Hugh Marks on battling digital players: 'Advertisers are getting the story'

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 13 November 2019
Peter Costello and Hugh Marks

Nine's CEO Hugh Marks and chairman Peter Costello have upped the pressure on Facebook and Google, saying now is the time for media companies to "fight back".

In a media briefing following Nine's annual general meeting, Marks and Costello, a former federal treasurer, say the challenge is no longer competing against other media players such as Seven and News Corp but against digital video players YouTube and Facebook.

At this year's upfront, Nine urged media agencies and marketers to view broadcast video on demand (BVOD) content as an alternative to investing in the two big digital platforms.

Following the call to action, Marks told AdNews that advertisers were "starting to get the story" but the onus was still on the business to educate the market.

"We got a good response. The agencies and clients are getting the story but again it will come down to providing information that is auditable and verifiable, that's accurate and Virtual OZ doesn't start until February. That's when the public data becomes available," he says.

"The information we have released at this point is what we are seeing in beta phase but once that starts in February, we are confident it is going to be a game-changer."

Virtual Australia, which will become the new benchmark for total TV audience reporting, has drawn ire throughout the year, particularly from Australian media agencies, as the launch date continues to be pushed back.

At an AdNews event earlier this year, OzTam had confirmed a November launch date, which has since been moved to February.

Adding to Marks' comments around Facebook and Google, Costello says the two are increasingly taking advertising dollars from Australian media companies, "making big promises" with no independent scrutiny on whether they are delivered.

He says Nine may still compete with Seven in free-to-air, while Stan will go up against Netflix in streaming, but every media business has to take on the major digital players to succeed.

"We don't have the luxury of saying 'all we have to do is beat Seven in this TV market', but that's not enough, now it's about these other businesses. Frankly, they are not brand-safe and they are competing with us, however, we have a whole list of obligations that they don't have," Costello says.

"Coming out of the ACCC [investigation], this is something the government has got to look at very carefully, these are advertising business. They compete with everybody and yet they are essentially they aren't subject to the same content, copyright and other legal obligations that we are."

Marks says that even though businesses will need some support from a government-led regulatory position, they need to lead the charge themselves, going to the market and explaining that the quality of that advertising experience is not equal to what you can get with mainstream media.

He says where Nine are having the greatest success with digital video is by using a combination of both short-form and long-form platforms.

"As growth continues in the long-form space, it will open up more opportunity to grow our inventory and the go into the market and compete for that [digital video] revenue because we have better inventory that is better priced," Mark says.

"Yes, linear television has declined in reach over the years but when adding in BVOD you are getting back to those numbers and that is critical for an advertiser."

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus