SkyCity's new advertising campaign takes the warm and cuddly approach in stressing the company's community links.
But at the same time, SkyCity is developing a reputation as an aggressive player with media as it lifts the pressure for more taxpayer handouts.
The bright and shiny image campaign was forecast by this column in August last year, and as expected it promotes SkyCity's role in providing community services, jobs and more dining choices for the city's well heeled.
Ultimately, it aims to promote the casino as a good corporate citizen - as plenty of other corporates do by sponsoring worthy organisations and campaigns. What is odd in this case, though, is that the campaign is coming out just as SkyCity plays tough in its quest for bigger taxpayer handouts for its planned convention centre.
The argument will be that the campaign - which started on February 2 and runs to mid-March - counters negative messages in the media, and that it is more than just a casino company. The campaign was devised by ad agency Colenso BBDO, which recently came back to working for SkyCity.
There has been a lot of comment in trade media about the tone of the SkyCity adverts.
One adman approached by the Herald said the campaign let itself down because it avoided talking about the fact that SkyCity is a gambling firm. Veteran adman Roger MacDonnell was the head of Colenso BBDO the previous time it held the SkyCity account. He is out of Colenso now.
"I absolutely disagree with the approach," he said. Gambling, said MacDonnell, had become "the elephant in the room", and it was noticeable that it was not being mentioned.
"You should not be trying to ignore gambling; you have to try to redefine it as a non-threatening activity and there is nothing insidious about it. A company like SkyCity has to be seen to be giving it back," he said, but it might have been better to get the message across in two separate commercials.
SkyCity corporate affairs boss Colin Espiner acknowledged debate about the ad, but insisted the timing - coinciding with the latest convention centre negotiations - was a coincidence.
The campaign had been planned for several months and there was no way to plan for the news agenda. He said the ad had two versions, and the one playing in general viewing time was legally limited in how much gambling imagery could be shown.
He agreed that the public knew SkyCity was a gambling operation, and said it was not trying to disclaim that association. The version played in adult viewing time did include an aspect that was in the casino.
Sky City was happy with the campaign, Espiner said.
MediaWorks board member Julie Christie has been appointed acting manager of strategy for television and video, reporting to chief executive Mark Weldon. The role has been set down to last for two months, but Christie has long been involved in the day-to-day business of TV3, and some staff believe the director-cum-staffer is a permanent fixture around the Flower St studios.
Indeed, some believe Christie was considered for the chief executive role before Weldon put his name forward. MediaWorks sources believe that Weldon - a former chief executive of the NZX, with an intimate understanding of the capital markets - has been "bitten by the TV bug" and is taking a close interest in the business alongside his prime mission - finding a new owner.
Weldon is a novice who has come to trust in Christie's television expertise, while taking a personal interest in the new Paul Henry breakfast show.
While Weldon is a numbers man, somewhat removed from the glamour business, Christie has a reputation as someone who speaks her mind and does not suffer fools gladly.
Certainly, the two dominate TV3 nowadays. Weldon has parted company with some senior executives including the former CEO of TV3, Paul Maher. Now Weldon has a board member and reality TV expert on staff, a broadcaster who has run her own niche TV channels and has strong ideas. Other changes are being considered, including the appointment of head of communications.
However, the question being asked around TV3 is whether the two will be able to maintain the esprit de corps that has contributed to the success of the TV3 operation.
Media sources say cosmetic cuts to budgets have gone down badly with staff. A case in point was removing access to Air New Zealand Koru Club membership for lower ranked staff.
That has led to thousands of dollars in extra costs, because of additional charges for camera gear that did not apply to Koru Club members.
I am betting Weldon is still on the fast track to take MediaWorks into an initial public offering. Australian-based media company APN News & Media yesterday announced a delay of at least 12 months in plans to float its local operation, NZME. - publisher of the Herald.
MediaWorks and NZME. go head to head, dominating the radio market, and tensions between them have been rising while both looked at share floats.
I hear that MediaWorks chairman Rod McGeoch and a majority of the out-of-pocket bankers and investors who took MediaWorks out of receivership last year are still keen for a float to go ahead, though there are one or two who are happy to grow value first.
The Racing Board is promising more of its owns sports programming, when it completely takes over the frequency now shared with the LiveSPORT channel.
LiveSPORT, which is part of MediaWorks, goes off air on April 14 and the Racing Board will broadcast its own racing coverage.
The move is part of a big push by the board and the TAB to develop its broadcasting arm, out of new studios in Auckland's Stanley St.
The LiveSPORT station has been housed at MediaWorks since its inception 10 years ago.
As a result of the move there will be programming changes, with more coverage of sports linked to TAB sports betting.
Meanwhile, insiders say MediaWorks will run more sports coverage on its other stations, and changes to the sports team will be linked to the merger of the TV3 and Radio Live newsrooms.
The loss of access to the Racing Board frequency is unlikely to have a significant effect on MediaWorks' advertising revenue.