Year in Review: August – Bill Leak’s backlash; Bauer’s nightmare ABC audit News Corp’s profits plummet

2016 was another year of major change and transformation in the media and marketing world. Mumbrella provides a month-by-month recap of the most read and biggest stories that affected the industry.

The month kicked off with Fairfax splitting Domain Group from its financials in a move that was speculated to be so the publisher could maximise its revenues and share price. On the same day, Seven Network launched its 2016 Olympic Games mobile application.


Seven Network and Telstra received backlash for the app within the week, as it kept freezing and crashing during live streams.

The network blamed “unprecedented” global popularity for the failed launch, which received an average rating of 1.5 out of 5 on the Google Play Store.

Days later, the chief commercial officer of News Corp Australia, Sharb Farjami, resigned after just six months in his role.

Michael Miller, News Corp Australasia’s chairman was “disappointed”; however, said in a statement: “I would like to thank him for the contribution he has made to our business and for the leadership he has shown and I am pleased Sharb has committed to help us deliver our optimal sales structure for the future.”

Within a week of his suspension, Saatchi & Saatchi’s global boss, Kevin Roberts resigned, following his comments about gender diversity.

kevin roberts head shot

Saatchi’s global boss Kevin Roberts resigned following controversial comments about gender diversity

On the same day, News Corp’s The Australian received backlash for a cartoon by Bill Leak which suggested indigenous fathers did not know the names of their children.

The cartoon, which was published on National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, generated numerous complaints for the Australian Press Council.

bill leak the australian illustration

Despite the outcry, The Australian defended the cartoon, arguing the issue being portrayed was “crucial” in the public domain.

One of the most highly discussed stories on Mumbrella’s site for the month was creative agency Banjo’s apology to a job applicant who was told the agency had too many “brown skin people.”

The Sri Lankan woman, Surungi Emily Hohol said she was “livid and seriously irritated” when the agency told her they already had two “Indian people.”Surungi

Banjo described the incident as “an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

Also in August, News Corp revealed its global profits had dropped by almost 30% over the 2016 financial year due to a decline in profits from its news operations.

The report also found the company’s real estate operations were more profitable than news.

The first of R/GA Sydney’s departures for the year began with managing director Jon Holloway, who left his role after 18 months.

Jon Holloway

He was replaced with managing director of Cummins & Partners and former R/GA executive Rebecca Bezzina who had only been working outside of the agency for seven months.

One of the most interesting campaigns of the month was Bonds’ tongue-in-cheek campaign for Father’s Day which showed off the shapes of Australian dads.

‘Think of Fathers,’ created by Clemenger BDDO Melbourne, featured a series of videos featuring dads in their underwear talking about how they had let themselves go since pregnancy.

The month also brought news to publishers, with former Mamamia editor-in-chief Jamila Rizvi joining NewsLifeMedia as a columnist for news.com.au and kidspot.com.au.

The Audit Bureau of Circulation figures gave insight into the suffering print magazine industry, with print circulation of Bauer Media’s Cosmopolitan dropping below 50,000 for the first six months of the year, as well as The Australian Women’s Weekly circulation dropping below 400,000 for the first time.

As the month drew to a close, Coco-Cola announced it was putting its Kings Cross billboard up for sale.

Coca-Cola billboard

Roberto Mercade, president of Coco-Cola South Pacific said the money from the sale would go to King Cross charity, Wayside Chapel.

The final days of August saw more people moves with HuffPost Australia’s CEO, Chris Janz, stepping down to take on a role at Fairfax Media.


Janz had been the CEO at the online publisher for 18 months, and was replaced by JJ Eastwood, managing director of programmatic marketing company, Rocket Fuel.

On the same day, Foxtel appointed ex-News Corp chief commercial officer, Sharb Farjami, to director of content commercialisation. 

The month was polished off with the announcement Ogilvy had retained BP’s creative account, expanding its role to below-the-line creative, promotions, video and digital support.


Michael McEwan, managing partner at Ogilvy Melbourne, said the agency was “thrilled” to expand its remit.

“Over the years we have consistently enjoyed working with the BP local team, including the launch last year of its ‘Fill and up and Fly’ loyalty partnership with Virgin Australia’s Velocity program,” McEwan said.

“This win means more alignment, more value and, ultimately, more opportunity for both Ogilvy and BP. We can’t wait to get started”.


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