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    Mat Baxter: ‘Seven in danger of becoming a liability for clients’

    Mat Baxter, the former Huge and Initiative CEO who recently returned home to Australia, has claimed Seven runs the risk of “scaring brands away” as the headlines against the network continue to stack up.

    Across the past few weeks, those headlines have included: A former Spotlight producer claiming Seven paid for drugs, sex workers, Thai massages, and golf round to secure an interview with Bruce Lehrmann; Spotlight‘s EP leaving in the wake of the court evidence; an investigation into an expenses scandal by rival The Sydney Morning Herald, involving explosive text messages from former exec Bruce McWilliam; Seven apologising for misidentifying the Bondi Junction attacker; and CEO James Warburton reportedly leaving the network this week

    “Sadly, the network doesn’t currently exemplify the qualities (or safety) marketers are looking for. Would you really want your company associated with them in the current circumstances? My guess is most people would say ‘no’,” Baxter wrote on LinkedIn over the weekend, in a post titled: “Network Seven is in danger of becoming a liability for clients.”

    Baxter added that the “major turmoil” inevitably has consequences for media buyers and their clients.

    “Ordinarily, the primary consideration for a television network winning advertising investment is the audience performance of individual programs and their respective efficiency. After all, it’s the program, not the network, that ultimately delivers value. Think of it like the music business, you don’t buy the label, you buy the artist.

    “But this rule can be broken in extreme circumstances. Because if the ‘distributor’ becomes a worry, it can quickly bleed into the programs it sells. Put simply, brands never want to be tarnished by controversy or negativity, and this can easily happen by association.”

    In the comments, strategist and founder of This is the Day Carl Ratcliff agreed: “An executive team who should know a lot better given who they are. And how many of us know them.”

    Co-founder and director of Mediatel Events, the UK-based Justin Lebbon, wrote: “I do think TV is held a much higher standard than digital. If brands were truly concerned about brand association/brand safety they would much more concerned about what is going on in digital environments than they are.”

    Baxter contextualised his feedback: he has “always admired and respected the Seven brand. It has an amazing heritage and has been a dominant force in Australian advertising for years.” And the remedy is simple, he suggested.

    “Seven needs to move swiftly and decisively to demonstrate their historical core values and prove they won’t tolerate the sort of drama that’s presently playing out.

    “Let’s face it, in 2024, there are plenty of options out there for advertisers and I think it’s imperative that Seven remain one of them.

    “So, I hope they get their next moves right because the industry needs a strong and vibrant Seven.”

    The post Mat Baxter: ‘Seven in danger of becoming a liability for clients’ appeared first on Mediaweek.

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