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News Analysis 17 Sep 2020 - 3 min read

Nine pulls 4000 to virtual upfront, pitches premium content against Google, Facebook in ‘world first’ Adobe people-based targeting deal

By Paul McIntyre and Josh McDonnell - Executive Editor and Senior Writer

A visual of Nine's virtual upfront tower that featured some of the company's key executives detail its latest initiatives across several 'digital floors'.

Nine is banking on a ‘game-changer” deal with Adobe to take on Facebook and Google in a post-cookie world to prove premium content environments are more effective in targeting as its 13 million registered online users across digital TV, newsmedia and radio assets drop into Adobe’s Audience Manager. Coles has signed on as the first advertiser.

“We’re backing Nine because they have the largest addressable audience in this market.”

Suzanne Steele, Managing Director, Adobe ANZ

Legacy media sceptics and stonethrowers will be in overdrive in coming months to test the effectiveness of premium content from media companies versus precision targeting around user generated content (UGC) at Google and Facebook after Nine and Adobe announced what they called a “world first” alliance for a media company.

The runaway success of Google and Facebook to allow advertisers to match and target their customer databases inside the walled gardens with a “people-based” strategy using hashed, or anonymised email address identifiers, not user cookie or device IDs, has seen Nine counter. It’s a new frontier for the media group which has historically hitched its britches to mass-reach advertising.

Nine and Adobe announced Audience Match yesterday which will see Nine’s 13 million registered users across its digital TV assets, the former Fairfax Media mastheads and digital radio services allow blue chip marketers at banks, retailers, telcos and e-commerce operations to load their CRM databases into Adobe’s Audience Manager and Experience platforms to target and personalise communications to customers in premium content environments like they do with the Silicon Valley tech-media duopoly.

“This takes us to the next level. This is going to completely change the game.”

Michael Stephenson, Chief Sales Officer, Nine

The move by Nine in 2016, considered risky by media rivals at the time, to force online users to register to access its 9Now video service, appears to be paying off. It now has the equivalent approach for digital radio services and apps and mastheads like The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review.

The pending collapse of third party cookies and device IDs as a proxy for targeted advertising across the open web is creating havoc for brands and publishers who now have to rapidly overhaul their 20-year approach to digital marketing.

As regulators around the world clampdown with tighter consumer privacy, tracking and consent regimes, media companies and social platforms that have logged-in and consenting users with email and mobile phone details are seen as the new winners in the advertising economy. And particularly so for companies that have large, known customer databases offering visibility on customer behaviour and can use external parties to target those customers with more precision.

A bank, for example, might know a particular customer has a car loan but not a mortgage. They then use a “hashed” email address uploaded to Google or Facebook to target that individual or “lookalike” prospects to offer a mortgage or savings product.

This has been a huge revenue gateway for Google and Facebook and now Nine is muscling in on the action with Adobe’s product suite, used by a large portion of Australia’s top 50 advertisers to manage this sort of activity.

But Nine argues the user attention and engagement of premium content environments will deliver better results versus the rapid scrolling and short attention of user behaviour on Facebook or cat videos on YouTube.


People-based marketing alternative

“What’s really interesting is up until this point, there hasn't really been an alternative to the [tech] platforms to deliver these people based marketing solutions,” Nine’s Chief Sales Officer, Michael Stephenson told Mi3. “So Nine now is an alternative to those. And often they will work in combination. They should. There's obviously a role for everybody to play. So I think this really opens up a different conversation for Nine to be having and ultimately as [Adobe’s] Experience Platform becomes even bigger and a more important part of our ecosystem, the ability to understand more about a consumer and their journey as they engage with a brand and also engage in Nine properties, be that BVOD [Broadcast Video On Demand] or reading on SMH or how they are engaging with radio assets, allows us to have a very different conversation with advertisers and brands. The opportunities for us are very significant.”

The trick is that to tap Nine’s assets, companies will need to be Adobe Audience Manager customers, which many at the top end are.

Adobe ANZ managing director Suzanne Steele told Mi3 the creation of specific module for Nine’s assets was a global first for the company. She said it was an exclusive arrangement with Nine for an undisclosed term.

