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News Analysis 1 Dec 2020 - 3 min read

Direct play: Nine hires former Visa, Visit Victoria marketer and Edelman global strategy boss to lead Powered Enterprise division

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

Former Visit Victoria and Visa marketer Nicki Kenyon and ex-Edelman Global Strategy Partner Michele O’Neill are the first two senior executives to join Nine’s new Powered Enterprise division. Announced at this year’s upfronts, Nine is plotting a similar path to tech players such as Google and Facebook, speaking directly to clients and attempting to land bigger ideas with the c-suite at major blue chip brands. But the network insists it is not trying to usurp agencies.

Taking a seat at the table

Nine has appointed Nicki Kenyon and Michele O’Neill as the first leadership hires for its newly launched Powered Enterprise division.

Trailed at its upfronts, Nine is attempting to take a leaf out of the tech platforms' playbook, with Google and Facebook seemingly mining a rich seam within brand c-suites. Picking two women with deep experience at senior management level should enhance its chances of success.

Kenyon has held executive leadership roles in global corporations and start-ups in Australia and Asia Pacific, most recently as General Manager of Marketing for industry travel body Visit Victoria.

Prior to this, she was APAC regional Vice President, Digital and Marketing Transformation for Visa, based out of Singapore.

Kenyon told Mi3 that she found the opportunity to speak to clients from a marketer’s background while also proving the accountability of media partners in delivering long-term business solutions the most attractive elements of the role.

“There’s a lot of scrutiny on media budgets, investment in digital transformation and the right tech and data balance, more so than ever,” Kenyon says.

“That puts a lot of responsibility on brands to prove the value of every dollar they spend on marketing, so by having someone with that experience working with you as a media partner there’s less need to worry about accountability.

“Ideally we want to crack open a lot of the siloed approaches between client, agency and publisher and have a frank conversation at a boardroom level about what the actual business problem is and how we can collaborate on a solution.”


Post Covid, post-cookies

Michele O’Neill, meanwhile, has spent the past three years with Edelman as Global Strategy Partner, and previously held executive strategy roles with WPP and IPG agencies in Europe. She believes 2021 will mark a reset for brands seeking to redefine their roles in a post-Covid society. 

“Many brands are now emerging from this recent crisis looking to re-assess basic principles, such as what they stand for and whether that’s reflected in consumer behaviour,” O’Neill says.

“Nine can offer so much insight into those areas through its data and tech solutions, something that can be invaluable in informing a client’s next move, whether that’s around social, environment or consumer responsibility.”

Both O’Neill and Kenyon believe Nine's data and tech deal with Adobe will prove increasingly powerful in a post-cookie world.

Nine aims to use the platform to prove premium content environments are more effective landscapes for brands to engage and target its 13 million registered online users across digital TV, news and radio via Adobe’s Audience Manager.

The network believes its combined brand, data and analytics capability will come into its own as Australian businesses seek new ways to drive sustained growth.


Going direct the future of relationships?

Nine’s head of Powered, Liana Dubois, told Mi3 the business “fundamentally believes” that B2B and enterprise arrangements will be the “future of relationships” for Nine.

“Our plans go beyond the typical ‘business as usual’ marketing and advertising solutions and delve deeper into understanding the core problems a brand is facing, whether it’s content, tech or data and analytics,” Dubois says.

“We effectively become an extension of the c-suite and will work on long-term growth strategies for those clients using Powered – it’s not about short-term briefs and campaigns.”

Dubois says the division will continue to flesh out its senior team to ensure its new offering is equipped for conversations with business leaders, but will also call on Nine's “specialist talent” when needed.

“We will have clients whose problems require a digital transformation strategy and that takes a lot of specialist insight and ability. So in those situations, we can have someone on secondment to assist,” Dubois says.

“There’s no pre-defined number of people we are looking to hire, and it will be client and project dependent, but we expect to have success with this division and corresponding team growth.”

Dubois says while there will be times where conversations with clients don’t include their respective agencies, and vice versa, the intention is not to “cut anyone out”.

However, industry insiders say the move could be seen as an attempt to develop the kind of ties and capabilities that often sit with agencies.

“There’s no intention to push anyone out or take on the responsibility of other invested parties, whether that be a media or creative agency,” Dubois says.

“Nine may have some of the Enterprise division working within a brand or having a seat at the table with the c-suite – but it will only be as a ‘meaningful advisor’ on its business problems and how they pertain to our portfolio and capabilities."

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Josh McDonnell

Senior Writer

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