MediaWorks boss believed to have full backing from Oaktree.

Oaktree Capital is still backing MediaWorks chief executive Mark Weldon, amid persistent rumours of change at the top.

MediaWorks owns TV3, Four and half of New Zealand's commercial radio network.

In June, Oaktree took full ownership of MediaWorks, which has suffered low morale and ratings mishaps at its TV operations.

The MediaWorks investment is tiny for Oaktree - a so-called "vulture fund" based in Los Angeles, with total assets of some US$103 billion ($156 billion).


It refuses to discuss its individual assets with the media.

However, a source familiar with Oaktree Capital's thinking was aware of speculation about the Mediaworks CEO and said Oaktree backed him and his strategy.

"Mark Weldon has the full support of Oaktree, so any reports that he was about to be replaced would be inaccurate," said the source.

There has also been speculation about the reporting lines for consultant Rohan Lund, who has been working with TV3.

The source said Lund was reporting to MediaWorks, not to Oaktree.

Lund, described by the Australian Financial Review as ambitious, was recently restructured out of a job as chief operating officer of the giant pay TV company Foxtel. He had been there two years and before that missed out on a job as CEO of the Australian Seven Network.

MediaWorks spokeswoman Charlotte McLauchlan said the company had no comment on speculation.

Weldon has had a rollercoaster ride since joining MediaWorks 14 months ago, with disappointing results from TV amid a strategic shift that downgraded news and current affairs and made more use of reality formats.

Exchange control

An announcement yesterday explains the role of a new MediaWorks subsidiary, MediaWorks Maidstone, which was registered with the Companies Office on September 3.

MediaWorks Maidstone is 51 per cent owned by MediaWorks and includes its chief executive, Mark Weldon, on its board. MediaWorks would not discuss the future of firm, but it is understood that it relates to the company's interest in a joint venture with NZME, Fairfax Media and TVNZ to create a local advertising exchange service - Kiwi Premium Advertising Exchange (KPEX).

Fizz pop

The advertising industry is making a pre-emptive strike in calling for an urgent review of the two codes covering advertising to children. The Association of New Zealand Advertisers and the Communication Agencies Association of New Zealand will be calling for a review at a meeting of the Advertising Standards Authority next week.

The Government is expected to announce a package to deal with child obesity within the next few weeks. Any review of the codes won't subvert that announcement, but it would give the industry some momentum ahead of what is expected to be a highly charged call from anti-advertising campaigners to regulate marketing to children.

The current codes on advertising to children - and specifically advertising food to children - were set in 2010. Back then, the TV industry lobbied hard against restrictions, even arguing that the right to see ads was part of United Nations codes on the rights of children, and that the Government risked breaching those rights if it tried limiting ads aimed at kids.

Five years on, the fervour for regulation - and the focus on marketing - has grown stronger, with particular emphasis on childhood obesity.

Marketers are looking askance at the growing global momentum to regulate the advertising of fizzy drinks and snack food. At the same time, traditional media ad revenue is being hit hard. Nobody can afford to lose a category of advertising.

End of an era

Advertising and media people were among mourners for David Walden at his funeral in Parnell yesterday. Photo / Supplied
Advertising and media people were among mourners for David Walden at his funeral in Parnell yesterday. Photo / Supplied

Advertising and media people were among mourners for David Walden at his funeral in Parnell yesterday.

Walden, aka Devo, died on October 3, aged 66. It's a cliche to say it about an adman - but Walden was larger than life - a big, bluff, enthusiastic man, typically described as "a character", famous for his wit, charm and love of the ad world.

At Saatchi & Saatchi he was behind important ad campaigns such as the Anchor Butter family. Later, as head of the Whybin TBWA agency, he championed the long-running Goldstein campaign for the ASB.

So the renewal of hostilities between advertisers and academics, and the clarion call for regulation is all very timely.

Back in 2008, Walden confided to me his view that the ad industry had been weakened by calls for what he called "political correctness", arguing that childhood obesity was caused by bad parenting, not evil advertising.

"When parents find their kids gobbling food and being corrupted by TV ads they should turn off the TV and send them to their room to do their homework - that is what my father did - not try to have the ads taken off TV," he told me. "It comes down to a basic responsibility that people have to their families and children. Don't overstate the influence of advertising."

Walden had a pithy, subtle sense of humour that sometimes got him in trouble. As president of the advertising agencies body CAANZ, he once dismissed people who did blame advertising. They were "people whose idea of fun is a nice glass of water and a look out the window".

It was a funny line, but got him in trouble with the industry which was trying to present itself as taking the critics seriously. But it was classic Devo, and why he was always a pleasure to talk to.

Chocker block

Apple has approved a powerful new ad-blocking app for its mobile phones that highlights what the Financial Times describes as a big threat to online advertisers and publishers.

Digital advertising on mobiles is the big growth area in the media and the focus of much investment. But there has been been growing concern in the United States about the increasing bandwidth taken up by digital advertising - particularly video - which means phone users end up paying more.

The growing use of ad-blocking technology could harm digital behemoths which carry advertising, such as Google, and it will also encourage the development of content marketing and embedding brands within content so they cannot be identified as blockable content.

The Telecommunications Users Association says most of the high-bandwidth ads so far have been selected by consumers so are not involuntary.

In yet another twist to this ongoing story, another development is for ad-blocking apps to allow certain advertisers to break through the block - if they pay a fee. Interactive Advertising Bureau chief executive Adrian Pickstock said this was being closely watched, and opened the door to extortion of advertisers.