John Drinnan on business

John Drinnan is a Herald business writer and media commentator

John Drinnan: BlackHeart days long gone

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Criticism of Coutts and co in 2002 'a campaign of its time and that time has passed', says ad man Walden

David Walden in 2002. The America's Cup is in a different league these days, he says. Photo / NZ Herald
David Walden in 2002. The America's Cup is in a different league these days, he says. Photo / NZ Herald

Advertising identity David Walden could be excused a sense of payback if Grant Dalton and Emirates Team New Zealand take the America's Cup off Sir Russell Coutts and Oracle.

"Cap'n Waldo" led the 2002-03 BlackHeart protest campaign that criticised Coutts and other Kiwis who joined the Alinghi challenge, saying they were disloyal. Other supporters included Bill Ralston, Murray Deaker and Mike King.

Billboards carried messages such as: "Coutts and Co - Swiss Bankers since 2000" and "High on a hill lived a lonely boatman - yodelei, yodelei, yodelei-e-hoo."

The campaign was attacked by some media as mean-spirited and by Alinghi, which claimed some of its 18 Kiwi sailors were getting death threats, so the plug was pulled after four months.

Today Walden describes the death-threat allegations as "bull****", but Alinghi's powerful PR machine had an impact and BlackHeart was shut down. Now Grant Dalton and Dean Barker look likely to bring back the Auld Mug back to NZ, but Walden has no sense of delayed gratification.

"BlackHeart was a campaign of its time and that time has passed," he said. "Team New Zealand had been built up from mum and dad ... yachting clubs. There was indignation that people were taking away the talent, intellectual property and learnings built up over the years." Today, with international sponsorship and huge money involved, he said, that argument had had its day.

Sport, not business

One of the key media people involved with Team NZ has been Animation Research owner Ian Taylor, who has produced apps and impressive graphics supporting the Kiwi challenge.

Taylor made an interesting suggestion on TV3's The Nation last week, posing the idea that if Team NZ won, they should think about holding the races in export markets, not in this country. We could capitalise on the event with a New Zealand pavilion at the race venue.

It sounds like one step too far. Most of us have learned to live with the branding confusion that comes from having another country's name on "our" sails. But the notion of a Kiwi defence being held in some export market damages the view that the America's Cup is a sporting achievement to be cherished, not just a business opportunity.

$11 million nestegg

That said, Taylor will be sadly missed from the board of Maori TV, which he left recently after just a year when he was gagged and prevented from raising concerns about the process used to select a new chief executive.

The row has drawn attention to Maori TV and the way it has been run, with one obvious issue being questions about its funding - about $45 million a year.

You can't criticise Maori TV for underspending. But it is strange that although staff made programmes on the smell of an oily rag, at the end of its 2012 financial year Maori TV had $10.7 million on hand.

The broadcaster doesn't say what it has planned for the cash.

Sceptics question when the money - raised over several years - will be used.

Soon-to-depart chief executive Jim Mather said: "We have been accumulating this surplus knowing that we would need to embark on a capital expenditure programme to upgrade existing equipment over the next few years," though he declined to spell out the spending priorities.

Spokeswoman Diane Berghan said Maori TV was not a government agency and was not subject to "lose or use" rules imposed on some organisations that receive taxpayer funding.

Maori TV raised eyebrows in the midst of government agency cutbacks last year when it gave some staff a Christmas bonus.

Chris crosses

The spin merchant for government asset sales is to take over Sky TV's successful lobbying operation. Chris Major started yesterday after a period when she was a communications boss at the Treasury, responsible for the extension of the mixed-ownership model - a process that started with Mighty River Power and is moving on to Meridian. Before that she was a special adviser to Murray McCully during the Rugby World Cup and previously was marketing manager at law firm Chapman Tripp.

Major has a reputation as a charming spin merchant at Parliament, but has big shoes to fill. Her lobbying predecessor is Tony O'Brien, whose famously assiduous courting of politicians on both sides of the House has often been credited with Sky's success in keeping regulation at bay.

Lorde, Lorde

I can't help but feel that some of the hype about the America's Cup and The Lord Of The Rings is again rearing its head with the pop singer Lorde. Critics are being shot down in flames. The backlash against the actors union that dared to seek more money have been reflected online lately, in attacks on a music reviewer who dared give Lorde a bad review. I am not in the right demographic for her music, but 16-year-old Lorde has done amazingly well to reach No 3 in the US charts. Entertainment Weekly called her the "new alt music it girl". She is being backed by Universal Music, effectively the last multinational record company left standing in NZ. After the success of band The Naked and Famous and performers such as Ladyhawke and Kimbra, NZ remains on the radar for multinationals who have the marketing firepower to create international stars, which is good for the industry. But reviewers should still be able to say what they like.

Simon Sweetman pilloried Lorde's music in a harsh review. It drew equally harsh responses online, with some comments suggesting a New Zealand reviewer had a responsibility not to attack a home-made performer. Sweetman has built a reputation as an iconoclastic reviewer, and a common view is that he writes to elicit controversy.

Media commentator Russell Brown has been a passionate supporter of Lorde, and attacked Sweetman online.

Music lawyer and industry player Chris Hocquard said Lorde's success in the US and elsewhere was astonishing, but reviewers should be able to say what they wanted.

"Sweetman's view was that it was being marketed and hyped as something it was not - which he could say if he wanted." Brown and other passionate supporters for Lorde made the point that she had still had a great achievement. The whole thing was just a storm in a teacup, Hocquard said.

Survey surfing

Radio Sport has taken an unusual step in the middle of a radio survey period: changing the lineup for its breakfast show. Mark Richardson - who enjoyed good advertising support for his three-days-a-week gig - now presents the breakfast show Monday to Friday. The change coincided with America's Cup coverage, so new listeners tuning in for the yachting - some of whom listen to Pete Montgomery's commentary alongside TV One's pictures - would have had the bonus of finding Richardson. Tony Veitch has been moved to share the Newstalk ZB sports slot with Murray Deaker from 7pm to 8pm each weeknight and 12-6 on Saturdays. The ratings period ends tomorrow.

Greg Shand, 1952-2013

Greg Shand, a well-known figure in journalism and subsequently public relations, died on September 12, aged 61. Shand was political editor of the Herald from 1981 to 1984, during the final term of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon, afterwards moving to the Auckland Star. He later became a partner in the high-profile PR company Baldwin Boyle.

- NZ Herald

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