Rob Atkinson blog: Clear Channel boss on life Down Under

Rob Atkinson

Rob Atkinson, the chief operating officer of Clear Channel UK, is currently on secondment as CEO of Adshel in Australia. In his dispatches for The Drum, he'll tell us about adjusting to life on the other side of the world and the differences between the two media markets.

From my very first day I knew things were going to be little different over here in Australia. After touching down in Sydney and making my way to the Adshel offices I found myself staring out the window, taken aback by the general dress code on the streets - women wearing elaborate hats and men in incredibly sharp suits – not your typical Tuesday in London, let alone in Sydney where I thought I might be able to adopt a slightly more laid-back Aussie style…I was beginning to worry about the quality of my wardrobe.

What I didn’t realise was that this particular Tuesday was Melbourne Cup Day, the horse race that quite literally stops the nation. Not such a bad way to kick things off on my first day. Since then it’s been a fantastic couple of weeks getting to know my colleagues and the media industry over here. I’ve already picked up that everyone has a nickname irrespective of their position and that all names have to end in O. The sun has also been shining all the time which has only added to the fantastic welcome I’ve had.

In terms of the industry, there are probably four key differences that have stood out as a newcomer to this vibrant region.

1) As the Australian market holds a slight buffer from the financial effects of the EU and US, I’ve noticed a real sense of openness and fearlessness from the industry as a whole. There is a richness of enthusiasm across the entire media market and an overwhelming feeling that they’re on the cusp of something big.

2) The second major difference between the two markets is the differing approaches to research, neuroscience and the use of heuristics. The outdoor market in the UK has had a real focus in this area over the past few years and portray the effectiveness of outdoor through a solid understanding of audience measurement and the customer journey. This is an area that is rapidly building momentum in Australia and New Zealand following research initiatives such as MOVE (Measurement of Outdoor Visibility and Exposure).

3) The third noticeable difference, also relating to research and insight, is the UK’s extensive use of Econometrics to ensure accountability and ROI in the media market. Understanding how outdoor fits into the media mix is critical and enables us to build the arguments about what outdoor delivers why it’s so effective. I see this as a major growth area for the Australian market heading into 2012.

4) There is also a solid gap between the Digital and Mobile market in Australia compared to the UK but that landscape is also rapidly changing. This is partly due to the closeness of advanced markets such as Singapore and Japan where digital out-of-home and mobile holds such a large presence and is at the forefront of technological advancement. I’ve been particularly impressed by the NFC campaign Adshel ran recently for Coles. Fifty outdoor advertising sites in Melbourne were equipped to enable consumers to retrieve exclusive digital Coles content, such as recipes and cookbook videos by a popular Australian chef, via their phone's WiFi connection or by simply tapping their handset against the NFC tag on the panel.

The final thing that stood out and something I’m struggling to get my head around is the difference between football and well… football. Aussie Rules Football or, as I like to call it Aussie ‘NO’ Rules, is the faster, more confusing cousin of ‘Soccer’. I’m not quite convinced but as the newest supporter of the Sydney Swans, the new sister team to my beloved ‘ Baggies’. I’m looking forward to figuring it all out.

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