Mi9 and Viacom pen local partnership, set sights on younger Kiwis with launch of more local shows

This week, Mi9 announced that it would take on the sales representation for Viacom-owned digital platforms, including MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and Nick Jr.

While the deal won’t make a massive difference to the overall reach of the overall platform, Mi9 New Zealand managing director Rhys Heron says the obvious advantage of the new inventory lies in the access it gives to a younger demographic. 

“We know advertisers are struggling to reach a youth audience here and obviously these brands are very youth skewed, and they also bring the mobile channel that the youth are increasingly consuming media on,” Heron says.

“In terms of reach, it’s moderate. But when you combine it with the reach we already have with Microsoft, the Daily Mail and Ticketek, it pushes it over 2.7 million on desktop.”

Heron concedes that the existing stable of Mi9 partners was geared to a more mature market, making it difficult to deliver on some of the briefs pitched by brands looking to reach a younger audience. However, the addition of Viacom puts Mi9 in a better position to have those conversations.        

Left to right: Guy Shepheard (Mi9), Rhys Heron (Mi9), Vanessa Winley (Viacom) and Simon Bates (Viacom)

According to Nielsen data, 15- to-34-year-olds make up more than 72 percent of monthly digital unique audiences for MTV and 83 percent for Comedy Central in New Zealand.

“It allows us to work with brands and agencies eager to reach these audiences,” he says.

Heron also sees potential in the added reach that might come from the social channels attached to each of those youth brands.

“The social amplification Viacom offers us is something we’re really interested in,” he says. “Our existing stable of partners aren’t as strong in social and what Viacom brings is really strong social reach that adds power to the campaigns we run in market.”

Reaching the right audience is, however, only part of the challenge. At a time when marketers are increasingly concerned about brand safety, they want certainty that their ads aren’t being served onto some of the more nefarious stretches of the internet that younger web browsers like to visit. 

Heron says by choosing to work with premium international publishers that are equally concerned about the brand safety issue they can provide safe environments for brands to serve their ads.

“Brand safety is intrinsic with our partners,” he says. “If you think about MSN.co.nz, for example, they’ve got a local team of editors curating the content being published. They’ve got very stringent brand safety guidelines that they’re working to every day.”

The standards will also be relatively high at the Viacom brands, which continue to be subject to the broadcasting standards on television. And while the talent on any of the shows might have a longer leash when creating content online, Viacom will still ensure that certain standards are met on any of the social channels it owns.

The announcement of this deal also coincided with Viacom confirming that it would be investing in local content.

At a launch event on Wednesday night, Viacom announced that it would be launching an eight-part series called MTV Presents Johnny Danger as well as a series filmed in Auckland titled No Experience Necessary.  

Vanessa Winley, Viacom’s director of advertising sales and brand partnerships, says that while the company might be global, it always focuses on giving the local community local content. 

“New Zealanders like to have New Zealand content and will be producing and filming local shows and working with local talent and artists,” she says.

In addition to these two shows, Comedy Central will also be launching three local short-form series in the coming month.

Earlier this week, Maala also caused a mass outbreak of goosebumps as he became first Kiwi artist to feature as part of the critically acclaimed MTV Unplugged series.


Beyond the shows featuring on the channels, Viacom is also looking to couple brands with talent to produce branded content, which can then be distributed through the Mi9 network and Viacom’s social channels.     

The company has already employed a local content editor, and Winley believes another might follow soon.  

“We hope we’re inundated with so many native article briefs that we can’t keep up,” Winley says.

If along the way we also see a few more Kiwi artists hopping onto the MTV Unplugged stage, then there’ll be few complaints from the local audience.

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