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What 2019 has in store for Australian media

12 Feb 2019  |  Rob Atkinson 
What 2019 has in store for Australian media

Ahead of Future of Brands Sydney, Rob Atkinson looks at some of the biggest issues facing the Australian media and advertising market this year

“Change is the law of life,
and those who look only to the past or present,
are certain to miss the future”.

Wise words that I adopted when I arrived in Australia to run Adshel, just over 6 years ago. Change has been the one constant of my time here, I’ve witnessed first-hand how global media entities see Australia and NZ as perfect test and learn markets. They recognise we have a positive disposition to risk, and the resilience and courage to try new things and fail fast.

Last year in Australia, we saw significant M&A activity across the media owner sector. In addition, media agencies also took up the mantle, and either consolidated divisions, or removed excess layers to protect their financial positions. The need for more scale, relevance and leverage, were clear motivations for some last year, and this may throw up opportunity for smaller, more nimble players, to fill the gaps left by larger entities.

Privacy, trust, transparency, AI and machine learning, were all topics that gained traction in many boardrooms last year, as media organisations tried to decipher opportunities from threats. The increased pressure to deliver on pre stated forecasts and promises from publicly listed companies, led to a greater shift to short-term decision making. In the longer term, we’ll see if some of those decisions come back to haunt businesses who didn’t invest sufficiently, to either create or protect their futures.

Change in 2019 is accelerating as the tectonic plates of the world economy shift. The trade war between the US and China, coupled with a slowdown in the world’s largest economy, and the onset of Brexit will make it a potentially challenging year for media in 2019.

The up-and-coming Federal election , a slowdown in consumer spending and downward pressure on the housing market in Australia will all need to be monitored closely this year. On a positive note, many stock markets will have built in risk and downside, and smart organisations will proactively refine their operating structures to create flexibility to cope with any volatility.

So what can expect in 2019 for media in Australia?

If 2018 was the year of consolidation through acquisition, then 2019 could be the year of Voice. We’re potentially heading towards a Voice first world, that may supersede mobile eventually, as the adoption of smart speakers continues to accelerate. The challenge for brands, is how to incorporate Voice into their digital and e-commerce strategies.

The consolidation story is likely to continue with more shake ups, tie ups, and break ups still to play out. This may lead to a focus on more effective measurement of cross platform performance. The impact of GDPR will be felt everywhere as decision makers wrestle with data privacy implications.

As more organisations strive for a better understanding of the movements, mood and behaviours of their customers, geo location services will proliferate and we may see location finally becoming the new cookie.

We could see more Martech consolidation as the quest for a single view of the customer gathers further momentum.

Programmatic platforms and trading, will surely continue to thrive with the next iteration, allowing companies to exploit new operating models through the redeployment or reduction of resources. Another potential media trend for 2019, is the growth of owner media monetisation. We’ve seen significant change in the way some retailers, telcos, travel and financial institutions have been able to reframe themselves as effective media channels for suppliers. The advantages of already having the trust of the customer, their own media channels/assets and the ultimate proximity to purchase, means we may see more advertising dollars heading in this direction.

Last but not least, the employee experience is going to be on many agendas this year. People are a company’s most important asset, so their well-being is critical to success. The changing working environment as more people work remotely, the loss of community, coupled with longer hours and job uncertainty can impact employees mental health. The need to address this along with actively improving gender diversity and equality should be high up on the list of priorities for smart companies.

I know I’ve probably only scratched the surface, and may not have captured the big movers or potential game changers of 2019, but the not knowing is what makes media and advertising so exciting.

As a Brit in Sydney about to head home to London, my next move will be searching the loft for jumpers, gloves, scarves and a puffer jacket so I can survive my own transition in 2019!

Good luck to all in 2019, and enjoy the great array of speakers on show at the Mediatel Future of Brands Conference later this month at Doltone House. Some of the areas I’ve touched on in this article, will be covered in more depth at the event.

Rob Atikinson is CEO of Australian Radio Network

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