TVNZ bolsters growing Media Solutions department with new general manager and additional customer insights resources

As the rise of content marketing changes the way some clients are choosing to advertise, integration/media solutions/native advertising/branded content/advertorial/*insert another buzzword here*, is a big growth area for TV networks—and other media. And TVNZ has referenced that shift by appointing Lyndsey Francis as general manager of media solutions and customer insights and adding some more research firepower to the team. 

Francis was most recently the managing director of Total Media and ​TVNZ’s head of sales Jeremy O’Brien says her arrival accompanies moves that will play to TVNZ’s strength in research-driven advertiser solutions. 

TVNZ wants to become “more than simply a trading partner”, he says. And in his experience, the best solutions always come about when the insights, whether based on consumers or a category, are robust. As such, it’s shifting four staff who were previously working in the consumer insights team under the marketing department and putting them to work in Media Solutions. 

“Advertisers are crying out for a deeper understanding of what makes consumers tick. We’re bringing insights into the very heart of the solutions we develop for our clients as we believe our best work starts with a clear, consumer-driven insight. We’ll use this approach across our portfolio of branded content solutions, from integrated sponsorships to programme partnerships to multi-platform video-based solutions out of production partnerships.”

He says campaigns like Lion’s The Mix (a category issue around “the lost art of mixology”), Mitre 10’s Easy As (a category insight that tried to get Kiwis to “pick up a hammer again”) and Telecom’s Tech in a Sec (“demystifying technology” and showing consumers how to use the available functionality of their devices) are great examples of solving client problems, working collaboratively with agencies and offering viewers something of value. 

“I don’t think there’s one answer for any client. But it works if you can match up the client brand, what they’re trying to communicate and add some value for the viewer … It’s about really understanding the objective of the client and how we can best add value to that.” 

And he has a few new offerings of this ilk to talk about at the new season launch on November 13. 

O’Brien says branded content/production partnerships currently makes up one third of Media Solutions’ total revenue (not too bad for a department that hardly even existed three years ago) and it’s growing faster than the programme partnerships category (eg MasterChef NZ, Mitre 10 Dream Home, NZ’s Got Talent). 

He says the goal is to follow the lead of SMG Red from Seven Media Group, which is hovering around seven to nine percent of the network’s total ad revenue in the near future. At present he says Media Solutions accounts for around five and a half to six percent of total revenue (given TVNZ clocked in at $362 million recently, that makes it around $22 million). 

The additional customer insights resource is not just about online and on TV, however. “It’s also about understanding the pointy end of the business; understanding the things that you can tweak and improve; and finding out what the consumers are telling us.” 

He doesn’t think this move to bolster the team will step on any agency toes, even though a number of agencies are also getting in on the content marketing act. He says some of the ideas are generated by TVNZ and some are generated by the agencies. So this is simply adding some muscle to TVNZ’s offering to help generate better ideas for clients—and, as display advertising becomes a tougher sell, putting more resource into a growth area. He says co-operation is key for these ideas to work well, something he says was evidenced clearly with Easy As, which was integrated from the screen to the store and was met with great feedback by Mitre 10’s agency DraftFCB.

He thinks there is still a trading mentality amongst most media agencies and so there should be, because their job is to get the best value for their clients. But the ones that are standing out, he says, are “the ones that are coming up with broader solutions” that could be placed into the content marketing box. 

At last year’s new season launch, TVNZ announced a branded content initiative and called for agencies and brands to submit their ideas. He wants to keep his gunpowder dry and announce the winning idea at this year’s new season launch, but one of those ideas is being made into a programme (it’s currently in production) and he says a couple of the other ideas will also exist in other forms. 

“That’s ongoing; it’s an open brief,” he says. 

As for Francis, he’s excited to have someone with her level of experience and understanding of the market join the team. She has spent 15 years spent working in the local and UK market on brands including Virgin, Warner Brothers, British Telecom, Mars, Toyota, Flight Centre and Telecom NZ. And she was a member of the CAANZ Media Committee from 2011-13.

“Lyndsey has made a name for herself as a smart, business-focused, strategic thinker. She is the perfect fit for where we are looking to take our media solutions and customer insights offering,” he says. 

Francis will take up the role in January. And she replaces Sean O’Donnell, who O’Brien says is currently working with his father on some property development projects in Christchurch. 

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