Page 23 - AdNews Magazine Jan-Feb 2021
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                pers were the second most supreme media and out-of- home was very much at the bottom of the pile even though it was the most traditional form of advertising.”
Fast forward 10 years and Cook founded Outdoor Network Australia, which represented both metropolitan and regional OOH players across the country. It brought together around 35 different companies under the one brand, with one solution to go directly to advertisers.
The idea to launch the business was sparked by changes in legisla- tion that saw the government ban tobacco advertising outdoors. At the time, Cook says a number of the players he represented made between 50 per cent and 100 per cent of their revenue from tobacco ads so the legislation would have a huge impact on their business.
“It was going to be very hard for them to sell to advertising agencies and others,” he says. “So I didn’t have a lot of capital but I started the business effectively as a representation company.”
Building an empire
Starting the business with just one other employee, his brother Noel Cook, it has grown to more than 800 across Australia and New Zealand today.
In 2002, Outdoor Network backdoor listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) for the first time as Network Limited. The company rebranded to oOh!media in 2008 following the acquisition of Media Puzzle. It went on to de-list from the ASX in 2012 after being privatised by Champ Private Equity and WPP, under the parent company Outdoor Media Operations, before relisting in 2014.
During the course of his career leading the business, Cook acquired around 45 businesses including EYE Corp in 2012 from Ten for a reduced price of $113 million, and Adshel in 2018 from HT&E for $570 million.
“Acquisitions such as EYE Corp were instrumental,” says Cook. “We were the third biggest player, they were the second — the two combined put us close to number one at that point.
“That really gave us the next big kick-along in terms of the brand equity on the streets, but secondly, the scale to really start to do things that were different, and investing in technology and data and a whole range of other ways of approaching how out-of-home could evolve the medium.”
The company also acquired digital publisher Junkee Media and printing business Cactus in 2016, further expanding its capabilities. However, Cook says there is more to oOh!media than just being a media company.
“It's a big property business, a big logistics business and a big data and tech business ... We employ seven full-time lawyers and that makes
us a pretty decent legal practice.”
“[The] reality is it’s also a big property business; it’s a big logis- tics business and now it’s a big data and tech business,” he says.
“As a property business, there’s numerous discussions, negotiations, contracts. We employ seven full-time lawyers in our business and that makes us a pretty decent legal practice because of the number of the work you have to do around that.
“Then you get into logistics. We have 250 people every day in some way, shape or form working, build- ing, cleaning, maintaining physical infrastructure, plus contractors.”
Cook says the introduction of data and technology has been one of the biggest game changers for the industry during his career. While digital signage has helped improve reliability, it’s the data that can help inform campaigns to improve effectiveness that is transforming the OOH industry.
“What I grew up with, I don’t think I could have even thought as little as seven years ago that we would one day be able to ascertain 500 different purchasing traits or actual purchases,” he says.
“But to actually be able to say these are the best signs for reach- ing light cheese buyers, or these are the best ways to reach heavy cheese buyers, and this is the best way to buy.
“The one I love using is pet food. How do you really know where you buy the best pet food? But we could. Dogs 20kg and above, we’ll give you the best loca- tion for each. That sort of level of data sophistication is only going to continue to evolve.”
Riding the rollercoaster
Leading a successful business in any industry can be like a rollercoaster with all its ups and downs. In his 30-plus years at oOh! Cook had quite the ride with acquisitions that nearly didn’t go through, listing on the ASX, then privatising the business and relisting again, and helping the company survive through the global financial crisis (GFC). However, it was as his departure was announced that he probably had the biggest challenge of all to face.
The OOH industry was hugely impacted by the COVID-19
 After building oOh!media for the past three decades, Brendon Cook will depart the company in 2021. | January/February2021 23

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