How Seven Plans to Poach News Viewers From Rival Nine

Poppy Reid, Melissa Hopkins and Suzanne
Damien Ford

The Seven Network is about to undergo a concerted effort to boost the ratings for its nightly news program.

Currently, the 6:oo p.m. bulletin gets higher overall nightly national ratings than its commercial counterparts Channel 10 and Channel 9, however the race is significantly tighter in New South Wales and Queensland.

Seven’s new chief marketing officer, Melissa Hopkins, noted it’s unlikely the network will swing or sway die-hard fans of Nine’s Peter Overton, so they need to find another type of viewer – or buyer – to tap into.

“In New South Wales and Queensland, we’re quite tight with Nine, and there’s a big discussion around how we can get more viewers across from Nine… And I sort of had this discussion with [the network] going ‘I’m not sure whether an outdoor billboard of Mark Ferguson saying ‘Know the News’ is going to switch people from Nine to Seven’…. I think where we need to take a step back and look at where we can be kind of magical,” she told an exclusive dinner hosted by Variety Australia.

Seven News host Mark Ferguson Jeremy Piper

“So I just sort of sat down and said to Craig [McPherson, Seven’s chief of news and current affairs] ‘Is news a bit like washing detergent?’ And he went ‘What the hell are you talking about?’. And I said ‘Well, for me, OMO – I am fanatical about OMO. Like, I need OMO, I will only buy OMO, actually I really probably don’t check the price of OMO. There was a period where they changed their packaging and it wasn’t available and I freaked out,” she explained.

“Hard-core OMO fans are a bit like people that love Peter Overton on Channel 9. You aren’t going to get them to switch. Then you get individuals that will only buy on price, so whatever is on special, so be that Fairy, Dynamo, OMO, ‘Don’t really care, I’m just going to get what’s on special’. They’re a type of customer we could get to get to the news. Or, alternatively, you get some that are like ‘I like OMO, I might be willing to try Fairy’.

“And we sort of sat there and had this awesome conversation and Craig said ‘I don’t want the hardcore OMO users, actually the ones that want price are going to screw my ratings, because they just go up and back because they’re not loyal… So I just really want to go for the ones that think ‘Yea, I might give it a go’.’

“And the reason I love that – and we had a great discussion about it as an analogy – is for a news director that thought that marketing was all fluff, the minute you start using other examples, which are basic science of marketing, you can unlock, really sort of amazing truths and, from the back of it, you guys will see in the next few weeks, we have an amazing new news campaign coming out.”

During the Twilio Segment Variety Australia CMO Dinner, Hopkin also flagged a push to transform the network so it’s seen as ‘more than just a content player’. She also noted that the network would do well to remind Australians of their latent brand love for Seven.