TV executives defend VOZ over claims it’s been ‘oversold’, noting the soft ad market is ‘not an excuse’

Senior TV executives have confronted criticism that the industry’s new ratings system, ‘Virtual Australia’, known as VOZ, is being ‘oversold’, assuring a room of media buyers and clients that the platform really will be a “game changer” and Australia should be “very, very proud of what we’ve achieved”.

Seven West Media’s chief revenue officer, Kurt Burnette, admitted at the Future of TV Advertising conference that “it’s been a pretty horrible season of [half-year financial] reporting. Some more than others”, but was adamant VOZ is a step towards course correcting that performance.

The panel (L-R): Dave Roddick, Kurt Burnette, Beverley McGarvey, Michael Stephenson and moderator Zoe Samios

“There was this idea of an oversell of what VOZ is and what it would bring,” Burnette said.

“VOZ is one significant move forward in the evolution of television and the future of TV. It’s not the only thing. It is a significant piece.

“I think we understand what happens in Facebook, in YouTube and other digital assets, because I have real-time metrics or whatever they talk about there, but, from a TV perspective, we need to get better at giving that information back. VOZ certainly does that.”

Speaking on a panel alongside Nine’s chief sales officer Michael Stephenson, Ten’s chief content officer Beverley McGarvey, and Foxtel Media’s chief sales officer Dave Roddick, Burnette said VOZ “is a game changer, but it’s going to fit into the roadmap of the future of television”.

“And in terms of the oversell, I’ve been thinking about it this way. We all here are trying to solve marketing problems,” he said.

“This product [VOZ], it’s not a funnel into any marketing proposition. It’s a flywheel. And that flywheel is about attract, engage and delight. We’ve attracted, we’re engaging, we need to delight. And the only way that wheel keeps moving is if customers come to that wheel. And everybody feeds into that wheel to make it move faster. That’s what we’re in the process of. I think we’ve attracted a lot. We’re in the mid-stage of engage. It’s time to delight, and that’s not far away.”

“At the same time, we shouldn’t undersell it,” Stephenson responded, earning laughs. “Because it is amazing.”

“So whilst we won’t oversell and over-promise because it is a journey, the results are pretty amazing and we should, in Australia, be very, very proud of what we’ve achieved … No-one in the world has done this. We are literally leading the world and perhaps the the relative simplicity of our market and the alignment that we all have as broadcasters and as media owners is unheard of in most other countries so we can move forward at pace.”

Roddick agreed that the industry is “very proud of what VOZ is and what it will achieve and what it is going to represent”.

“But I do think we have a watch out here,” he warned.

“We do have to be careful that, as we can measure the audience across content delivery, across the platforms, and we can show incremental reach by on-demand platforms, that we don’t equate the experience and we don’t equate the delivery of that content to that audience on different channels as being just homogenous.

“Because whilst you can measure that audience in a single source, that doesn’t necessarily mean that audience expects to be served the same experience on every platform, or that the ads will be as effective or will work in the same way on every single one of those platforms. I think that we have to be very careful that content that I’ve selected, from whatever platform, whether it’s a connected TV, or it’s a handheld device, that that is a different viewing experience, has different expectations and works differently as an ad environment than a broadcast television screen.”

Yesterday, OzTAM, Regional TAM and Nielsen released “top-line findings” from the new VOZ database, which will release daily data from April. The findings demonstrated that 85% of Australians watch broadcast TV weekly, and nearly a quarter watch BVOD.

Some of the findings released yesterday. [Click to enlarge]

“We can make it complicated. We’ve had a good run at doing that,” he quipped.

“But the simple things generally are the best. And I think this recalibration of investment to deliver better business results, at the Future of Television, is a really key thing.”

Stephenson added that in the eye of a stormy ad market, VOZ could help to combat 15 consecutive months of declining ad spend.

“There’s a thousand people in my organisation that can come up with reasons why the ad market is soft. That’s not an excuse. It just is a thing,” he noted.

“What we can do is work with you guys collectively, as an industry, to help grow the brands that you guys represent, to do things differently, to be more innovative, to make buying television easier. We are, as an industry, creating a platform to enable the agencies to take advantage of everything that is VOZ, but also to drive efficiency in the process of the trading of television inventory.

“Buying and optimising and canceling and rebooking and chasing … for a $10 spot on [Nine multi-channel] Gem in Adelaide in off-peak is not much fun for anyone. We should change those types of things.

“And the more we do things like that, and the more we make television easier to buy, the more advertisers feel like it’s a more appropriate place to advertise, it makes their life easier. And I think that brings money back into our world.”


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