You don't need to be a (domain) expert to work here; good day for Seven shares
An unprecedented number of bosses in Australia's media and marketing scene are brand new to their specialties
Welcome to a midweek edition of Unmade. Today: Does talent trump expertise in media and marketing? And a more positive day on the Unmade Index after a turbulent start to the week.
Today marks your last chance to get earlybird pricing on tickets to humAIn | human creativity x AI . After everything you’ve read about the impact of generative AI on your working life and career are you honestly thinking about not coming on July 12? Brave move. Mind you, it’s not too late to change your mind and buy a ticket.
Fishes out of water?
Tim Burrowes writes:
You don’t often get the opportunity to watch natural experiments in the media and marketing industry. Right now, there are a remarkable number under way.
Across half a dozen Australian organisations, we’ve seen people hired or promoted into roles based on their talents, despite a lack of domain expertise.
The most interesting experiment comes where marketing meets media, with Seven West Media and Nine both appointing chief marketing officers within a few months of each other, with radically different career paths.
First, in July last year, Nine boss Mike Sneesby appointed Liana Dubois as the organisation’s first chief marketing officer.
What Dubois brings to the role is more than 20 years in senior sales roles within the TV industry, including running Nine’s Powered creative services team for advertisers, and before that working on strategy, sponsorship and sales for Network 10.
What she does not bring (with the exception of a year in radio promotions at the start of her career) was actual time under her belt as a marketer.
Only in media would a $3bn, ASX-listed company appoint a non-marketer as CMO.
Meanwhile, Seven West Media went the opposite way. Mel Hopkins joined SWM in March as chief marketing and audience officer. A hardcore telco marketer including six years at Optus and three years with Vodafone, Hopkins has never previously swum in the piranha-infested waters of network television.
The refreshing thing about the CMO appointments is that both companies are taking their brands more seriously than they have in the past. Which of them actually sets the agenda remains to be seen.
On Monday came another major fish-out-of-water appointment.
Seb Rennie is the new chief commercial officer of Southern Cross Austereo despite never having worked in media sales, yet he’ll oversee the entire sales operation. He joined the organisation three months ago after 25 years in media agencies. We’re talking gamekeeper turned poacher.
Rennie’s background on the buying side is the exact opposite of his predecessor Brian Gallagher who spent more than 30 years on the sales side.
There’s never been a time like it for counterintuitive media appointments. Ooh Media’s old school outdoor chief sales officer Tim Murphy departed in a move which made way for Paul Sigaloff to come in as chief revenue and growth officer.
Siggy, who started this week, has never worked in outdoor, but - thanks to his time running Yahoo Australia - does know programmatic, which may be a signal of where Ooh Media wants to go.
If Murphy reemerges elsewhere (and many assume he will pop up at QMS) there could be an intriguing market share face off of domain expertise versus skillset.
And it’s occurring in the non-commercial sector too. Last week the ABC announced one of its periodical restructures, with a split into two divisions - content and news.
Radio National, capital city local radio stations, ABC Classic and Triple J fall within the content division, under the purview of new chief content officer Chris Oliver Taylor, who came across from Netflix after a career within the screen industry. The future of much of the nation’s non-commercial radio output now lies in the hands of somebody who has never worked in radio. And that’s at a time when the radio operations have been experiencing an audience exodus (or maybe that’s what justifies a new approach?)
There’s no right and wrong answer on which of these talented individuals is better equipped to succeed, but I may be biased by my own career history.
Many years ago, my move into editing a publication about the media in the UK followed a stint editing a publication for hospital doctors - two worlds which only had ego and substance abuse in common. Rather than promoting somebody from within, who knew the media scene but who had not edited, my new employers decided that my experience as an editor would eventually make up for lack of subject knowledge which would grow.
I was met with scepticism (and snobbery, and even hostility) at the time. How dare somebody who’s new to the media industry seek to edit its venerable magazine? For the first year I focused on the craft skills of editing, and played the role of the reader, asking the editorial team pointed questions about content decisions until I knew the answers for myself.
At the moment, Mumbrella is going through much the same process, with new editor Shannon Molloy never having covered the beat. Yet those who read Mumbrella closely will have noticed that the quality of headlines, intros and copy have improved immeasurably in the fortnight or so since he arrived and started applying the editorial domain expertise he previously learned at News Corp.
In all the cases above, the people in these roles won them because they excelled in what they did before. Their employers are betting that personality and talent will go further than promoting from within. It’s a hell of an experiment.
Greener pastures on the Unmade Index
Seja Al Zaidi writes:
There was a little more positive action on the Unmade Index yesterday after several ASX-listed media and marketing companies saw favourable movements in their share price. The Index closed at 638 points.
Southern Cross Austereo’s fortunes continued to worsen, with Monday’s all time low market capitalisation of $190m dropping even further to $189m yesterday.
Ooh Media experienced a 0.78% fall while printing and marketing company IVE Group dropped a further 0.43%.
Seven West Media had the biggest win on the Index yesterday, scoring a 2.78% lift in its share price, while Enero Group climbed 1.20% and radio company HT&E followed with a 0.99% lift.
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We’ll be back with more tomorrow. Have a great day.
Publisher - Unmade
These seem like big positions to be held by people who fall under the “hire for attitude over aptitude” idea.