Start-up Profiles

Miroma, Media Barter Concept, Shane Warne, John Petropoulos: Start-up Profiles


By Oliver Milman
Wednesday, 23 May 2012

start-up-profile-miromaJohn Petropoulos had a high-flying career at some of Australia’s leading media agencies, becoming CEO of buying and planning powerhouse Mindshare.


However, he decided to swap the corporate world to launch media barter business Miroma in Australia.


He explains how he plans to introduce a new concept to the Australian marketplace, with a little help from, among others, Shane Warne.


Can you explain a bit about the concept behind Miroma?


Miroma is involved in the corporate or media barter space – effectively, through our models, we help advertisers part pay for their media/marketing budgets and create new sales distribution opportunities for them.


Most marketers would have heard of this concept in conjunction with advertising, but for a lot of them it is filed under a possibility rather than a must-do for their brand or business.


It tends to be thought of as too complex. This may have been true 10 years ago, but now companies like Miroma are specialists in making this a robust, transparent, controllable way for brands to firstly increase their advertising budgets (anywhere between 10-20% is typical) and to secondly align and enhance their brand distribution strategies.


Realistically, barter has three main stakeholders in media trading; the client, the media agency and the media owner and must deliver value to all three – hence the necessity for a specialist like Miroma to be involved.


The realities are that businesses increasingly need a stimulus to drive growth or eradicate stock issues, and not all media inventory is sold. We connect the two to create that sales stimulus.


The main principle behind corporate barter is simple.


From the advertiser’s point of view barter should create the opportunity for advertisers to part pay for advertising using their goods or services, it should also add to the media plan through an increased media footprint and, finally, it adds value to product distribution strategies by opening up new sales channels.


Although simple in concept, it is like no other strategy in that it needs to be well thought out and pre-planned with all relevant stakeholders.


Alignment with existing sales/marketing and media strategies is a key so that the optimum benefit is achieved.


How did the opportunity to launch the business come about?


The business was launched 10 years ago in the UK. Miroma, in fact, shaped and improved existing models to suit all stakeholders, to the point where the market there utilises the barter model as a means for new business development and growth.


Australia was seen as an opportunity, as it was not too dissimilar to the UK: underutilised, misconceived thinking in the specialist service, a large advertising economy with similar clients that we have worked with in the UK, and a lack of marketing or media outcomes that would benefit advertisers.


The founders Marc Boyan and Michael Hindhaugh found the relevant partners (Shane Warne was one) and then put in place people like myself who are well versed in the local requirements of clients, media agencies and media owners.


Shane’s interest was that he thought the concept of corporate barter was a great idea and we thought, what better way to launch into the business community than with a high-profile personality like Shane?


What were the biggest challenges you faced in starting the business here?


There were numerous challenges, as the service had been misused, abused and misrepresented. To that end, we had to set about re-educating the market on the benefits of barter and our approach, which was significantly different to the norm.


Therefore the roadshow of meetings and presentations needed to cover all the relevant stakeholders and industry bodies.


Our models do provide a real benefit when we are involved in the discussions early on in the piece.


That is when the media planning is done or about to be done. At this point we are able to assess and recommend what media is barterable – where this has happened, we have achieved great results for clients.


In addition, I would like to think that the competition 'fired' up and where there were one or two, there are now four, which is only a good thing for the sector.


What is competition like in Australia’s barter market?


There is a fairly large US provider who has dominated the space and they have tended to work in the excess stock space, which made absolute sense at the time.


The issues were that the outcomes did not always have a marketing related benefit and, as such, were a quick fix to stock issues.


Interpublic’s offering, Orion, has been fairly dormant until lately and again was seen as a value-add for their clients to assist in excess stock issues.


What has been interesting of late has been the launch of Astus, which is a joint venture with WPP in this part of the world.


That to me signals a need to provide this service with large advertising holding companies for their clients.


Astus chose to get into bed with a large corporate whereas Miroma has chosen to keep their independence, as we feel it provides greater scope for growth moving forward, as well as an unbiased solution to advertiser’s business issues.


What point of difference does Miroma provide?


We believe that we are providing relevant solutions to clients (my definition includes advertisers, media agencies and media owners) that develop their businesses.


Yes, we can fix a stock issue, but more importantly we aim to achieve new sales channels for advertisers and media expenditure growth for agencies and media owners.


Once we agree on the value of media that came be traded, we then guarantee a return to the client and to that end there is a real benefit for all of the stakeholders involved.


We will, in fact, walk away from businesses where this cannot be achieved.


What are your ambitions for the business?


Commercially we must be successful and that is normal.


More than that though, I would like to see the barter sector or service seen as a legitimate tool to enhance business performance, within that I want Miroma to be seen as a thought leader in the space, that continually innovates to achieve desired results.


We now have offices in Sydney and Melbourne, so our geographic footprint is good. Our global chief operating officer, Michael Hindhaugh, is based in Sydney and I’m in Melbourne.


We do have offices in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and India and I would like to think that we can expand the offering regionally with greater coverage.


The strategy is pretty simple: continue to do great work in the UK, do great work in Australia and other offices, and expand our client base geographically as a result of the confidence that clients show in us.


What are the hurdles you anticipate to come across?


Most large competitors revert to a pricing strategy to undercut a start-up.


We are prepared for this and it merely means that we have to work hard to prove the value in our models that can improve business performance.


The one element, at the moment, that the competitors don't do is to provide relevant redistribution solutions to marketing and business issues; we do, so there is a price versus value equation that clients have to make.


Existing notions of the barter models are far from being eradicated so, as a business, we need to continually disperse them for the benefit of the sector.


How has the process been, moving from a large corporate to a start-up? Has it been an enjoyable change?


Yes, it certainly has. The large corporate requires disciplines to keep its organisation in check.


These range from commercial to HR, and therefore a large corporation cannot hope to move with any flexibility or speed.


The disciplines from large corporates do benefit smaller start-ups and I would like to think that I provide an element of that discipline, but with the scope to act quickly.


The ability to achieve more in a shorter space of time is poles apart. It has been clearly different in that the business decisions are made quickly and the strategies revised on a more frequent basis.


Start-ups can do that and I find that gratifying and certainly satisfying.


You can savour the small wins as much as the big ones, as they all count to making a start-up successful.


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