Year In Review: May – Shapemageddon; Fairfax upheavals; UM’s worst week

2016 was another year of major change and transformation in the media and marketing world. Mumbrella provides a month-by-month recap of the most read and biggest stories that affected the industry.

May kicked off with consumers split by Arnott’s decision to change the recipes of its Shapes biscuits flavours.

The brand launched a campaign to roll out the new products but received large backlash by consumers on social media, with a Facebook group, ‘Bring back original Arnott’s Shapes’ at the forefront of the debate.

Arnott's humbled by backlash on changes to its Shapes range

Arnott’s denied its flavour change was a stunt and said it would not back-track on its decision.

The first pitch watch of May was one of the biggest stories of the month, as Mumbrella announced BMF had lost Lion’s XXXX.

BMF’s loss was the end to one of the longest relationships between brewer and agency, splitting creative duties after 18 years between Host and Ogilvy.

Also in May, the Advertising Standards Board was forced to uphold complaints against Grill’d, arguing a poster featured in stores spelt out the word ‘SHIT,’ which allegedly caused “offense”.

Fairfax Media experienced more backlash after staff at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review passed a no-confidence motion in management.

The motion came after it was estimated another 30 staff were made redundant.

An MEAA spokesperson told Mumbrella: “This is a very sad day at Fairfax. We are extremely disappointed that management is going ahead with these forced redundancies after MEAA proposed a number of alternative cost savings that would have significantly reduced the head count.”

May was also the month Nine Network announced it would rename its website from ninemsn to nine.com.au.

The biggest story of the month was when Wesfarmers decided it was time for Coles’ advertising account to change hands, appointing OMD as its media agency.


The announcement was a big loss for UM who had worked with Coles for 13 years.

Margie Reid, managing director at OMD Melbourne, said she was “thrilled” by the opportunity.

“Working with Coles over the past few months had demonstrated their vision and approach of creating true partners and working in collaboration. We can’t wait to get stuck into their business together,” Reid said.

Wesfarmers brand Target quickly followed suit, announcing it would shift its media account to OMD from UM just days later.

News came for the TV networks came when Lou Barrett, Ten’s executive general manager stepped down after three years.

Danny Bass, CEO at IPG Mediabrands said the week was “tough” for the agency.

Kenton Elliot, Target’s general manager of marketing, said: “OMD clearly displayed they understood the Target business and have the resources and consumer insights to take us through its next exciting chapter. We want to sincerely say thank you to our previous agency UM for their hard work and dedication to the brand over the past 13 years.”

By mid-May, Fairfax finished its latest round of redundancies with senior editors forced to leave because their skills weren’t “aligned” to the way the business wanted to progress.


The Australian Financial Review lost Dominic White, media editor, Alan Mitchell, economics editor, Tony Walker, international editor, Rod Clement, cartoonist and property editor and associate editor, Robert Harley.

Michael West, business reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald tweeted his departure by saying his skill-set was allegedly “not aligned with Fairfax strategy”.

Later on in the month, media sales house Inception Digital liquidated, causing dozens of staff to look for new jobs.

The agency was previously one of the biggest independent sales houses, representing The Guardian Australia, Mashable’s local platform as well as The New Daily.

The departure of John Batistich, group marketing and digital director at Scentre Group, Westfield’s parent group, was yet another big people move for the year.

John Batistich

Batistich, who held role for nine years announced his departure weeks after CEO Peter Allen said the company was to create a customer experience division.

Former BMF CEO, Jeremy Nicholas, returned to Australia at the end of the month, following a new appointment as executive director of retail marketing at Telstra.

A spokesperson said Nicholas was selected following an international search.

To top off the month of May, Nine’s internal review of 60 Minutes’ child rescue story led to the departure of executive producer, Stephen Rice.

While the rest of the team was given formal warnings due to major flaws in the story approval, Rice was asked to leave despite no official recommendations by the review to sack staff.

Among other conclusions, the review said 60 Minutes had used poor judgement and had failed to adhere to Nine’s usual procedures relating to security risks, safety assessments and approval of contractual agreements.


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