Will Northern & Shell's cross-media gambit work?

Is the industry impressed by the group's move to merge its TV, print and digital partnership teams, Alasdair Reid asks.

When Richard Desmond bought Channel 5 in 2010 and added it to his Northern & Shell empire, there was speculation that the group would seek ways to develop a cross-media sell.

And, indeed, a year later, the joint managing director Stan Myerson announced that the company was hoping to explore new ways of working with advertisers and agencies.

Last week, N&S decided to combine its TV, print and digital partnership teams into one centralised unit, headed by Agostino Di Falco, the partnership director at Channel 5.

We’re still a long way short of an across-the-board cross-platform trading structure, but it’s a significant initiative. Will the marketplace be impressed? Chris Locke, the UK trading director of Starcom MediaVest Group, isn’t convinced: "This isn’t new news – media agencies are already putting together partnership deals across media."

He reckons this is more significant, however, if it’s a step towards full-blown joint trading across the Express titles and Channel 5. He continues: "There could be one conversation and we’d be able to talk more meaningfully about the audience overlap between N&S and Channel 5."

Mark Jarvis, a founding partner at the7stars, thinks technical challenges await. He states: "Breaking down two quite discrete trading models to create a new valuation model will be a big challenge, requiring strong leadership and trading acumen. The industry will be watching developments with interest over the coming months."

Meanwhile, Adrian English, the head of media investment at Carat, believes this initiative deserves to be a success. He comments: "Media agencies, advertisers and, above all, consumers simply don’t think or behave within the silos that have historically existed in the media industry, so any initiative that seeks to deliver more convergent solutions is to be applauded."

And Richard Oliver, the managing partner, investment, at UM London, agrees the industry should welcome innovation of this sort. He concludes: "The N&S cross-media approach is already working and this reorganisation will enable the company to do even more in this area."

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