debating, listing, reporting

Homogeneous, Old School and Plutomanic: what Adnews’ Power 50 says about the state of Australian media

last week Adnews arrived on my desk.  it featured a pull-out of it's 'Power 50' – a list of the top 50 "power brokers in Australian Advertising, Media and Marketing".  it makes for interesting reading.  it pretty much lists fifty white, male chief executives and directors, many of which have familial or other connections within the industry.

Adnews compiled the list "by taking into account a set of criteria
including budgets and staff under control; breadth of responsibilities;
levels of independence and authourity; connections; company performance;
community standing; and industry respect".  and claim themselves to be
"confident the 50 who have made the cut represent the most powerful and
influential people in the industry".

but if this list represents the power and influence within our industry, exactly what does it say out our industry?

one.  that they're a homogeneous bunch.  predominantly white and male; only four and a half entries in the fifty (9%) are women (the half is, at #4, Harvey Norman Holdings' Managing Director Katie Page, who is married to the Executive Chairman of the same company Gerry Harvey).

two.  that our industry is so old school it makes MadMen look like reality TV.  John Hartigan at #2 "has led the defence of the Australian newspaper industry, forcefully arguing why mastheads here are more robust than in North America and Britain" … David Thoday (#5), Chief Exec of Telstra was wrong-footed by the decline in the use of telephone landlines, commenting that "the decline has been more severe than we realised" … Kate McKensie (at #8) is therefore the person at Telstra responsible for holding back the tide, I mean "halt the decline of Telstra's fixed-line business" … and at #31 we have Joe Talcott, who only this year was quoted as claiming that "no one sits down to 'watch the internet'".

Richard Freudenstein, CEO of The Australian and NDM at #14 commented at at recent event the that "rise of aggressive technological companies" may prove "potentially quite disruptive to professional media companies" … at the time I left readers to consider in their own time the choice of the words 'potentially' and 'quite'.

and what of those aggressive technological companies … even those on the list who it could be argued represent a more contemporary and evolving view of 21st Century media – Google GM Karim Temsamani at #12, or Facebook's regional manager of sales Paul Borrudat #21 – are there less because of their insight into a changing media ecology and rather because they're in charge.

three.  a browse of the entries makes it more than apparent what, according to Adnews, power is based on…  in fact it's hard to find an entry that doesn't refer to either spending, buying or selling power.  money, and channeling and making as much of it as possible is, it would seem, pretty much the only name of the game that is the Australian Advertising, Media and Marketing industry right now.  Adnews would have us all cast as plutomaniacs.

now not for a second I am suggesting that we're not an industry of commercial organisations, the continued existence of which is dependent on profit generation and growth.  my point is that this fact is so patently obvious that it shouldn't need saying.  yet Adnews says it.  fifty times.

the upshot of all this is that whilst I don't have issues with any of the individuals on the list, I do have a lot of issues with the list.  the advertising, media and marketing industry has never seen the pace of change we are currently witnessing.  the opportunity of creating a list of this type is not the reinforce the past but point the direction to the future.

the opportunity was to invest in a supplement that gave all of us who work in this industry an indication on where the thinking, innovation and evolution of the communications industry in Australia is happening.  in doing so, the opportunity was for a trade title to help set and shape the agenda for our industry.  it is an opportunity very much missed.


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