Henry Tajer: 'Australian market has shat itself'

By Rosie Baker | 22 May 2014
Henry Tajer.

"Media agencies demand change, but aren't doing anything about it." That was Anthony Fitzgerald's opening salvo to the AdNews Media Sales Summit. It kicked off a pretty robust debate between both agencies and media owners on stage. Neither side got off lightly.

The MCN boss said that no one is addressing the way consumers are changing quickly enough, but he was "fascinated" that agencies in particular talk so much about change, but aren't changing.

"What we're hearing from media agencies is a cry, a demand, for change. That demand is getting louder but media agencies aren't doing anything to help facilitate that change. The whole industry needs to come together to understand what the opportunity is and facilitate that change. When I look at the way media agencies are buying TV, I find it fascinating that there is this cry for change, but when we offer it and a new way to buy, they say 'can't we do it the way we've always done it?'."

Mediabrands executive chairman Henry Tajer didn't disagree, adding frankly that “the Australian market place has shat itself,” and isn't working together to get change happening. He believes that the structural change in the industry has already happened but agencies' behaviour hasn't kept up.

"It's not a structural issue it's a behavioural issue. Agencies cry wolf all the time. They ask ask ask, push push push, but aren't actually prepared to act on it," said Tajer.

What it really comes down to, said Fitzgerald, is shifting to buying audiences, not spots and dots - which is what the industry is shaped for. He claimed MCN could flick a switch tomorrow and has 70% of its business fully automated - "but not a single agency or client is ready to do it."

Katie Rigg-Smith, CEO of Mindshare, said agencies needed to change the kinds of people they employ, adding that automating the media buying process doesn't actually need a headcount reduction, but a "reprogramming of the industry's engine rooms".

Speaking on the panel, Nicole Sheffield, CEO of NewsLifeMedia, reckoned the industry spends 70% of its time and energy talking about the contract negotiation side of things, and just 30% on creativity and coming up with ideas.

Programmatic and automated processes would redress that balance, and allow agencies to put more resource into the creative side of things, which is what people want to be doing, said Fitzgerald.

Cathy O'Conner, chief executive of Nova Entertainment, agreed the shift would happen more quickly if media owners and TV networks agreed on the way forward and worked together rather than each tackling it on their own.

"We're up here [on stage] performing and stating intent, but how many people are having that discussion agency to agency and [business to business]? We get too caught up in first mover advantage."

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