Year in Review: December – Seven’s sex scandal; Russel Howcroft’s big move; Mag publishers kill audits

It was an eventful end to 2016, with machiavellian manoeuvrings by Australia's magazine publishers; a big job change for Russel Howcroft and Seven's boss mired in a sex scandal

When a titillating email was widely circulated to Australia’s media writers offering lurid information about an affair between Seven boss Tim Worner and a member of staff, it derailed what had been a strong year for the network. From winning most of its key audience battles with rival Nine, questions about financial dealings with Worner’s angry ex left it an open question whether he would survive in his role until Christmas.


In the end Worner made it to the end of the year. But nobody who read the graphic detail will be able to see him in quite the same way in 2017. And with the names of two major TV stars he was also alleged to have had affairs with (they deny it) easily available online, Worner’s position remained weak as he entered 2017.

The end of the year also offered perfect cover for Australia’s three major magazine publishers to deliver what appears to have been a lethal blow to the mag audit system.

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In what seemed to be a carefully choreographed series of announcements, first Bauer Media, then News Life Media and finally Pacific Magazines all announced in the space of a few days that they were pulling out of the system run by the Audited Media Association of Australia which provides third party verification of circulation claims.

Instead, the publishers will promote the survey-based readership metric, which asks members of the public if they think they remember spending at least two minutes reading a copy of a title.

Thanks to the timings, the voice of advertisers the Australian Association of National Advertisers and voice of media agencies the Media Federation both had nothing to say on the matter, as the staff had already gone on holiday.

Another massive media move revealed in December was that Australia’s major outdoor players Ooh Media and APN Outdoor are to merge, creating a group approaching $2bn in value.

While the merger will need approval of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the ACCC had a few days previously approved News Corp’s takeover of APN News & Media’s regional newspaper operation, forming its assessment of the competitive landscape across media as a whole, not just newspapers. A similar precedent in assessing the deal against the full media landscape rather than just the outdoor sector would likely see the deal approved.

Meanwhile, the News Corp deal was finally completed during the week between Christmas and New Year.

For creative agencies, there was huge significance in the exit of Ten’s GM Russel Howcroft to a newly created role of chief creative officer. The move appears to give the strongest signal yet of the ambitions of the major consultancies into moving into territories previously occupied by creative agencies.

Howcroft: Australia's loudest champion of TV advertising

Howcroft: Australia’s loudest champion of TV advertising

Howcroft, an adland veteran whose profile has grown thanks to his role as a panellist on ABC’s Gruen, is a former boss of WPP’s Y&R Brands group.

And the Ad Standards Board kept itself busy in December.

The ASB ruled that the phrase “BCF-ing fun” was okay, but SBS’s Viceland was out of order for “F*ck that’s delicious” and “CU in the NT was also out of line.


In a seperate ruling, the ASB told adland that the public would no longer put up with the denigration of husbands as a group.

And the ASB also ruled against a Supercheap Autos ad which saw four wheel drive vehicles racing around the streets of Brisbane.



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