Out-of-home industry will benefit from James Warburton’s ‘wider view of life’, says APN chairman Doug Flynn

APN Outdoor’s chairman Doug Flynn believes the out-of-home industry will benefit from someone who has a “wider view of life” beyond outdoor, like new APN Outdoor CEO James Warburton.

Speaking with Mumbrella following the announcement Warburton would replace long-standing CEO Richard Herring, Flynn described the new CEO as an “extremely good fit”.

Warburton (pictured) replaces APN CEO Richard Herring, who retired at the end of last month

“The industry is going to benefit from having somebody with a wider view of life than just outdoor,” Flynn said.

“There’s a lot innovation being undertaken within the company, I think James will make a big impact in the business in terms of the way in which we look at how we address our advertiser base and in terms of where we put our attention, in terms of being more innovative and being able to better address advertisers’ needs.”

Warburton is no stranger to the media industry, with experience working across major TV networks Ten and Seven, on media agency side and client side.

Early on in his career, he was touted as a future boss of Seven where he was chief sales officer, but in 2011 was poached by shareholder Lachlan Murdoch to run Ten.

The move proved to be a messy one for Warburton after a legal battle with Seven over his non-compete period left him sitting on the sidelines for several months, while Murdoch stood in as caretaker CEO.

Warburton was then given little more than a year to turn around the already ailing network before being fired by the board.

But his short time at Ten did gave him some exposure to outdoor, thanks to Ten’s then ownership of Eye, of which he was a director.

Warburton told Mumbrella he was drawn back to the media sector as it remains “dynamic” and “fresh”, and he enjoys the diversity of dealing with clients.

“Realistically, in terms of the out-of-home sector, the fact that we’re just under 6% of market when you look at all the analysts and brokers and their projections and obviously the digitisation run at the moment, it’s a media that’s continuing to grow and even when the growth comes back a little bit, it’s still growth that any other industry would give anything to have,” Warburton said.

“I think it’s a really exciting sector and I think APN Outdoor is really well positioned in the media landscape, and certainly through all the discussion with the directors on the way in, to do a lot more and have a bigger footprint in the market over time, so to me it was a great role, wanting to get back into the public list sector of the market and that’s the rationale.”

In the last few months, APN Outdoor has won Melbourne Metro, Adelaide Metro and Sydney Buses

But while Warburton has experience leading large media companies, his four-year stint with V8 Supercars was a change of pace to his previous roles.

Asked what he could bring from his work with V8 Supercars to APN Outdoor, he said “innovation” was a key tool, and noted his extensive contact book.

“The thing with Supercars is there’s huge contractual commitments across the business so by having arrangement and agreements with every single government, I have a relationship with every single state premier and every region, the chief minister in the Northern Territory and it’s actually about having huge KPIs on tourism numbers, economic stimulus and actually having great association with premiers, ministers and government contracts which then fall down to the agencies and it’s always been about innovation,” he said.

“Every single role I’ve had is always about innovation in terms of what we’re doing and Supercars has been the same in terms of what we’ve done through broadcast, through diversifying the sport, coming up with new formats – it’s all been about entertainment,” he added.

The new CEO, who was once labelled “Mr Ambitious” by David Leckie and a “great innovator” by Vance Lothringer said his new role was about understanding clients and markets, the CEOs of major media companies and core agencies.

“It’s about driving those agendas and being a fast learner. I don’t for a moment suggest I know every dynamic in the outdoor industry but I’ve learnt a fair bit in the last few months,” Warburton said.

While Flynn and Warburton remained tight lipped on the future of the business in terms of potential partnerships and growth, Flynn said next year would be focused on what the advertisers want and the advertiser experience.


Flynn said the wider industry will  benefit from Warburton’s arrival

When asked about the goals for APN Outdoor in the next 12 months, Flynn said it would be a “slow unveil” but noted the outdoor operator would reveal some of their plans in February next year.

He said the approved media reforms had no impact on the out of home industry at all: “In theory, if things were going to happen with outdoor, they would’ve already happened because we were never affected by it except to the extent of ACCC regulations.”

The comments come after this year’s failed merger with out-of-home operator Ooh Media, which cost the company $3.38m.

“All forms of media are converging to an extent and this business is no different in terms of exploring ways to better use data and ways to be more joined up in the way in which it integrates with advertisers and clients and with user experience,” Flynn said.

Warburton said APN Outdoor should be leading the industry in getting outdoor companies to address overall share of market, effectiveness and the immediacy and impact of campaigns.

He also said the company would be “much more aggressive” in talking about their assets.

“There’s a lot of argument that we’ve actually got the best assets and the best sites and perhaps in the past we’ve let that speak for itself a little bit too much in terms of to the client base and we will certainly be much more aggressive in terms of talking about what we’ve got, how good it is, the ‘Calibre’ sort of audience measurement now live in New Zealand, so really leading the market in a number of initiatives.”

One of the biggest potential shakeups to the out-of-home industry next year will be the City of Sydney outdoor advertising tender.

JCDecaux currently holds the outdoor advertising rights in the City of Sydney, but that could all change

Flynn wouldn’t give much away, but said the company is “competitive” and will try to be sensible in the way it pitches.

But he doesn’t believe external, out-of-market and out-of-sector players will be successful in the tender.

Warburton agreed with Flynn’s comments: “In terms of the sophistication on the operational ability, these are very very difficult labour intensive specialised contracts.

“When you are talking about government authorities and councils and very low risk takers, I echo Doug’s points in terms of them being unlikely. It is what it is. It’s a competitive sector and we’re every bit competitive. We may even be a little more aggressive than we’ve been in the past, but you have to be sensible and everything has a price it’s the same as sports rights.

“The free-to-air market wasn’t sensible or the whole market wasn’t sensible and now they’re actually feeling the pitch and everyone is coming out and saying these sports rights that was it. There is no more in the tank.

“It’s a small market for international players to think they are going to come in and throw their weight around.”

Warburton commences his new role on January 22 next year.


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