Gray Matters: going carbon neutral, sports and sponsorships, paywalls and agency collaborations

Cooking up a storm

“Right message, right time, right person: Dean Cook on 21 years of change in marketing and advertising,” reads the Linkedin page for the GM marketing Noel Leeming & Torpedo7 Group at The Warehouse Group.

This past weekend, we saw a prime example with a full-page ad: “Let’s clear the air” in The Saturday Herald, announcing The Warehouse Group has achieved carboNZero ceritification, one of the first internationally accredited greenhouse gas certification schemes under the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

Not everyone was convinced: “Carbon neutral seems to be a stretch when you depend on selling plastic crap and consumerism. But endorsed by @NZGreens so The Warehouse are inspirational and we should all celebrate by buying more plastic shit and just close our eyes when near the ocean,” wrote Oryx & Kate Davis on Twitter.

Which raises the question, how effective is this kind of environmental responsibility/virtue signalling (take your pick) in attracting customers? There’s definitely a backlash, “The Warehouse claiming it is carbon neutral after buying a whole bunch of carbon credits – what a load of crap. This is the company that sells landfill rubbish! Grrrr,” wrote Garry Massicks also on Twitter.

Even environmentalists are sceptical: “Warehouse’s carbon neutral status just ‘creative accounting’ – critic”, shouted a Newshub headline, quoting Coal Action Network spokesperson Cindy Baxter saying it’s not ready to give the Red Shed the green light just yet.

As Newshub reported, a report by the Morgan Foundation in 2016 claimed many of the credits snapped up by New Zealand companies were “hot air” and worthless. The report Climate Cheats, authored by cat-hater and political opportunist Gareth Morgan, showed that New Zealand was the biggest user of fraudulent carbon credits from Ukraine and Russia.

As one respondent, Mike Ross, aptly put it: “I’ve seen so many similar reports from all over. The entire concept of emissions/carbon trading is flawed. It’s a rort from top to bottom; a pure money-go-round.”

With so much negativity surrounding the whole carbon credit creation, one wonders, from a marketing standpoint, whether hanging one’s advertising hat on this will have the desired payback in foot traffic.

Taking the cake

With Westpac NZ and the Wellington Regional Stadium Trust announcing they will conclude their naming rights sponsorship of Westpac Stadium at the end of 2019, one wonders whether the shine has rubbed off sponsorships in general for New Zealand marketers. The announcement brings to an end one of the longest partnerships in New Zealand sport.

“Marketers know that putting a name on a venue (if there is no negative association with the place) can make billions of positive brand impressions in the minds of potential buyers,” wrote Ira Kalb, Marshall School of Business, USC, in Business Insider. “Visitors to important venues are just one of the audiences that see the name. Others include passers-by, TV and Internet viewers that watch events live and in replays, News audiences on TV and in social media, those watching videos posted on YouTube, or people that share photos in person and online. That’s why the owners of stadiums and other famous structures are more than happy to sell the naming rights as a way to generate significant additional revenue.”

Then why would Westpac give away this lucrative opportunity? It will be difficult for the bank to make as many brand impressions over a similar period of time using other media. “Banks seem to have built a special relationship with sports,” quotes another Business Insider article, and one just has to see ASB’s Eden Park association to agree.

“Bank sponsors can help with budgeting, ticketing, and even media rights. They’re able to issue affiliated credit and debit cards, set up ATM’s inside the venues, and have big box seats to use at their leisure,” says Business Insider.

What’s interesting is that Mark Graham, head of community, sponsorship and events at ASB Bank, was previously the national sponsorship manager for Westpac back in the early days of the Westpac stadium sponsorship. Perhaps the current Westpac sponsorship manager, Hannah Oakden, who has held the position for just under three years, has a different take on the benefits of stadium sponsorship. Or perhaps Westpac is just really annoyed that we all refer to the stadium as The Cake Tin and not the Westpac Stadium. Maybe there is a better opportunity for Edmonds!

Pay as you go

As I collected my subscriber copy of NZ Herald from my letterbox this morning I noticed how slim the paper was becoming. It then surprised me to read online that NZ Herald will be charging subscribers to access in-depth analysis and opinion via a paywall. NZME is targeting 10,000 digital subscribers within the first year with net investment expected to be $1.2 million.

As award-winning investigative journalist Andrew Fowler points out in his book, The War on Journalism, “The combination of falling readership and declining classified ad revenue created an unsustainable level of debt. It became common practice for newspapers which operated a partial paywall to try to lure more readers in with juicy stories.” The downside, says Fowler is that, “Google and Facebook now determine the kind of stories being published. It is the web equivalent of the tail wagging the dog.”

Mollie Bryant wrote last year in Mediashift: “Paywalls did not save our newspapers. Paywalls did not improve the content. Paywalls did not stop staff from being laid off or positions from being eliminated through attrition. Paywalls didn’t stop reporters from feeling pressure to have a story go viral – even if it was about something that you’d rather not have your name attached to. A paywall didn’t stop the papers I worked for from favouring “quick hits” over the kind of journalism that takes time to put together – which is most journalism – or from cutting or whittling down beats that didn’t lead to enough page views.”

