The media and marketing industry needs to embrace a start-up mindset

Established businesses need to start from scratch to recover from the impact COVID-19 has wreaked upon the industry, argues Foxtel Media's Mark Frain. In other words, traditional, larger companies need to act like start-ups.

As we start to think about recovery from the trauma of 2020, we need to remember that the world, its people and its markets have changed.

During downturns – from the 1929 Great Depression to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) – there have always been organisations which seized the advantage, as well as start-ups that have sprung up to fill new niches and needs.

After the GFC, we saw the digitisation of discounts (Groupon, 2008) and of transportation (Uber, 2009). People lost trust in banks, creating a space for fee-free financial services (Credit Karma, 2008), P2P finance (Venmo, 2009) and mobile payments (Square, 2009).

The fact is, any one of these companies could easily have been created by larger incumbents, but big corporates struggled to innovate. They wanted the ‘old ways’ back – but the old ways were over. People had moved on.

Australia’s media and marketing sector has no choice but to reimagine how to do business. Over the coming years, to not just survive, but to thrive, the winning organisations will be those that successfully embrace a start-up mentality. We need to foster some of the Amazon philosophy, that “It’s always Day 1” in the business. Some of the people we deal with might be the same, but the way we work now and into the future will be anything but.

For established businesses, this means starting from scratch and moving faster than ever before. In the media industry, we’ve gone through unprecedented change in the past couple of decades, with the advent of YouTube, broadband, smart TVs and streaming media. Evolving consumer habits are changing media, and media organisations have had to evolve to not just adapt, but to step out ahead of these changes.

This means finding out what customers want, and making sure they get it, almost at the same point that they are arriving at the same conclusions about their own business.

For us, this means accelerating our efforts into the intelligent video marketplace. We need to be willing to overhaul traditional challenges and make advertising work better for both viewers and marketers. Digital technologies enable more effective, targeted advertising rather than focusing on volume. By leveraging data, messaging can be made much more relevant. I’m watching our customers move mountains to bring data and video together in a more seamless way for their advertisers and our plan is to meet them on that journey.

Ultimately, success will be measured in the customer experience. How people engage with businesses is evolving rapidly. There are new expectations around ethics, social responsibility and sustainability.

Most importantly, for organisations like Foxtel Media, it means developing a culture and mindset of urgency and speed, reworking not just what we do and how we do it, but how we think about the world. We need to be guided by an outside-in view of who we are and where we fit in the media ecosystem.

Having a start-up mindset means being agile and nimble, reacting quickly to what clients want, breaking down legacy structures, and reinventing with extra efficiency.

This task at hand is not easy. It takes courage, vision and probably a bit of luck to get the right outcome. Often larger, more established companies are hidebound by traditional practices and legacy infrastructure. They don’t necessarily have the luxury of a ‘clean slate’ to innovate on. However, on the flip side, they do have the experienced team, the resources, the brand awareness and the market share.

Size is not a barrier to innovation. There are no excuses. As the world strives to recover and reopen, Australia’s established media and marketing businesses need to be at the forefront of enabling and driving change.

Mark Frain is the CEO of Foxtel Media


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