Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Advertising safe gamble via James Packer, John Singleton and Robert Whyte business, by Greg Tingle


Advertising Politics Internet James Packer John Singleton Promotions Media Man

Looking to advertise and have a pretty big budget? Then perhaps one of Australia's richest men, James Packer, and a couple of his business associates can help you out.

Got a not so big budget, maybe any number of agencies can help you out, including this one.

An impressive business outfit set up by by James Packer, John Singleton and Robert Whyte is cashing in on changes to planning regulations made almost 5 years ago that took away local councils of the right to approve advertising signs on motorways.

Ah, free enterprise.

Manboom has started to erect advertising billboards worth in excess of $500,000 each along Sydney's 21-kilometre M2 motorway.

Manboom, currently owned in equal share by companies controlled by Packer, Singleton and Whyte, bought a concession to erect signs over the M2 from the road's operator, Transurban, in 1998.

For about a decade the concession delivered next to nothing, but times are a changing. The M2 passes through 3 local councils and just one, Hornsby, would allow advertising billboards. Of Manboom's 7 applications to Hornsby Council, it approved just 3.

This situation changed in 2007 when the then planning minister, Frank Sartor, amended legislation to make his very office the sign off authority for motorways.

Last year, Manboom submitted development applications to build 15 advertising signs along the M2.

The Department of Planning approved 11, after the Roads and Traffic Authority objected to 4 on safety grounds. The RTA cited fears about "sign clutter" and concerns the angle of one billboard would distract motorists.

This year Manboom put forward part two of its "M2 signage masterplan". It requested planning approval for another 9 advertising signs, including five billboards and 4 on bus shelters. The development has not achieved approval, yet the RTA has objected to the bus shelters and one of the billboards, which would overhang the road at Cropley Drive.

A question make lays over much income Manboom, owned by the business entrepreneurs since the late 1990s, would expect to deliver from advertising over the M2. The estimated cost of works for the first 11 signs, according to the development application, comes to a cool $5.57 million. That's more than 5 times the amount of money Echo Entertainment forked out for the redevelopment of The Star (formally Star City Casino).

The firm will, however, have to return a portion of its advertising revenue to local councils.

Hills Shire, which does not allow large billboard advertising, in May elected to accept Manboom's offer of $30,000 a year from 2012-13 when the advertising starts.

In deciding the approval, the RTA states it relies on national guidelines. It does not permit, for instance, advertising signs that resemble RTA signs or electronic advertising signs.

But what constitutes a safe sign remains a difficult area of research, according to Raphael Grzebieta, chairman of road safety at the injury risk management research centre at the University of NSW.

"On some highways which are particularly boring a sign on the side of the road can wake you up," Professor Grzebieta said. "On other instances you get overloads of signs, of information, and with your cognitive capacity being overloaded you have to make a choice of what to do, and you might make the wrong choice and be in a crash."

Once Transurban's $550 million M2 upgrade is finished, Manboom will try to implement part three of its signage masterplan.

They say advertising makes the world go round, so little wonder Packer, Singleton and Whyte remain high on the idea.

A Media Man insider said "They should have little trouble getting advertisers. They could even advertise some of their own wares, be it Crown Poker, Magic Millions, Perisher, or get any number of their existing advertisers to advertise on their latest, greatest, advertising platform".

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