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Retuned Warburton the new vroom at APN
The Australian, Australia  by Darren Davidson
05 Feb 2018
Media - Page 24 - 1029 words - ID 908009254 - Photo: Yes - Type: News Item - Size: 722.00cm2

James Warburton says he has "unfinished business" in the media industry as he looks to shake up underperforming "sleeping giant" APN Outdoor as its new chief executive.

Mr Warburton said he was determined to make up for the manner in which he left Ten Network in 2013 when he was fired after just 13 months in the top job.

"I wanted to get back into the publicly listed sector. I feel like it's unfinished business post-Ten, due to the exit. I want to do a good job and create some value for shareholders," Mr Warburton said.

In an interview with Media, Mr Warburton's first since he started the role on January 22, the executive has outlined a blueprint and given forthright views on the outdoor advertising sector, including a: Commitment to growing the outdoor sector's share of the $15 billion Australian advertising market to 10 per cent, from about 6 per cent; A plan to aggressively target contracts held by competitors as they go out to tender; A refusal to rule out M&A; The launch of a new consumer panel in partnership with research firm Pureprofile as part of a new data-led approach to sales and innovation including the recruitment of a chief innovation and strategy officer (global headhunter Egon Zehnder is leading the search); A corporate rebrand by specialist Hans Hulsbosch; A plan to create a high-performance customer-centric sales model providing fast turnaround responses to client briefs.

Mr Warburton arrives at APN after a successful 4-year tenure at Supercars drew to a close in December, offering Mr Warburton the chance for career rehabilitation.

As CEO of the motor-racing series, Mr Warburton more than doubled its profits and its pay-TV and digital audiences have grown substantially.

Now, Mr Warburton will attempt to enjoy success at APN, which provides classic billboards and digital screens at roadside, transit, airport and rail locations in Australia and New Zealand.

Investment in digital poster sites, which increase inventory and provide more highly targeted ad campaigns, has driven higher sales and bigger profits at APN in recent years. With a market value of $771 million, APN is comparable in size to the free-to-air networks.

Following hot on the heels of a failed $1.6bn merger with rival oOh! Media, however, APN last year lost a key contract to sell ads on Melbourne trams. It will cost the company about $7m in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.

While Mr Warburton gives credit to his predecessor Richard Herring for pushing revenue higher and leading the firm to a stockmarket listing, he firmly believes there is significant headroom to drive further growth.

"We haven't done enough in terms of education at the creative level and the client level in terms of what digital provides. Digital is returning a greater return on investment and an extraordinary level of quality across the industry from a platform point of view but the messaging is very similar to what we're seeing on static (ad formats). The creative could be stronger.

"Outdoor offers a number of new targeting opportunities for advertisers such as dayparts (which allows advertisers to target consumers during a specific part of the day). We've been perhaps a little bit difficult to deal with in terms of installation and guaranteed time frames but we will roll out more tactically responsive connected campaigns.

"We've been very focused on rolling out quality and location and we've probably failed from a sales execution point of view by allowing the assets to speak for themselves.

"We've got the best sites and portfolio and we've got to do a lot more to package and sell it better." Of potential M&A activity, Mr Warburton says: "We've got a Continued on Page 26

Retuned Warburton new vroom for APN Continued from Page 24 clean balance sheet and the leverage to look at opportunities when we feel the time is right." In a world of fragmenting audiences and digital distraction, Mr Warburton said outdoor should get a bigger premium.

"For me, this is about the opportunity. There's still a good level of growth left in the industry albeit it's moderating from where it's been. There's a lot of people that have been here for a long time and I think that's a huge advantage." Today, APN Outdoor will announce a tie-up with Pureprofile as part of an effort to measure the effectiveness of outdoor marketing campaigns and give clients more reasons to consider the medium when they apportion annual budgets.

A panel of 170,000 Australians will offer a level of granular detail unprecedented in the outdoor sector with an app delivering location-based data as the company converts static poster sites to digital, to increase inventory and provide more highly-targeted campaigns for advertisers. Later this year, APN Outdoor will be trialling geotargeted surveys. A sense of anticlimax overshadowed Mr Warburton's stint at Ten after his defection from Kerry Stokes's Seven network prompted a hardfought legal battle that kept the executive on gardening leave for months in 2011.

Asked if he had regrets about the other". He laughs as he says it, but it is how he feels.

"I've been working since 1988 and I've only ever had one year that hasn't worked when what I was doing at Ten wasn't working.

I did regret the way I left Seven and Ten. Years later down track, I've realised I could've handled that better.

"But it is what it is and I never would have had Supercars, which has been a fantastic experience. I've made lifelong friends. Motorsports is an absolute passion of mine. If the events were run on a Wednesday and Thursday I would still be there. But there was no doubt I was planning to get back in media. It was just a matter of the right opportunity and the right time. APN is in the wheelhouse the Ten period, Mr Warburton says it "probably would have been good to leave one before for me in terms of being a sales organisation - contract renewals and sales revenue."

Caption Text:
HOLLIE ADAMS APN Outdoor chief James Warburton: 'I did regret the way I left Seven and Ten. Years later down track, I've realised I could've handled that better'

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