Sonder | Knowing when not to leverage owned media
Knowing when not to leverage owned media is crucial to ensuring a sustainable owned media ecosystem. Here's 3 questions to ask yourself before opening an asset up to other partner brands.
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Is this 2018’s biggest owned media fail?

Is this 2018’s biggest owned media fail?

The lead up to last Tuesday’s advertising projection on the Sydney Opera House caused phenomenal public backlash and made headlines globally. The projection was advertising The Everest, a horse racing event. In the lead up to the advertising stunt, there were plenty of opinions ranging from anti-commercialisation rage to the economic benefits of advertising major events. Even the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison (an ex-Tourism boss, who knows the value of media), decided to weigh in with his opinion.  

From a pure media perspective, it’s easy to see the attraction of such an advertising stunt. The visibility and status of the medium, the PR and buzz, the multi-media audiences… So, was it marketing nirvana? Or an opportunistic way to exploit public space for commercial gain?

We’ll leave aside the social rights and wrongs of using cherished public spaces for commercial advertising. But, from an owned media perspective, the stunt was questionable at best. Our guiding rule for considering any owned media leverage is to answer 3 simple things:

  1.   Is the customer experience improved by leveraging the asset?
  2.   Is it an effective medium for the brand being advertised?
  3.   Does it return value to the owner of the asset?

Evidence would suggest that the answer to question 1 is an outright “no”. Given more than 300,000 people signed a petition against using the Opera House as a billboard and a Micromex survey also indicated 80% of Sydney residents were against it.

To question 2, given the crowd at The Everest was up by 20%, let’s say “yes”.

And finally, did it return value to the owners of the asset? By “owners” we’re referring to the residents of Sydney and New South Wales. Did they get value from the leveraging of this asset? There is definite economic value to successful events being held in the state. But how much of that success could be attributed to the projection on the Opera House? Hard to say because there was other media activity, including TV and a helicopter banner being flown about. What’s not hard to say is that, in the long term, over commercialising a media asset is not sustainable as it dilutes the medium and turns audiences away. And clearly, the majority of people (80%) didn’t want this public place turned into an illuminated billboard. So, the answer to question 3 is “no”.

The thing about these 3 questions is that you need the trifecta – all three have to be met with a resounding “yes”. Even 2 out of 3 isn’t enough. So, this Opera House of Cards is an example of when not to leverage owned media, because it simply doesn’t pass the test.