Blurred lines: MediaWorks embraces channel agnosticism by merging direct sales teams

About a week after APN opened the door to cross-channel collaboration across its media properties, MediaWorks announced the conflation of its radio and TV direct sales teams.

The merged team will be led by Paul Hancox (pictured below), who has been appointed to the newly created position of commercial director of MediaWorks Radio and TV. Hancox will also work closely with The Radio Bureau and their agency team, ensuring the Radio agency business is well aligned with its TV and interactive counterparts, led by Nicole Jones and Graeme Underwood, respectively.

And while initial speculation suggested that this move came as a knee-jerk reaction to the moves made at APN, the MediaWorks TV director of sales and marketing Liz Fraser countered such claims.

“This has been in the pipeline for some time,” she said. “With Paul Hancox now having had experience in the TV side of the business, the next logical step in the company’s evolution was always going to be bringing our direct sales teams together.  Yes, the competition is heating up, but … we’ve been working in this fashion for quite some time.  Now we’re just making it more official.”

It is also significant to note that in contrast to APN and TRN’s merge earlier this year, radio has been part of the conglomerate’s offering since 1997 when the group first acquired More FM.  

Fraser (pictured left) says that the main objectives underpinning this structural change were to service “direct clients in a smarter way and [to provide]solutions, when appropriate, across one or more of [the available]media platforms. “

“Those are client-focused [objectives], but it’s also about shifting revenue from our competitors to MediaWorks, because we have the audiences to do this exclusively, while at the same time, making our clients’ campaigns perform successfully,” she said.

The exclusivity that Fraser refers to lies in the fact that MediaWorks is the only media conglomerate that owns both television- and radio-based media properties.

However, as the lines between interactive, TV and radio become blurred and as distinct channel siloes start to disappear, this point of difference is becoming less pronounced.

In the channel agnostic world of today, the Herald produces video clips, the Edge will soon step out of radio darkness to appear on TV, TRN’s radio stations are streamed on iHeartRadio and almost every radio station dabbles in the creation of YouTube videos.

Nowhere was the blurring of these lines more clearly evidenced than at the New Zealand Radio Awards when the radio moment of the year was awarded to a video clip, with the ‘Wrecking Ball’ parody by the Edge’s Jay-Jay, Dom and Mike winning the gong.


And although these shifts have become increasingly obvious in recent years, MediaWorks Radio chief executive Wendy Palmer (pictured below), who stepped into her role in April, says cross-channel collaboration isn’t new to MediaWorks. 

“In 2007, the TV show Outrageous Fortune and The Rock collaborated on a range of cross promotional projects … it is also significant that we launched the integration team, headed by Alana O’Neill, in 2010 and they’ve been successfully giving our clients cross-channel solutions since then,” she says.

“This really isn’t a huge change in terms of what we’ve been offering, but it was necessary because the direct sales teams previously existed as separate entities. This is about officially bringing them together.”

Palmer says that the goal of the team will be to provide client-focused solutions that deliver advertising messages in the channel and form that is most beneficial to the client’s needs.

And according to Hancox, the new structure will make MediaWorks’ offering more nimble in a changing media landscape.

“We’ll have the ability to respond more quickly to the market, and provide our clients with full access to the most powerful advertising mediums: TV, Radio and Digital,” he says. “[And] direct clients will have a one-stop shop for their business, with true cross-platform solutions. They’ll soon have one point of contact for all their business across MediaWorks, making sure their campaigns link seamlessly together across the different media.”

However, shifting into the mould of this one-stop shop will pose several teething problems over the coming months. 

Since the TV and radio sales teams previously operated discretely, albeit with some collaboration, the respective advertising accounts related to radio and TV were held in separate buildings.

To overcome this logistical problem, Rachel Lorimer, the group head of corporate comms at MediaWorks, says that they have introduced hot desks at the respective offices, which are available to visiting account executives.

Palmer also adds that, depending on specific client needs, there might be instances of accounts moving from one executive to another, but she says that this will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

But it isn’t only the clients that will now have a single point of contact. O’Neill (pictured below) and her integration team will now also have a single point of contact in Hancox, when it comes to discussing the best course of action for clients’ campaigns.

“[The integration team] will continue to support all our clients with brand funded opportunities, as well as sponsorships and promotions, and specific content creation ideas. This area of the business also continues to evolve in a rapidly changing market where clients are requesting more creative solutions from media organisations,” says Fraser.

And given this emphasis on creativity, the onus will rest on the talent available at MediaWorks to develop these cross-collaborative solutions.

Although MediaWorks hasn’t brought in any outside talent—like TRN did by bringing the Alternative Commentary Collective’s Mike Lane on board full time—Palmer believes that the management team in place has sufficient cross-channel nous to create effective campaigns for clients.

“Paul has experience on both the TV and radio sides of the industry. He is currently general manager for TV direct sales (Australasia), and was director of sales and branded content radio from 2008-2012. And then on a production side, we have Andrew Szusterman who helped to launch C4, worked on X-Factor and now also works as the group programme director across our radio brands. You simply can’t get more cross-channel than that,” she says.

And given that MediaWorks TV was chosen as the media brand of the year at the Beacons and that MediaWorks Radio won the lion’s share of awards at the NZ Radio Awards, it’s clear that the conglomerate is comfortable in each channel. It will however be interesting to see how effectively these skills are incorporated in an increasingly omni-channel landscape.   

MediaWorks timeline

1989 – TV3 is launched.
1997 – The More FM Group is acquired (also included The Breeze Wellington, Channel Z).  TV4 is launched.
2000 – 72 percent of RadioWorks New Zealand Limited is acquired (The Edge, The Rock, Solid Gold, Radio Pacific, and a bundle of regional stations, which were eventually turned into More FM stations).
2001 – The remaining 28 percent of RadioWorks is acquired.
2003 – TV4 is relaunched as music and youth television channel C4
2005 – RadioLIVE is set up, The Breeze regional radio stations are rolled out
2006 – Kiwi FM is set up, MediaWorks Interactive division is set up (responsible for new media opportunities, including
development and maintenance of the MediaWorks brands’ websites).

2008 – Mai FM is acquired.
2009 – George FM is acquired.
2009 – TV3plus1 is launched
2010 – MediaWorks Integration is set up (responsible for delivering integrated client solutions across MediaWorks TV, Radio and Digital assets).
2011 – C4 relaunched as mainstream entertainment channel FOUR.
2012 – Solid Gold is relaunched as The Sound.
2014 – Announces the Edge TV
2014 – Merges radio, TV and digital direct sales teams 

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