“We want to see how well this works and then we’ll see where we go with it,” she said. “We’ve got high aspirations for it. We’re backing Nine because they have the largest addressable audience in this market and we have a long-standing relationship with them where they’ve been a customer for many years. Ultimately, Adobe is not in the market for building products for one particular company, that’s not what we do. But right now we’re working tightly with Nine to deliver on the promise.”

When asked if the test was a six month or 12 month window, Steele said: “We’ll test it for as long as we have to prove that it’s successful.”

Nine’s Stephenson was equally evasive on whether Nine would do likewise with Adobe rivals like Salesforce or Oracle. “We are backing the best in the business and we always do. That’s why today we’re with Adobe but what happens in the future, who knows. For the foreseeable future, we’re partners in this and we’re going to explore all of the opportunities that it presents. Quite frankly, I want it to be our competitive advantage. The fact we have 13 million signed-in users gives us that to start with. This takes us to the next level. This is going to completely change the game.”

Beyond the Adobe deal announced at yesterday’s COVID-induced Virtual Upfront, Nine unveiled an array of initiatives and new content for 2021.  


Here’s what you need to know: 
  • Nine has also launched a new division of its marketing solutions offering targeted at longer-term deals – Powered Enterprise.
  • The division will work with top tier brands, utilising a “small but elite” team of marketing professionals to connect the Nine C-suite with a brand’s respective executives.
  • It will look to move away from the traditional CPM trading model and incorporate Nine’s data, tech and marketing offerings across its entire portfolio of assets.
  • Head of Powered, Liana Dubois did not rule out the possibility of partnering with agencies and tech partners to do more work around the CX and adtech space.
  • Nine is also introducing a new initiative targeting creative agencies called State of Originality.
  • Brands will be encouraged to treat the 2021 State of Origin campaign as the SuperBowl of Australian advertising.
  • The company has put forward $1m worth of ad inventory for the winning campaign.
  • Dubois says Nine is still working through the format and was unable to confirm whether ads will have to align with a pre-defined time frame of 15, 30 or 90 seconds.
  • Nine Radio also revealed it would be integrating its radio assets into its automated buying platform 9Galaxy, as well as its self-buy platform 9Voyager.
  • Finally, Nine is launching Money, its latest cross-platform superbrand which will live across television, radio, newspapers and digital.
  • The Money brand will be centred, in broadcast channels, on financial journalist Brooke Corte, who hosts finance program Money News on 2GB, 3AW and 4BC.


Nine goes deeper on long-term deals

Nine is also planning the expansion of the capability of its client marketing solutions division Powered with the launch of Powered Enterprise.

The new division within Powered will be targeted towards key C-suite clients who are looking for longer term partnerships. 

Nine was ambiguous on the exact structure and operation of the division. It says Enterprise will act in a consultancy capacity, with shared KPIs between the brand and Nine.

However, when questioned on what metrics would be applied to these KPIs and how they would be agreed upon, Head of Powered Liana Dubois told Mi3 it was "too soon to say".

"We still have to establish exactly how we will agree to contract terms with brands as there's no one size fits all approach to this," Dubois says.

Dubois says "client officers" from across the marketing industry will make up a “small but elite” team who will split their time between Nine and their relevant brands.

Currently hiring for these roles, Nine will use the former CMOs and execs to develop deeper relationships within the brands' marketing teams, however, it is unclear how they will be employed and whether it will be on a purely consultant-type basis.

“I would expect them to work extremely closely with the brand, almost to the point where they could be embedded within the business itself,” Dubois says.

“This will be the way to get the most out of these professionals as we look to be one of the local business that, and I say this humbly, helps lead Australia back to a period of sustained growth.”

Dubois says the range of work done by Enterprise will also not be limited to the typical campaign output across TV, radio, digital and print.

She says there will also be a focused on delivering key audience and data solutions, not ruling out moving into areas such as CX and adtech.

“For the most part, I think the division will certainly play in Nine’s core offering and assets but as businesses evolve, we will have to meet those changing client demands,” Dubois says.

“We can’t rule out partnering with the right agencies or tech partners to develop capabilities and solutions that go outside that core and into the growing digital and data spaces.”

