Michael Stephenson on how Nine and Fairfax can build a brand

• Way too early for Nine and Fairfax commercial teams to be talking, but Nine confident it can build ad revenues

Although Nine and Fairfax have been working on their merger plan for most of July, Nine chief sales officer Michael Stephenson said the process of planning the future of the Nine-Fairfax sales offer only really started in earnest after the deal’s announcement last Thursday.

Nine’s merger with Fairfax: A Mediaweek Q&A session on Australia’s biggest-ever media deal

“There is a lot of work to be done between now and early December when the merged entity is expected to be approved,” Stephenson told Mediaweek.

“At that point in time things will really kick into gear.”

As to what the combined sales offer might involve, Stephenson said it was too early to go into detail. He did say: “At Nine we have focused on helping brands to tell their stories through great content. And also help them targeting audiences at scale based on a better understanding of who those audiences are. That is why our data proposition is so important.

“The opportunities that a merged entity brings see us with some of Australia’s greatest content brands in combination with Australia’s largest data proposition, all powered with great technology.

“That allows you to create marketing platforms for brands, which is incredibly exciting.

The feedback we had from the ad market was pretty overwhelming with everyone super-excited about all of the possibilities that we will be able to bring to market as we create marketing platforms for advertisers.”

When asked if Stephenson was confident he could increase the advertising revenue above what both Nine and Fairfax Media generate separately now, Stephenson said yes. “My focus and my responsibility is to maximise what revenue we can from the audiences we generate around our content.

I’m optimistic there are incredible things we can do in the combined business and that should lead to revenue growth.

Nine’s current sales structure includes Powered, which is cross-platform and platform agnostic. Stephenson also explained Nine has teams for particular agency groups and within those teams are television and digital specialists.

“My focus has been to ensure we continue to have great specialists including specialists in data and programmatic, which is really important.”

Stephenson agreed that using Stan as a case study is a good example of how brands can build using the assets of both Nine and Fairfax. “Not many businesses have grown at the rate Stan has over the past couple of years using Nine and Fairfax in combination.

“Domain is another good example. It has been a great partner of ours on The Block and in combination with Domain we have created a marketing platform to help them deliver against their objectives while at the same time delivering a great user experience for our audiences as they integrate into the show.

“That is two great examples of how you can use the power of our assets.”

It is far too early yet for the Nine and Fairfax commercial teams to start talking and planning together, Stephenson said. “There is a process we need to have that should see the approval of the new business and it is not until that point that we start having those deep conversations.”

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