts and media in November compared to the same month a year before. The 102.2% jump is the latest evidence of the industry suffering an acute talent shortage. Meanwhile, marketing and communications job ads were up by 69.1%.
Buzzfeed makes a rotten debut
Buzzfeed’s first week on the Nasdaq stock exchange saw the company’s share price fall steadily, declining to a market capitalisation of just US$215m. The share price dropped by nearly half over the week.
SCA locks in bigger debt facility
Southern Cross Austereo, owner of streaming service Listnr, regional television stations, and the Hit and Triple M radio networks, has locked in a new debt facility, allowing it to borrow up to $250m. The company will roll over $128m of existing debt into the new facility, which will run until January 2026. The company’s share price rose by 4% yesterday, to a market capitalisation of $541m.
Vivendi hunts Hachette
France-based media giant Vivendi has launched a takeover bid for Lagardère, in the latest piece of old media consolidation, reports the Wall Street Journal. Vivendi, whose largest shareholder is Vincent Bollore, owns global communications group Havas along with pay-TV group Canal Plus. Lagardère’s assets include book publishing giant Hachette and the Paris Match news masthead.
Ant White returns
Advertising creative Ant White has returned to the industry four months after leaving the agency he co-founded, Howatson & White, over an issue of personal misconduct. White will now work alongside his brother Jack White at his Agency Sunday Gravy, reports AdNews. Rebel Sports is among the first clients.
Vale Smooth FM’s Glenn Daniel
Veteran radio journalist Glenn Daniel, co-host with Bogart Torelli of Smooth FM’s Sydney breakfast show, has died suddenly in his sleep, parent company Nova Entertainment announced on Friday.
Alan Jones’ next move
Outspoken right wing commentator Alan Jones is to return to live broadcasting with a television show distributed via digital platforms including Facebook and YouTube four nights per week, starting this Monday. Jones dominated Sydney breakfast ratings with his 2GB show until that ended in 2020. He then took an evening role with Sky News, which ended last month. The announcement also saw Jones unveil new company Australian Digital Holdings, chaired by former ABC chairman Maurice Newman.
Singo in health scare
Australia’s most famous adman John Singleton has survived a heart emergency, the Australian Financial Review reported. Singo suffered heart failure and fluid on the lungs a few days after celebrating his 80th birthday last month, said the AFR. The former proprietor of 2GB and founder of STW Group has since recovered.
The Hallway wins auto brand GWM
Independent agency The Hallway, owned by Jules Hall, has seen off incumbent Havas to win Chinese auto brand Great Wall Motors in a competitive pitch, reports Mumbrella.
The Ian Urbina affair
There are two sides to every story - including claims about high profile journalists scamming musicians, as Jeremy Arnold from the Save Journalism Committee reveals.
What next for DMGT?
The Daily Mail’s owner DMGT is going through upheaval, says Colin Morrison in his excellent publication Flashes & Flames.
Proprietor Lord Rothermere is attempting to take the company private by delisting it from the London Stock Exchange. The editorial teams of the newspaper and global website look finally set to merge, and the company has created a new arm, Harmsworth Media, to publish The New Scientist, its British “i” tabloid, and to potentially make other acquisitions.
In the latest edition of Hal Crawford’s thought-provoking media podcast he shares a wide ranging - and frank - conversation with his former boss Michael Anderson, including the psychology of managing cynical journalists.
As always, please do let me know what you think to email@example.com, or via the comment button.
Time to let you enjoy your weekend.
First, a quick reminder that some Unmade analysis is available to paying subscribers only. As an end of year special, we’ve reduced the annual price from $650 to $169. The discount is available for just the next six days.
Have a great weekend.
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