Stephenson says the division will be focused on developing longer-term deals with brands who are more interested in utilising the entirety of Nine's asset portfolio, not just singular channel buys.

He says this will apply to top teir brands who are moving away from traditional transactional media buying and trading off CPMs.

“It's not necessarily about shutting down the transactional or CPM trading of the business, because media hygiene will continue to be a really important part just as it is today,” Stephenson says.

“However there needs to be a greater focus on developing campaigns that incorporate the entirety of Nine's offering, rather than just a TV, radio, digital or print buy.”


Creating Australia’s ‘SuperBowl of Advertising’

Nine has also announced a million-dollar challenge to marketers and creative agencies to take State of Origin from an annual sporting event and make it the “SuperBowl for Australian advertising”.

into a broader part of Australia’s cultural fabric as a must-watch event in which even the ads are unmissable.

The “State of Originality” initiative is an open challenge to brands and agencies to create “unmissable” advertising campaigns for the 2021 three-game rugby league event.

The State of Originality will award $1 million in advertising inventory across Nine’s television, radio, digital and print assets to the commercial judged as best on ground in the live telecast by an esteemed panel.

To be deemed eligible to enter, advertising must be booked within the three-game period of State of Origin in 2021.

Nine’s research revealed that a creative work in the right slot can contribute to close to 50% of the overall campaigns impact and engagement.

Dubois told Mi3 the initiative was designed to encourage large-scale creative work with “prolific sentiment” similar to what the US does during its highly sought after SuperBowl commercial break.

She says Nine is still working through the details and structure of the initiative, including run-time constraints.

In the US, 30-seconds of SuperBowl airtime cost $5.6m and can see advertisers utilise various run-time options including 15, 30 and 60 seconds.

“We haven’t worked out the details as of yet but given that Origin will take place in July next year, we expect agencies will have plenty of time to formulate ideas and ask the necessary questions,” Dubois says.


Radio enters Nine’s Galaxy

After refreshing its radio brands earlier this year following the acquisition from Macquarie Media, Nine is simplifying the media buying process for its assets using 9Galaxy.

9Galaxy is Nine automated buying platform, allowing agencies to buy inventory without the need for “make goods” and will offer access to radio inventory from November 1.

Nine says the move will provide faster response times and clear post-analysis reporting across its radio assets, as well as creating a simplified solution for buying across its TV and broadcast video on demand (BVOD) inventory on one platform.

“9Galaxy has led the way as Australia’s most advanced automated buying platform for TV and BVOD inventory since 2018 and will from November 1 make the transactional and reporting process of radio inventory more efficient too,” said Richard Hunwick Nine’s Director of Sales – Television and Radio.

The 9Galaxy system will now integrate with the industry buying platform RadioMATRIX to make the process of buying talk radio simpler and more effective than ever.

RadioMATRIX is a collaboration between Australian radio broadcasters and major media agencies to create a unified buying and trading platform for the entire radio sector.

Nineteen agencies are currently participating in the pilot program, which provides them with a single interface to connect with 370 radio stations and collaborate on media campaigns in real-time, from any location.

Nine also confirmed that in early 2021, it will open up 9Voyager for radio adding it to the self-service platform alongside television and digital, in a move aimed at making our radio platform more accessible to the wider small to medium enterprises (SMEs) market.


New Superbrand

Nine has used the 2021 Upfront presentation to unveil Money, its latest cross-platform superbrand which will live across television, radio, newspapers and digital.

The Money brand will be centred, in broadcast channels, on financial journalist Brooke Corte, who hosts Nine’s top rating finance program Money News on 2GB, 3AW and 4BC, and will also involve bespoke solutions on television and within Nine’s publishing assets.

Nine will also to seek to utilise other on-air and editorial talent in the personal finance space as it seeks to build the Money brand across its combination of platforms.

Nine launched its superbrands strategy last year at its 2020 Upfront with the aim of building its reach and audience across key verticals such as property, auto, travel and food.

Nine’s superbrands now include Money, Domain, Traveller, Good Food, CarAdvice and Good Weekend and Sunday Life.

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Paul McIntyre and Josh McDonnell

Executive Editor and Senior Writer

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