Perhaps NZME chief executive Michael Boggs knows something the rest of us haven’t caught onto.

A mystery

“We are emailing to alert you of a cyber campaign making false allegations about Newshub’s online content,” read the intriguing communique to MediaWorks’ customers on Tuesday. “We are actively investigating the matter with Netsafe and are following the appropriate channels to have it shut down, including contact with NZ Police to lay a formal complaint,” wrote Glen Kyne, MediaWorks chief customer officer.

Wow! Serious! A quick email to Kyne – out of office. Email to his executive assistant Jaqui Wilson – “Someone will come back to you shortly with more information.” Email from Matt Russell, commercial manager digital – “Some clients have informed us of being contacted by an individual making false claims and threatening behaviour. Our legal team are currently investigating. If you have any information, please share it with us.” Even more intriguing!

On to Google Search – nothing. On to Twitter – nothing.

A visit to Netsafe did however lead to my reading of The people’s report on online hate, harassment and abuse, which is a piece of research that, “seeks to better understand the impact of online hate, harassment and abuse on everyday New Zealanders,” and calls for the New Zealand government and the tech corporations to do more to protect us online.

As for the Newshub online content allegations? At the time of writing – zilch!.


Interviewing the management team at 99, recently, it was interesting to hear from executive creative director, Mick Stalker, that what surprised him out of their client reviews was that those clients wanted their agencies to ‘play nice’. In this age of specialisation, marketers are having to work with a portfolio of agencies and often there is a ‘shit fight’ over budget control. Clients hate this and the desire for agency collaboration is an increasingly important factor in ensuring good agency client relations.

Back in July 2016, Zach Rosenberg wrote in Adweek about the client demands for better agency collaboration and highlighted five ways to get there. As he said, “As a media agency, independent or publicly held, if you’re not taking a proactive approach to ensure you are communicating with your clients’ key agency partners early and continuously, electronically and in person, you are doing them a disservice.”

Even earlier, in 2010, AdAge was expounding the idea that marketers were saying, “agency collaboration more important than expertise.” Microsoft chief creative officer Gayle Troberman, was quoted as saying: “The single most important piece for success for agencies we work with is actually orchestration.”

One of the best pieces of advice to make forced collaboration work comes from Rohit Bhargava, an independent brand consultant, marketing professor at Georgetown University. He maintains leadership is the starting point for great collaboration: “Pick a leader first, collaborate second,” he says. “Create one brief and let multiple work flows happen and don’t underestimate the power of face to face relationships. Even having shared a drink or dinner together improves collaboration, because it makes us real people to one another instead of a name at the other end of the phone.”

Customer is king

Reading Marketo’s Marketing 2025 The future of skills and technology in marketing across Australia and New Zealand I was interested to see that marketer’s top priorities over the coming year are customer retention, lead generation, and customer lifetime value. The report says marketers expect that by 2025, customer lifetime value will be the most important priority.

This brought home the insight I received in the recent interview I had with Todd Fuller, managing director of 99. Fuller said: “The world has changed and now we have to work on the customer’s timeline. We have to be relevant to them at the time of their choosing. We can’t wait for the next green light or red dot sale, to talk to the customer. The change that we have to make and the changes for the businesses we support, is understanding the customer journeys – speaking to them in the right way at the right time. We have the data, the context and the insights to be so much more effective.”

You can read more of Fuller’s insights in the feature, The Reimagining of 99, in the next issue of NZ Marketing.


Apart from All Black rugby games, I don’t watch any TV live. By that I mean I’m a time-shift viewer, everything is either recorded on my Sky box or streams from Netflix, Lightbox or Amazon Prime. So when I view the NZ On Air Audience ratings for TV , not only am I disappointed to see only free-to-air channels are measured but note that the figures do not include delayed (time-shifted) viewing.

If that’s the case, then what is the point of the numbers. When I read that Three’s 7 Days had 144,200 viewers last week, I know I and everyone like me who enjoys Corbett, Ego and Henwood are not included. Do we time-shifters account for another 1,000, 10, 000 or 100,000? Who knows?

Certainly, the NZ On Air statement on viewership is misleading: “Figures given indicate the average number of people in New Zealand aged 5+ that viewed the programme.” No, it doesn’t!


I have to agree with Danyl Mclachlan – The Spinoff (except for the word ‘terrible’):  Notes towards a grand unified theory of the terrible National Party sausage ad: “Progressives are actually the primary target for this ad and it is designed to offend them. Offense and controversy makes things newsworthy and earns you coverage in the mainstream media, thus potentially reaching a far greater number of viewers than National would get through making a non-controversial, non-mansplaining ad.”

About Author

Graham Medcalf is a freelance writer and owner of Red Advertising.

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