Former WPP AUNZ CEO Mike Connaghan joins News Corp to head up commercial content

The man who was at the helm of Australia’s largest advertising and media agency holding group for 12 years has resurfaced in a new role at News Corp.

Mike Connaghan departed WPP AUNZ in October 2018. From today, he will be managing director of commercial content at News Corp.

In an announcement titled ‘Industry heavyweight joins News Corp Aus’, the publishing giant said Connaghan “has chosen to join News Corp Australia to enhance the value of content for commercial clients and audiences”.


Former WPP AUNZ boss Mike Connaghan is back

Connaghan’s appointment comes at a time when publishers and the wider advertising market are under siege, with combined pressures from COVID-19, a shrinking advertising market and Australia’s recession. Media owners are also in ongoing battles with the tech giants over revenue and the use and exploitation of their original content.

News Corp has not been immune, with various titles closing or moving to digital only, a raft of job losses and most recently, moves to close one of its printing facilities.

The company’s executive chairman in Australasia, Michael Miller, said Connaghan’s role was, until now, a missing piece of the strategic puzzle.

“We’re expanding and diversifying the way we connect with our commercial partners and our audiences with an increasing focus on digital,” Miller explained.

“There’s no doubt that News is Australia’s most diverse creative content company, but we all agree we need to do more to maximise the value of that content for both our audiences and our commercial partners.”

Connaghan will oversee News Corp’s content marketing agency Suddenly, as well as audio and native content production. News Corp also boasts an investment in Medium Rare, including content agency Storyation, with Connaghan joining Medium Rare’s board.

Miller said Connaghan will drive the success of this segment of News Corp’s operations “even harder”.

“He really shares our vision for what we can achieve, that we can be far greater than the sum of our parts. It’s a real coup to have someone of Mike’s talent and experience join us.”

Connaghan said News Corp had always been the quintessential media partner for brands looking to connect with consumers.

Nobody connects like News Corp: Connaghan

“I’m looking forward to working with a distribution platform that’s second to none, that can deeply personalised content at scale or build distinct, highly targeted audiences,” he said.

“The ability to help clients connect with their consumer and deploy personalised, relevant, premium creative content and to help them build their own audience using our own assets and first-party data is an amazing opportunity.”

Connaghan was CEO of STW Group, with agencies including Ikon, Ogilvy, JWT, The White Agency, The Brand Agency, Switched On Media and Cannings Purple when international giant WPP took a controlling stake in the holding group.

Connaghan remained at the helm when it became WPP AUNZ, and subsequently oversaw the local mergers of VML and Y&R (forming VMLY&R) and The White Agency and Grey Group Australia (to form White Grey).

He was also at the helm when Group M media agencies MEC and Maxus merged to form Wavemaker.

The company’s share price slumped upon his departure, and due to ongoing economic strains, is yet to recover. The month prior to his departure, shares were 89 cents. Now, they are 28 cents.

Connaghan was finally replaced by Jens Monsees last year.

UPDATE 12:40pm: News Corp has confirmed Simon Smith, executive director of content marketing who heads up Suddenly, remains in his role 


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