Tony McGinn retakes control of Authentic Entertainment amid overhaul of its operations



Authentic Entertainment is overhauling its business with founder Tony McGinn stepping back in to lead its media arm as it looks to build out a new specialist branded content and experiential division.

The changes see former CEO John Wardley moved to a role setting up that new division, which will be called Authentic Creative Labs, and follows on from the wider group announcing losses of $2.8m for the 2014 financial year.

In February it also quietly shut two prominent divisions, while strategy and marketing director Jonathan Hopkins is among a handful of people to depart in recent days.

authentic entertainment logoAuthentic, which rebranded after merging Igloo and MCM in June 2014, is the local partner for music video streaming service Vevo, makes radio shows including Take 40 and creates branded content and digital assets for brands.

McGinn, who founded the company 30 years ago, told Mumbrella the company was making changes to persue growth, adding: “To facilitate this I’ve stepped back into the drivers’ seat of the current media business and John is setting up a new Authentic Creative Labs division.  I think that’s working to our strengths.”



Wardley, a former chief marketer with George Weston Foods and Coca-Cola, joined the company as CEO in 2013 to replace Simon Joyce who departed abruptly, orchestrating the shift from MCM to Authentic.

“John is now focusing on opening up new channels in experiential, branded content and entertainment marketing,” McGinn said. “He will be launching the Authentic Entertainment Lab.”

But he admitted while Wardley, who earned $283,000 in the 2014 financial year, is setting up the new business it was not yet certain whether he would “bake himself into the management” yet.

McGinn was reluctant to be drawn on detail bout the new offering saying there will be more announcements soon. But he pointed to the brand’s track history in producing events and activations including the Live at the Chapel launch for Samsung Milk last year and lady Gaga’s massive concert at the Sydney Town Hall in 2011.

“We’ve done a phenomenal amount of events and branded content, this has been a core part of our media offering for a long time. This is putting it in its own swim lane,” he added.

McGinn, who earned $802,000 from the company last year, will also continue to lead video platform service Movideo. He said parent company MCM Entertainment Group had been acting as “venture capitalists” for the loss-making operation to support its expansion into Asia, saying it had pumped $2m into the business last year, mostly from the Authentic arm.

In February Movideo gained a $65,000 government grant under the Export Market Development Grant scheme. It also grew its revenues by 45 per cent in the December half, according to its half-year earnings report, which showed MCM had made a loss of $139,000 over that period to December 2014.

Movideo logo“Now we’re at a stage where we think Movideo is ready to seriously step up with other investors,” said McGinn, who said there were “commercially sensitive” talks around that happening at the moment.

He pointed to its operations in Asia where it has worked with clients including Dreamworks, Disney and Turner Broadcasting, saying its investment in technology made it a “depth play not a breadth play”.

In 2011 McGinn entered into a public row with then chairman Julien Playoust who wanted to scrap Movideo, with McGinn accusing him of “lacking vision”.

In February the company quietly shut its full service digital arm, the last vestiges of digital agency Igloo, and its owned and operated websites division which saw editorial operations on websites like, which it had run for more than a decade, stopped.

Asked about the closure of the digital services business, McGinn said the company had taken the view it was important to employ specialists, saying they had an “A team” of 12 digital specialists working on client projects currently.

On the closure of the owned websites McGinn said clients had taken much of that capability in-house, adding: “Our view is being a full service digital agency, which is where Igloo came from, is a hiding to nothing.”

He added they now had an “A team” of 12 digital specialists working on client projects.

take40On the closure of the other division McGinn said the owned websites had lost engagement with people able to get the same content elsewhere, likening it to people already having “eaten a meal” and coming there to snack.

“We found the TMZ-style gossip style content was the most effective there, but there’s so much competition in that space so we took the view let’s step back from that strategy which we had had for some time,” he added.

The 2014 financial year loss was blamed in part on a softening of the advertising market, particularly around radio where one of Authentic’s biggest partners Southern Cross Austereo has been hit by a massive decline in audience for its Hits Network.

But McGinn defended SCA’s position saying it was in a cyclical slump, adding: “They are in a ratings slump, but it takes time to build a station. If I were betting right now I would bet in three year’s time we will be having a very different conversation, I would definitely be backing them.”

Alex Hayes


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