2019 was a big year for ReachMedia, as Struan Abernethy joined as chief executive officer and the business was acquired by IVE Group. Ahead of the sale being ratified on 1 January, Erin McKenzie spoke to Abernethy about what the acquisition means for ReachMedia, and his vision for a letterbox marketing business moving into the future.
It was business as usual when speaking to Struan Abernethy ahead of the conclusion of 2019, however, when he returned to the office this year, he has a new owner in Australia’s IVE Group.
ReachMedia was originally a joint venture between New Zealand Post Group and Salmat, however, it was included in IVE Group’s acquisition of Salmat Market Solutions for $25 million.
Salmat Market Solutions is the Australian catalogue distribution of Salmat Limited and alongside that sat ReachMedia as the New Zealand catalogue distribution business.
Speaking about its change of ownership, Abernethy says given IVE’s position as a large combined print marketing businesses, it will be beneficial to ReachMedia hitting that next scale.
He says IVE is doing everything from design to CRM and data analytics alongside its trans-Tasman distribution which will be beneficial for ReachMedia’s existing offer.
“The scale of IVE is going to be really good for us.”
The change of ownership comes six months after Struan joined the company in the chief executive chair.
He joined from Leading Edge Group where he spent nearly four years as global chief executive officer following a number of years in management positions.
Alongside this work, he was the chairman of World Solar NZ and is currently a director on the Make-A-Wish New Zealand board.
Speaking of his career journey, Abernethy says he’s worked to turn around businesses a number of times and calls that “transformation journey” his “sweet spot”.
It was this characteristic of ReachMedia that attracted him to the role of chief executive.
“It just looked like a great opportunity to, to help a team of people that wanted to achieve something,” he says.
“I could see that the business had plenty of potential.”
To that point of potential, Abernethy cites the business’ data analytics and audience measurement capabilities as an area of growth.
“We have an unaddressed offering that is still extremely relevant but this business is, like many, is on a transformational journey with data analytics and also developing capability to become multichannel.”
While letterbox marketing has a well-established history in the channel mix, the options to reach eyes have swelled in recent years and parallel to that, clients’ expectations have grown to include targeted and data-driven channels.
In response, ReachMedia has grown its offers and staffed-up with the addition of data scientists trained to take various data sources to measure client outcomes.
That data aggregation ability helped ReachMedia win a pitch to partner with JCDecaux to create Calibre – a platform providing reach, frequency and audience measurement for out of home campaigns. The platform is being used by JCDecaux and is available to the wider industry.
Beyond its work without of home players, Abernethy gives the example of a national multi-store retailer for who it identified the best sites for new stores.
ReachMedia broke the country into squares to compare market share data from the retailer’s industry as well as look at data around the community. This combination gave it an insight into the most lucrative areas.
It has also worked with the likes of shopping malls and cinemas to identify those visiting in order to improve targeted offers.
And though Abernethy is proud of the business’ momentum in the data analytics and audience measurement space, that’s not to say ReachMedia has abandoned traditional. There are two sides to the business and though digital advancements are creating a hum across the industry, its letterbox marketing side is showing signs of coming back into fashion.
He says where client spend on letterbox marketing dropped a couple of years ago, it’s starting to increase again.
“When you talk to them, that’s because there’s been an obvious detriment to their revenue.
“Like everything, I think digital has become quite cluttered as a channel and that cut through you get with a catalogue is still very relevant and very effective.”
Explaining catalogue effectiveness further, Abernethy cites the statistic that 46 percent of New Zealanders have read a catalogue in the last seven days and six out of 10 of them have bought something from that catalogue.
And with that ability to be more targeted in its approach to letterbox marketing through its new data capability, Abernethy is excited for what’s to come.
“As you know, marketing managers have to have justification of spend and we believe we can create some game-changing stuff.”