British Agency Ex-Pats Weigh In on Murdoch

Note that multinational advertisers are closely monitoring escalating events

The widening phone hacking crisis involving News International, Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. operations, has yet to have specific relevance to American consumers of the mogul’s more-familiar U.S. media like the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.

But many multinational advertisers, given their keener radar, will be watching the escalating situation far more carefully in coming weeks.

“Increasingly, advertisers and brands have a point of view in the world and follow a certain code of conduct, and they expect their suppliers and media partners to also follow the same code of ethics,” says John Dunleavy, evp, client leadership and development, Saatchi & Saatchi NY. “It’s more than just ticking off the boxes of reach and frequency; increasingly there are other things that are important to advertisers.”

Judith Carr, president, LBi U.S. and managing director, LBi, N.Y., says the power and preponderance of social media that helped collapse a 168-year-old British tabloid institution is not lost on the advertisers who also live in that same transparent world.

“It will be interesting to see what happens in coming weeks. When they closed News of the World, it felt very much because advertisers pulled out as well as increasing momentum among consumers,” she observes. “It’s very sensitive for brands to associate with a damaging situation, either with one involving a person or media.”

And what consequences for the Murdoch brand? In the U.K. the family is synonymous with its newspapers, and already its political clout and institutional credibility may have suffered irreparable damage.

“The presence of Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch in the U.K. at this time says everything that needs to be said," says Richard Pinder, former Publicis Worldwide chief operating officer. "It’s important. It’s a threat to them and their Sky deal. The Murdoch family and News are interchangeable as far as the U.K. public and lawmakers are concerned. 

“What is particularly noteworthy is that there is almost a cascading effect of parliamentarians piling on to attack a group who they previously courted assiduously," adds Pinder. "It’s almost as if they feel they are 'safe at last' to say what they think. Rumors abound in the U.K. today about other papers of News being involved in aspects that folk won't find too savory either, so this story is clearly going to run and run.”