Ooh ! No .
A proposed merger between Aussie outdoor giants, ooh! Media and APNO fell apart in May after a statement of issues was released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). That statement indicated the Aussie regulator viewed the merger narrowly in the context of the OOH industry, not as part of the broader advertising industry as a whole, as ooh! and APNO contended. “The loss of competition could result in increased prices for advertisers, or lower levels of service, quality, or innovation,” the ACCC said in its statement.
In an emailed response to NZ Marketing, ooh! Media CEO Brendon Cook said that he thought the ACCC’S position was “surprisingly adverse.” He wrote: “The ACCC took a narrow definition of the market and one that we do not believe reflects the current and rapidly changing media landscape. The ACCC has said that the likes of us don’t compete with anyone other than other out-of-home companies and that our products allow us to bundle in ways others can’t.” As a result, the boards of both companies decided to step away from the merger.
The merger would have likely had little impact on the New Zealand market, where ooh! is a much smaller player than it is in Australia (although it is expanding its footprint), but the question of how to define the industry is a compelling one, nonetheless, in an era where media is both increasingly fragmented and the lines between channels is increasingly blurred.
Cook had harsh words for the regulators, blasting them for an inability to see that media owners aren’t just in competition with owners of the same type, but with digital channels and, in particular, the Googles and Facebooks of the world. “So, we don’t agree with the ACCC position,” he continued. “But we don’t want to spend six to 12 months educating the ACCC or in court, especially as the media market is changing so quickly, hence our mutual decision to walk away from the merger, and ooh! taking a decision to continue to deliver on and build out our clear strategy that we had been working to for the past few years.”